Just about now women’s magazines begin the countdown to beach days for us. The external messages they bombard us with about body ideals and beauty face a long-standing hard-wired opponent the brain’s internal messages.
Commercial messages entice us to want to renovate our bodies based on ’How to tips on cosmetics’ and must have body treatments. Body hugging clothes and flirty dresses adorn every page splashed with summer colors.
Beach ready bodies, however, begin in the produce section, not at the cosmetics counter. It’s where the work of negotiating with powerful internal messages occurs. “Why being fat is not (entirely) your fault” is reposted below from December 2011 when we faced that other fat phobic season.
Have you noticed what happens when you stray from the produce section? The farther you get from natural, non-packaged fresh fruits and vegetables the more complex the food you choose to live on gets. It’s also more dangerous territory.
“We are being fooled,” says Dr. Lisle PhD, an evolutionary psychologist and author. He maintains that the consumption of unnaturally dense foods is the leading cause of obesity in America. “People aren’t just lazier or self-indulgent, their mechanisms of satiation are being fooled.”
“Our receptors are off in terms of how well they measure how much we have eaten. This goes for our density receptors too. They measure how rich our food which signals density. When we eat our stomach stretches and tells us when we have had enough, says Lisle.”
At this point, you might say, ‘So what? Each person is still expected to control themselves and to stop eating when they are full.’
Cheap and Easy Thrills
Dr. Lisle offers two scientific explanations in what I call the ‘it’s not your fault fat camp.’
First is the Motivational Triad. It’s a set of three biological mechanisms within every animal and human. It causes us to:
- Seek Pleasure which at its simplest is food and sex.
- Avoid Pain to keep us happy and safe.
- Conserve Energy so that we try to do everything with the least effort.
These behaviors apply to every sea and land animal and even to those people who have already eaten beyond their needs and even capacity into dangerous states of health.
“They are caught in the pleasure trap,” says Dr. Lisle. He gives the example of drugs. “Take them, feel good, even euphoric and you get hooked.” Food is a drug. Our choices make it a wonder drug or a junk food biological nightmare we can get hooked on.
It’s challenging to manage our food. It is everywhere and we don’t require a license to have it. We can even overdose on it because along the way, we’ve lost the shame of public gluttony and personal obesity.
Mass production has created new cheap foods manufactured with synthetic ingredients. While a mere 500 calories of natural foods can fill our stomach, processed foods only fill half. The same 500 calories of oil or fatty foods don’t even register. We can no longer ‘feel’ satisfied by volume or the ‘oh my gosh my stomach is stretched’ full feeling.
“People have to overeat just to be satisfied. Their bio system is confused,” warns Lisle as he prepares to explain the second sabotaging factor.
Our ancestors’ foraged for nutrient dense food. Their instinct was to find rich foods. These foods were an easier, lower energy source of nutrients and made them feel good. Voila, the triad at work.
Today, chemicals in our foods excite our appetites and our brains. These fake signals to our biological appetites and brains eventually cause a low-grade addiction, just like any drug.
Our pleasure circuits get fooled when we eat highly processed concentrated foods. And, because we eat far less real or natural food and put in ingredients like fat, salt and sugar – we constantly crave that cheap high. Derailing our natural survival tendencies does double damage because we get far too many rich calories and yet eat food that is nutrient poor.
Next we’ll hunt down how to identify and minimize the cheap and damaging ingredients through the art of label reading!
(Dr. Lisle’s comments appear in segments of the book and documentary “Forks over Knives”)