Why you can’t stop overeating and how it’s making some people rich.

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We’ve all been there: exhausted, glum and reaching for that second or third helping that we just don’t need. Why do we do that? why do we do it now more than ever? did cave men do it? if they did, how come they didn’t get as fat as we are now? These are all questions that David Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA tried to answer for us in his recent blog post for the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.

In his post, Kessler explains that the triple threat of SALT, FAT, and SUGAR are the culprits in our gluttony and that the food industry has spent billions researching that fact. According to Kessler’s interview with a major designer of fast food ( yes, they have designers for fast food!), the industry designs dishes to hit those “3 point of the compass”. The brain changes that occur when we eat sugar, fat and salt can almost be described as a high that is impossible to resist. We’re talking a chemical high with neurons firing and dopamine releasing, people , so it’s not about willpower.  In essence it makes us feel GOOD for a moment and then compels us to eat more to maintain that feeling. Consequently, the more we eat, the bigger we get and the more money the industry makes because we buy more to eat more.  The amount of complexity involved in the design and deliberate availability of today’s high fat/salt/sugary food is scary because it isn’t designed to work in our favor. How can we fight a system that’s set up to undermine our efforts? Well, now that we know what we’re up against we need to have a plan of defense.

  1. Know your trigger foods and don’t buy ’em: don’t think you can outwit the system and that includes your biology. Can’t stop at one potato chip, pretzel, Dorito? don’t buy the bag.
  2. Practice portion control: Humans are designed to eat as much as they’re served so serve yourself less.  If you’re still hungry after that, wait at least 20 minutes before choosing another low-fat and calorie food item.
  3. Eat enough good fats: It’s helpful to include some healthy plant and fish based oils into your diet so that your fat doesn’t feel deprived. Having a fat-free break fast and lunch and then gorging on a a high fat dinner is not the way to go. Too much fat in any single meal goes straight to our stores ( read: weight gain).
  4. Always question your hunger: Are you really hungry or just upset, bored or tired? do you really want to eat that anyway or can you wait for a healthier choice? Try not to go more than 3 hours between meals because you will be vulnerable to making poor choices. Also never food shop when you’re starving.
  5. Eating out or at a party? Visualize making the right choices or better yet, eat a small salad or fruit at home beforehand so you aren’t starving when you get there.
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