There is too much confusion about food.
People have an amazing amount of frustration about what to eat or not eat.
It is no wonder. On any given day in this age of information overload, you can find advice to reduce calories, eat lots of greens, eat raw, eat paleo, eat lots of grains, eat no grains, eat no fruit, eat only vegetarian or vegan, go on a juice cleans, drink a special herb or vitamin concoction… The list seems endless.
Eating shouldn’t have to be this difficult. Why do we torture ourselves with so many options?
Because what we are doing is not working. And because food is a drug. It is everywhere, enticing us to eat. And, because we look at food as a “diet” rather than a eating lifestyle.
As David Kessler, a pediatrician and former FDA commissioner, wrote in 2010 in “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite”, fat, sugar and salt are very addictive foods to the brain, actually altering brain chemistry. Nothing has changed as he explains in his newer version geared towards teens, “Your Food Is Fooling You: How YourBrain is Highjacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt”.
Certainly, we also have more variety and availability of food than we have ever had in past generations. Much more in quantity than we need. It surrounds us constantly with persistent pressure to partake. Unfortunately, the variety includes an overabundance of addictive low nutrition high calorie foods. In addition there is the paradox of better food being more expensive and cheaper food often being more processed and unhealthy.
Morgan Spurlock undertook a great experiment that he documented in “SuperSize Me”. He ate only fast food daily for 4 weeksks. He ate food that was bad for him, that ruined his health within those 4 short weeks, and, it was food that he did not even like. The first meal he ate he threw up. He gained 25 pounds in one month and it took him 14 months to lose that weight afterwards. To his horror, he came to crave this food, just as Dr. Kessler found.
Making matters worse, as humans, we also like to belong. Recent studies have been consistent in finding that we tend to conform to the eating and exercise habits of our friends and family. There can be great resistance to going against what all of our peers are doing. So there is social reward and food reward, both very powerful in the brain.
What is the solution?
The single most important thing we can do is to stop, think, and recognize our lifestyle patterns, our stressors, what we are eating and how all of those influence our cravings – then decide to make changes and come up with a healthier self-reward system. Simply depriving won’t work.
Recognizing the things that cause dietary sabotage can help us come up with tactics to take back our own control over food and lifestyle.