It is quite evident where the culture of overeating emanates. Our parents/grandparents tend to console us with food from an early age. As toddlers, we are told, one spoonful for daddy, one for Mommy and one more for grandma. Often, we mature, not really knowing when we are truly full, reason being, we were never really asked to trust our own gut senses. However, concerns should always be addressed with questions. Have you ever wondered how life must have been when the word cell wasn’t a euphemism for a mobile device? When the word mobile was mentioned, it was only in reference to a horse driven carriage. And, horses looked more similar to the now extinct Equidae. You see, our ancestors rarely, if ever, had the opportunity and/or uncontrollable urge to overeat.
My point is, baggage, luggage, checked or unchecked is still baggage. Your body is the physical structure that houses the ideology that you call self. When building a robust structure, an adept architect is aware that an impervious foundation is paramount. This foundation is only accomplished by detailed investigation, shrewd vision and strategic planning.
A few questions that a reflective individual might ponder as it relates to their physical structure are, am I in peak health conditions? Why do I even need to be in peak health conditions?—I am not an athlete. And, how does the nutritional community explain the fact that most of the elders in my family survived primarily by eating soul, Caribbean, African, processed and/or fast food (regularly) and they have lived past their 80s?
While a flurry of thoughts are coalescing, I will only discuss a couple. As civilization advances, our primal connections and instincts tend to weaken. Society often credit the vanguards’ contribution to popular culture and discredit the handmaidens’. Currently, it is an accepted norm to spend at least 12 hours or more in front of one screen or another (mobile devices, laptops, desktops, projectors etc.). However, it is frequently met with great scrutiny, if one of your friends proclaimed they were out, simply enjoying nature for 12 hours or more. For one, our lifestyle is vastly different from our elders and ancestors.
Secondly, and more importantly, the accessibility, advertisement and marketing of processed foods has increased significantly. Unfortunately, the contemporary eating culture has ungraciously evolved, we currently eat not for fuel, but for fun (and frequently, in front of one screen, or another).
Studies show that “approximately one-third of all adults in the United States are overweight. Another third are obese. That means they are not just overweight, but extremely overweight. Being obese [can] lead to many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and some kinds of cancers. Taken together, that means that two thirds of American [adults] weigh more than they should to be healthy.
Overeating [to be clear, the culture of overeating is the leading cause of obesity] is a big problem for kids too. Like grownups, more and more kids just never stop eating. That means that more and more kids are gaining dangerous amounts of weight. About 17 percent or more than 12 million kids, age two to nineteen are obese [as of 2012]. Another 12 million are overweight. That means that 34 percent, or more than one-third of all young Americans, weigh too much. A strange part of the overeating problem is that many thin people struggle with it too. [Americans] largely overeat because of the way food is now manufactured and marketed. Foods are designed and sold to us in ways that make us want to eat more.” (Your Food is Fooling You, David A. Kessler, MD)
According to 2017 reports from the center for disease control and prevention (CDC), more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults suffer from obesity. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Individuals of African ancestry have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (48.1%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (34.5%), and non-Hispanic Asians (11.7%). Obesity is higher among middle age adults age 40-59 years (40%) than among younger adults age 20-39 (32.3%).
“About 30 years ago, there were very few obese Americans. Until just a short time, we did not have a weight problem in America. [It is important to note that during the 1980s America experienced a significant growth in the availability and marketing of processed foods as well as fast food restaurants.] In fact, throughout history, for thousands of years, human body weight stayed pretty much the same. Then, in the 1980s, something changed. Americans started gaining weight—a lot of it. Something else stood out—a lot of the weight gain was happening to kids.
Before 1980, almost everyone followed the same path. Most teenagers were thin. Today, more and more kids are overweight or obese. That means they weigh more when they become adults. Then, they keep adding pounds as they get older. The average young person enters adulthood approximately 18 pounds heavier than just four decades ago.
It should be somewhat perplexing as to why, most adults continue to follow the debilitating eating habits that they developed during their developmental years. However, the power of sugar, fat [and salty food, or processed foods in general] is only slightly less than cocaine. [Studies show that laboratory tested] animals will work hard [or over-perform] to get either one (cocaine or processed foods). When a food is almost as powerful as cocaine, we know it is highly reinforcing.” (Your Food is Fooling You, David A. Kessler, MD)
If you take a closer look, you will observe that fast food restaurants are heavily concentrated in lower income communities. The more popular supermarket options in these communities are nothing more than processed food storehouses. And as we have seen, a large amount of individuals living in these communities, are either overweight or obese. Let us not mislead ourselves, it is no coincidence that in the neighborhoods that have the highest availability of cheap and heavily processed foods, we also experience the highest rates of individuals that are either overweight or obese. Most of the food options sold in these neighborhoods are essentially nutritional deserts, void of most, if not all essential vitamins and minerals required for optimal growth and development.
I will end close to where I started, “the most important way we experience food is with our sense of taste. The sight and smell of food, the feel of food in our mouths can all add to the pleasure of eating, but taste is the most important factor. When we taste something, nerve cells on our tongue react to the food. When the taste buds in your mouth come into contact with foods [high] in sugar, fat and salt, a stream of signals is sent to the brain. Those signals go straight to the part of the brain that responds to pleasure. [Similar synaptic plasticity occurs, when you zone-out in front of one screen, or another. It is widely accepted in neuroscience that neurons that fire together, wire together.] As every food scientist knows, taste is directly wired into the reward center of your brain. That is one reason taste is so powerful and can create strong [and extremely addictive] emotions [and associations]. Highly processed food never leaves us satisfied. That is not on accident. This food is designed to not satisfy you—but to leave you wanting more. Fast and processed food is designed to [endlessly] stimulate your desire [to eat].” (Your Food is Fooling You, David A. Kessler, MD)
-But we are yielding to those desires at what cost? I am not entirely sure. But I’ll tell you this much, the embodied cost is exponentially more expensive than a bonafide $5.00. (side eye Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen)
The reality is, to overcome overeating, we need to fully understand the ins and outs of why we eat, when we eat, what eat and where we eat. If a certain type of setting encourages you to overeat, then develop a solid plan that will train your mind to observe and dissect that urge. More importantly, however, understand and become familiar with your satiation level, in other words, learn to identify when your stomach is full. A rule of thumb that circulates in nutritional communities is: focus primarily on your stomach throughout the entire meal (avoid any distractions from tv, social media, music, etc.). As your stomach becomes full, you will feel a gentle pressure towards the greater curvature of the stomach. It would be wise to stop eating at that point. It will take some practice but, the rewards will far outweigh the possibility of misuse.