It’s amazing that after so many years of scientific study… So many expert investigations…. government funded enquiries… debates, papers and exposes… People are still confused about WHY we are getting so fat.
First it was because of eating too much protein… then it was because of fatty food… then it was because of high carbohydrate food…. Then the attention switched from the food itself – and suddenly it was the human body itself under the spotlight.
Were some people pre-destined to be fat? Was it there a ‘fat gene’? Was it a ‘disease’ that couldn’t be helped and must be controlled medically? Was it to do with different rates of metabolism in different people? Did thin people burn more energy, more quickly than fat people? But today I want to reveal the findings of David A Kessler, author of ‘The End of Overeating‘. He explodes some of the fat myths and offers a solution.
Whether you’re overweight, underweight or PERFECTLY IN BALANCE (Lucky you!) this is interesting. Because Kessler believes that the food manufacturing industry is deliberately turning us into a bunch of food addicts.
Three Fat Myths Exposed
1. It’s all about metabolism
Not according to Kessler. Most studies reveal that obese people burn more energy than their thin counterparts.
2. Some unlucky people don’t have to eat much to get fat.
This myth comes from the many studies where people write diaries to record their food intake. Almost always, people underestimate the food they put in their mouths each day. Kessler explains that “So much of our eating takes place outside our awareness that it’s easy to underestimate how much food we actually put into our bodies.”
3. It’s all genetic.
Kessler quotes a study which studied a group of children for several years. The weight of their parents was less important than how much they ate. His conclusion? “People get fat because they eat more than people who are lean”. It’s hardly groundbreaking, and hardly likely to shift a million fad diet books, but perhaps this is the common sense wake-up call society needs.
And here’s the most shocking thing….
The obvious solution is that everybody should eat less, right? All diet books should say is “Halve your portion” and be done with it, yes? A great big education programme will soon show society how to end the obesity problem almost immediately, wouldn’t it?
Well, it’s a big fat “no” to all three.
Because Kessler the problem DOES lie in the food we eat. But it’s not to do with one particular type of food – natural protein, natural carbs or natural fats – being better or worse than the other. It’s not about eating less ham, more carrots, more salad, less cereal, more eggs, fewer steaks….
It’s all about processed fat, sugar and salt.
According to Kessler – and I agree with him totally from my own investigations and experiences into weight loss – “Sugar, fat and salt make us eat more sugar fat and salt.” What has happened in the last 50 years is that collectively, we’ve entered a cycle of addiction.
Why Some Food Makes us Crave More Food
The ability of modern foods to hit our pleasure ‘hot buttons’ has created the problem. And quite clearly this is a deliberate act on the part of the food industry to sell more food. What industry in the modern capitalist age WOULDN’T try to increase its market demand and its profits? Processed foods contain well-programmed combinations of sugar, fat and salt. We live in a world of super-addictive food: the manufactured cakes, burgers, fries, milkshakes, curries, pasta meals, cereals and sandwiches offer people a shot of pleasure that leaves them wanting MORE.
It’s all about the sensations in the mouth, the signals shooting to the brain, the aroma that fills your nose. When we eat sugary, fatty, salty food, we experience a sensory ‘high’. This would be fine in moderation – a little bit of what you fancy does you good. I’m no saint when it comes to food, and I don’t believe you should torture yourself about having the occasional indulgence. It’s fun, it’s pleasurable, and life needs a bit of short-term happiness.
But the big problem for our society is the availability of this addictive food. Fast food joints, home delivery services and supermarkets are everywhere, selling all the stuff we crave, almost 24 hours a day. It’s very hard to avoid.
A second problem is the accessible price. While many food costs are rising – namely fruit and vegetables, meats, and juices – the prices of the most manufactured, artificial and mass-market foods are still very low. Because of this wide availability,, the act of eating addictive food has easily and quickly become a habit. And if you’ve ever struggled to change a habit in your life, you’ll know how difficult this is to reverse.
Drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, food… they’re all very similar in the way they work on the human brain. And in Kessler’s view, the solution is to treat them the same.
Kessler’s 5 Step Rehab
In the final part of The End of Overeating, he suggests that a form of Food Rehab is the answer. We need to understand WHY we overeat and then tackle the problem at the source. Here’s how he believes you can create your own rehab in 5 steps:
Planned eating – have set times and menus for what you eat every day. By determining what and when you eat, you block out the opportunities for unthinking, absent-minded snacking and bingeing. It’s what I call ‘zombie’ eating, when you find yourself reaching into the fridge for a slab of cheese.
Just right eating – this is something I’ve touched on before when discussing food habits in old Japanese cultures, where it’s impolite to eat until you’re full. The idea is that you put a small portion on a plate and tell yourself “that’s enough food” and when you’re finished, that’s that. Even if you still feel hungry, you have to get into the habit of thinking “I’m full.”
Choosing satisfying foods – Kessler means foods that make your feel fuller, longer. These are diets based on lean protein, whole grains and beans, fruits and non starchy vegetables. Pretty much the low G.I, controlled carbs diet.
Eat foods you enjoy – it you try a strict diet of foods you don’t like, you will quickly fail. Food MUST still be pleasurable.
Mental rehearsal – Kessler suggests that before you go to a big meal, or before you’re likely to enter a scenario where temptation is likely, you rehearse what your behaviour will be. You imagine not reaching for a second round of garlic bread, you picture yourself eating just the right amount and refusing the after dinner chocolates. It’s how athletes ready themselves for an event – they reinforce their future behaviour by going through it in their heads first. It’s fascinating stuff and if you’re interested I recommend you take a look at the book. The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler is published by Penguin and is available in books shops or on Amazon.