In the previous post, I wrote about what seems like a very simple mantra - eat food, not too much, mostly plants. But within that simplicity is an implied challenge. It’s one thing to “know” something and a whole other thing to act upon that knowledge. It is obvious to anyone who has made a new years resolution, gone on a diet, or tried to quit a destructive habit that changing behavior patterns is not so easy. However, there is a way. It has to do with little victories. But first. . .
Sugar Water vs. Cocaine: And the winner is. . .
Let’s dig in a bit. When it comes to our eating habits, often despite strong incentive to change, we don’t. Why? For one, our brains have been hijacked by science. What I mean by this is that “food science” has discovered our weaknesses as human animals and creates food that exploits that weakness. In 2008, a study done at the University of Bordeaux in France where they took rats who were addicted to cocaine and then introduced them to sugar water. Given the choice between cocaine and sugar water, they chose the sugar water!
Grist for the Mill
Food science has figured out how we gravitate toward certain kinds of sugars, proteins, and fats and they exploit this tendency by creating foods that have the taste, mouthfeel and satisfaction giving qualities that make us literally addicted. In doing so, they have divorced the tastes that we are attracted to from the whole food that our bodies have always depended upon for nourishment. The signal that sweetness means nutrition is no longer true (causing us to want more and more as our body seeks the nutrition promised by the taste) The evolutionary signals that have guided us for millennia, are now leading us headlong into the jaws of product marketers and food-like creations in support of a trillion dollar food industry that profits off of our addictions. We are truly grist for the corporate food industry mill. And we pay for it with poor health and out of control health care costs.
So although I may have made it sound easy to just shop in the outer ring of the grocery store and eat actual whole food, there are strong forces working against us. So for that, and our seeming weakness in the face of these forces, we must have compassion for ourselves and compassion for others. We are fighting a battle where the enemy is right under our noses but very hard to see. We can have all the statistics about diabetes and obesity, we can be told by our doctor that even we have pre-diabetes or high blood pressure, but we still find ourselves at the ice cream shop, guiltily enjoying (can one enjoy despite guilt or does the guilt cancel out any true enjoyment?) a mint chocolate gelato (that’s part of the mediterranean diet, right??).
Side note: Just so you know, I never have the intention of piling on the guilt. I never want that to be a part of a reason for change. If we choose to have that gelato, then we should enjoy the fuck out of it. There was a questionnaire given to people from the US and France and it showed a piece of chocolate cake. It asked people for the first word that came to mind upon viewing the cake. People from the US said, “guilt”. People from France said, “celebration”. France 1 - United States - 0. Need I say more?
When making a change, what has worked for me and what I've seen work for others is the implementation of small regular changes rather than big drastic ones (new years resolutions, anyone?!). Making a commitment to just one small change can act as a shoe horn in your life, a little wedge that can make a big difference. From that one small change, you will feel accomplished, proud, and you will likely learn a lot from the experience, not only on a physical level but on an emotional and spiritual level. Because one little victory, one new habit, can have ripple effects throughout your life and then lead to even more little victories!