Animals don’t think, not smaller brained ones, at least.
In his essay on the physiological effects of stress (Stanford Report, March 7, 2007), Robert Sapolsky discusses how in the wild, larger brained mammals suffer a form of stress similar to ours. Baboons, for instance, whose society is broken down into classes that mirror ours, are virtually predator free. They spend 12 hours sleeping, 3 hours looking for food, and the remaining 9 hours of their day in their head. Same with elephants. In these animal societies, signs of psychosocial disorders like depression have been observed.
In our health and wellness, everything boils down to stress management. Our initial interaction with our environment is controlled by our Autonomous Nervous System (ANS). However, under chronic stress, the Hypothalamus Pituitary Endocrine (HPE) axis takes over. Stress shuts down the thyroid, which is not needed for survival, ultimately. Enter “I have a thyroid disorder” excessive weight gain. Stress also shuts down your reproductive system (explaining early menopause, as well as andropause in men) and disturbs your digestive system (enter acid reflux disease).
As I said: animals don’t think. Humans make up stories only so they can justify their actions, especially when they think they “know what their body wants”. Craving refined sugars, buttery garlic bread rolls is nothing but a “story”.
Understanding that is a key factor in staying fit and healthy. Overweight people who are not aware of that are sabotaging their present and future health prospect because without a solid training regimen, they are not building organ and muscle cells, rather fat cells, which promotes hunger.
Training begets lactic acid, which begets production of human growth hormone, which in turn breaks down fat cells to save the muscles being “grown”. HGH is a protein-sparing hormone.
While training is a form of stress, it is a positive one. However, the prospect of training can be daunting for some, or boring for others. Finding a good coach who can make it fun will allow you to change your perception. You don’t need to be running a marathon when you can simply experience the joy of movement. Modify how you view a training session if a coach is not available by creating value in your activity (like learning a skill, having fun and doing something good for you, interacting socially with others etc.) instead of generating fear (“this is hard”, “it hurts”, “I’m not conditioned”…)