Photo by Andrew Hill
Look from side to side to make sure no one’s reading over your shoulder. Is the coast clear? Good.
As I write this I’m leaning in, because what I’m about to say might shock some people.
“You know how you automatically react when you see someone attractive?”
“Um.. yeah, I guess?” you shrug, shifting uncomfortably.
“Sometimes it’s the flush of your cheeks, or a less obvious rush of blood in more obvious places.”
You nod quickly, “Get to the point Nathalie, what’s this got to do with healthy eating?”
“Well the way your body’s reaction betrays you when you’ve got the hots for someone is exactly how your body will sabotage your healthy eating efforts.”
Stick with me for a second while I explain.
Your Tastebuds React Whether You Like it or Not
Just like our basic human biological reactions to an attractive person, our body reacts to certain types of “attractive” food.
Why do our tastebuds and bodies seem to crave foods that we know with our minds aren’t good for us?
Just like we know that bad boy with the motorcycle isn’t going to stick around after he gets what he wants… we know that donut isn’t going to make us feel good in an hour after we’ve had our fun.
It comes down to a little evolutionary device that was actually put in place to help us survive.
Back in the day we wanted the tough alpha male so our babies would have strong genes. (Reverse this for men and having many beautiful offsprings.)
Similarly, back in the day it was hard to find foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. These were scarce resources that we weren’t able to get our fill of, so we evolved to seek them out for survival.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) today we’ve got more than enough sources of fat, salt, and sugar. In fact we’re practically drowning in them.
So that evolutionary pull that our tastebuds create for foods that contain lots of fat, salt, and sugar is an antiquated tool.
Taking This Analogy Further
If we just listened to our bodies all the time we’d end up in a sex-crazed, overpopulated society.
(Okay, you might say that we’re there already, but I’m an eternal optimist.)
Add to that the fact that the foods we crave so much are now highly available. Vending machines, street vendors, and refrigerators mean you’ve always got unhealthy foods at your fingertips.
I often hear that we “should just eat what tastes good to our bodies, in moderation.” And although I believe in the concept in general, I think that it doesn’t apply in our world of caffeinated beverages, salty crackers, and sweetened dried fruit.
Alas, our body’s natural “balance” mechanism has gone completely out of whack. Some studies were done on young kids, where the kids could choose what they could eat at will. At first all of them went for the “bad” foods that were sugary, salty, or fatty.
Photo by Dan Foy
But eventually the kids balanced this out by eating vegetables and fruits. By choice. It was natural for them to want to eat something different.
The problem began when they started testing older children, who didn’t feel the need to balance out their consumption of salt, fat, and sugar.
Sound familiar? It’s not your fault, it’s all in the body’s mechanisms.
Our Bodies Are Just As Confused As We Are
We are constantly being bombarded with information regarding nutrition: you should avoid these foods they are bad for you, and you should eat more of these foods they’re good for you.
We get so gosh darn confused with all this conflicting information!
If you think our minds are confused, what about our bodies?
After eating a diet of standard American fare, our bodies lose their ability to recognize foods that it can digest.
As a child, our bodies know that fruits and vegetables are easy to digest. They also know that pop tarts and diet coke are not normal: we experience different side effects when they’re ingested.
The more processed food you eat growing up, the more confused your body gets. As you grow up, you loose your ability to trust your body’s original balanced instincts about food.
Everything Has Salt, Sugar, Corn, or Soy
All of the different packaged and processed foods contain certain ingredients: salt, sugar, oils, corn, or soy.
Manufacturers used these ingredients because they are addictive, make things taste good, and are cheap fillers.
Of course what makes good business sense for manufacturers, doesn’t necessarily make good health sense.
What about when moderation means that manufacturers put sugar, salt, and other “additives” in just about every since store bought product?
It’s much harder to eat these substances in moderation when they’re in pretty much everything you find at the store. Except produce, of course.
Trust Your Eyesight
It would be a bit cynical for me to say “trust no one”. But, there is someone you can trust, and that’s you and your eyesight.
Read the labels.
If there’s something you can’t pronounce, or where the first ingredient is one of the main culprits (salt, sugar, hydrogenated oils) then step away. You don’t have to buy these products, you can buy fresh produce or an organic alternative that doesn’t include all of these tricky ingredients.
Good luck, we’re all in this together.
Next week I’ll be back with something that people have been asking me for a lot. I’ll be sharing my big epiphany, which goes hand in hand with this article.