What can polar bears teach us about weight loss?
Wildlife researchers and scientists have coined an expression for the dire situation facing the world’s polar bear population. They call it “walking hibernation”.
Polar bears rely almost exclusively on a calorie-loaded diet of seals. However, melting sea ice, accelerated by the effects of global warming, is making it more difficult for the bears to hunt. They are having to travel further and further each year to find food. Because of the increased amount of physical activity required to search for food, the net-weight of the species has been reducing annually.
Walking hibernation describes a situation where, due to the shorter winters and lack of available opportunities for food, polar bears have been forced to essentially set their metabolisms to “idle”. This leads to a hoarding of their fat stores. The bears do this as a measure of self-preservation, as they are losing weight too quickly. For polar bears, losing too much weight is a bad thing as their fat stores help to keep them warm.
There are some interesting parallels here though. In Paleolithic times we had to hunt for our own food, a dramatically different energy/calorie balance equation for each meal than in modern times. Secondly, the metabolic sequelae of loading a tub of ice cream into our shopping trolley will never offset that of eating it.
Have you created your very own state of walking hibernation? Has your metabolism been set to idle like the Arctic bears? If so, how far should you travel to get your next meal?