How many of you have a love/hate relationship with food? You know you need to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. You know you should eat less pizza, ice cream, dessert, burgers, cookies and cheese. But even when we try to eat better, it is all too easy to get sabotaged–to get sucked into thinking “this little bit won’t hurt.” Then before we know it that “little bit” turns into the whole bag or bowl or a second or third slice. We are also a nation that is dying from heart disease, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, conditions that are all associated with eating that pizza, ice cream, burgers, cheese and not enough fruits, vegetables and beans. So why do we undermine our long-term health for moments of dietary bliss?
Enter the Pleasure Trap.
Check out this presentation entitled “How to Lose Weight Without Losing your Mind” by Dr. Doug Lisle, where he explains in an entertaining and refreshing way why we struggle with our weight (or why some of us don’t) when we all have perfectly designed systems to protect us against weight gain. One of the points he makes is that the solutions we so often hear from the experts–to eat less and exercise more, exert better portion control, take a moderate approach, or deal with our stress better–are all actually quite off the mark. In fact they are wildly off the mark.
The number one New Year’s resolution is around weight loss. Yet most people who have tried to lose weight have tried multiple times and have gone on any number of diets only to relapse, be frustrated, and end up feeling like a failure. Interestingly, the average woman between 20 and 40 years of age gains about 1lb per year. Put into caloric terms, that averages out to 10 extra calories per day. Thus most often weight gain is not the result of massively over-eating. It occurs little bit by little bit, or little bite by little bite.
Not to give away the plot, but the problem lies in the foods that we have created: foods that are energy dense and have been stripped of nutrients, fiber and water. Our built-in mechanisms of satiation were never intended to do battle with the degree of dietary indulgence caused by modern processed foods. Our modern western diet short-circuits these and fools our internal calorie counting machinery.
This occurs in two ways: through excessive fat intake and the consumption of refined carbohydrates. As Dr. Lisle points out, “Our modern diet is artificially concentrated with high-calorie animal products, oils, sugar and other refined carbohydrates.” Thus when we eat meat, cheese, oil, chips, soda and white bread, our internal calorie counting systems are easily fooled. What our systems believe to be a 400-500 calorie meal might actually be a 600-700 calorie meal. Over time this miscalculation quickly adds up, and we gain weight. (For more on the subject of weight loss visit www.ccl.org/fittolead and download the article on weight loss).
What makes the trap even harder to escape is that we have become addicted to these foods. Like drugs they light up the pleasure centers of our brain and also like drugs, once we get habituated to these foods, we need to eat even more for the same pleasure response.
Over the next several days, look for follow-up posts to this one on how to use our own natural drivers to combat these issues and prevent weight gain.