In a previous blog I began the topic of why we gain weight and how it is far more complex than just eating too much and exercising too little. So if gluttony and sloth are not the problem, what is it about the world today that makes achieving and maintaining a healthy weight so difficult?
Our genes work against us
Being good at storing fat has been a positive attribute for survival in all but very recent time. With no supermarkets around the corner, Hunter gatherers would often go for days without food. Fat storage was essential, as was a strong drive to eat. Now these relatively unchanged genes work against us. In our world of food abundance this drive to eat plus an almost limitless capacity to store fat are seeing obesity and associated health consequences rising to alarming levels.
We have forgotten the true purpose of eating
Today the fact that food provides essential nutrients has largely been forgotten. Where thousands of food products compete for market share, taste, convenience, fashion, and cost largely replace nutrition as main reasons for food choice. This plays havoc with health and weight.
Our food supply has dramatically changed
In the last hundred years, technology has completely changed our food supply. While this has brought many positives (safer milk, canned and frozen fruit and vegetables, commercial bread etc.) it has also led to increasing development and consumption of nutrient poor, high energy foods. As companies manipulate texture and taste to provide easier and more pleasurable eating, the nutritious core foods that have sustained us for millennia are increasingly being side-lined. Nutritionally useful components of food (such as the bran and germ from wheat) are often removed while layer upon layer of fat, sugar and/or salt are added to increase shelf life and hook us in. All this increases the number of kilojoules per unit weight and “dilutes” the useful nutrients found in the other ingredients. Our unchanged hunter gatherer genes drive us to eat these energy dense/nutrient poor processed products then go into overdrive storing unused kilojoules as fat. In a nano-second of time in the scale of history, we have achieved an unusual situation: people who are overfed (consuming too many kilojoules) yet undernourished
High fat, high sugar, high salt food is addictive
David Kessler, in his book “The end to overeating” explains that certain foods stimulate the brain in the same way as other addictive products such as coccaine and tobacco.
“Foods with hyperpalatable combinations of salt, sugar and fat have the capacity to rewire our brains, driving us to seek more and more of these products. The more potent and multisensory foods become the greater the rewards they may offer and the more we learn to work for them….. Eating delicious foods tells the body to eat more of these delicious foods”
Profit driven food companies naturally take advantage of this by carefully engineering food so that we are driven to seek more. Once we are hooked on to blends of fat, salt and sugar, it is very hard to resist their pull.
I have just begun to scrape the surface when it comes to reasons why it is hard to lose weight. Watch this space for more!