For most hungry people, a thick slice of carrot cake is going to be more tempting than a broccoli crown. That's one reason healthy programs like this one are seeing mixed results. I'm completely supportive of the program. We all need access to healthy food before we can eat it. Education comes next- how to prepare it and why whole foods are healthier than Spaghetti-O's and Kool-Aid.
The kicker lies in the fact that even if we live next door to a Whole Foods Market, our bodies' cravings are for the most easy-access calories possible. This article by the Detroit Free Press highlights the fact that no matter how informed we are, we often buckle to our cravings rather than making the healthiest choice. It's not Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, or Ronald McDonald that cause childhood obesity. Since when did 7-year-olds dictate the grocery shopping?
Why, for most of us, is it so much easier to resist an apple than an éclair? Science has determined that food addiction is very similar to the addiction factor of illegal drugs and that's hard-wired into our brains. Our systems were designed to love easy-access calorie sources. That survival instinct made plenty of sense before supermarkets came along. The human condition in a modern world of sedentary desk jobs, televisions, and an abundance of cheap foods designed to appeal to our cravings make living healthily a formidable challenge.
So far in The Chronicals of Dietopia, we've covered my sordid history with food, the Abs and Warrior diets, Vegetarian, The Zone, Fruit Fasting, and Rice Fasting. I'm working toward my most recent revelation and current nutritional slant, but before I share that (and point out some really interesting correlations between dietary philosophies that seem diametrically opposed at first glance) let's look at what not to try.
The companies manufacturing processed foods make billions on cheap junk food that helps keep us fat; they make billions more on expensive chemical-based 'foods' that have little to no caloric or nutritional value.
Unlike the junk-food industry, calorie-free foods hardly sell themselves on taste. My buds have always detected the difference between a calorie-free candy bar and a plain old Snickers. A diet soft drink can't pass as high-fructose delight. It's pre-wrapped convenience and delicious looking pictures coupled with the promise of zero calories, or a suggestive brand-name like 'Slim-Fast' that sell cardboard candy bars. Rippling Photoshopped physiques of models on billboards, websites, and TV commercial help inspire false hope in those carefully crafted sawdust and aspartame composites.
Trust me: you will probably go broke before you go lean (for life, anyway) on a candy or pre-fabbed shake diet. Just look at the label on a can of Slim-Fast:
Compare that to a packet of Carnation Instant-Breakfast:
Slim-Fast doesn't look any more slenderizing to me. Fathead has a good take on Slim-Fast ingredients here, so I won't even go there.
A pre-measured meal-in-a-can might help with portion control if you can resist snacking when the high GI contents have your stomach growling within a couple of hours . . . but that's what these are for, right? All the hollow calories will do nothing to break a sugar addiction or bolster your system against diabetes.
Stay away from other junk foods cleverly disguised as healthy via pre-measured portions- like 100-calorie packs. That's just the same crap in smaller sack with a higher price. There's nothing magically healthy about ingesting empty calories 100 at a time.
Whether you are interested in losing weight, or just maintaining your health, I would suggest focusing on your relationship with food- real food. As creatures of habit, living in a world with so many distractions, eating often becomes robotic, habitual, and mindless.
I'm not discounting the social aspect of food- it's one of the few things left in this networking world that still brings people together. But food is fuel. We should re-think spending money on things to eat solely for indulgent calorie-free taste and texture. It's really a ripoff- like paying extra for gasoline that sends the gage needle to "F," then pours out the tail pipe as you drive away.
When time to eat, turn off the TV and sit at the dinner table. Think about what you're about to consume. Remember the bloated I-just-swallowed-a-horse feeling that comes after overdoing it- you know what I'm talking about. Ask yourself if you want to look like this guy. Now pace yourself and enjoy each bite. Remember to breathe, it's not going to run away if you don't down it in 3 minutes. Slower eating makes a difference.
We've covered what not to try, and proper form. Soon we'll get to the heart of the matter, going in-depth regarding the best things to fill that plate with! In the meantime, check out the shorts at One Face. How to loosen up after sitting all day, and more.
Article first published as The Root of Our Cravings and What Not to Eat on Technorati.