I’ve said it a hundreds of times before, diets simply don’t work long term. Every single one of them are “strategies” or “tricks” with the goal of getting the individual to simply eat less. Now don’t get me wrong, some have shades of merit and even a small, and I mean small, have some long term success with a particular diet. But in reality, we have had the tools all along to manage both our dietary consumption and our lifestyle – probably the biggest component of long term dietary consumption. What is that you ask?
Slow the F@#k Down!
I’m talking about one of the simplest forms of dietary control that is a major lifestyle habit that is so easy to make yet few are not even aware they are guilty of committing. That is simply slowing down our eating. Actively chewing our food. Taking the time to savor it. Enjoying the tastes and textures. Engaging with the company we are eating with. Most of us, if not all, consume food quickly without little time to perhaps even think about what we are eating! In reality, it’s not completely our fault either. Think about our current food landscape. Food is everywhere! Convenience stores, restaurants, fast food, vending machines, etc. Most chain restaurants are designed to get you in and out as quickly as possible. One should never go hungry in this country yet there are places where getting food is tough. And yet with all of the availability of food to most people, we over consume it and have to deal with having to lose or control our weight. How and when did this problem begin and why is it such an issue?
The Brain-Stomach Connection
Our hunger is driven by many factors: blood sugars, hormones, time since last meal, etc. The hunger response begins in the brain as it detects drops in blood glucose levels, the primary source of fuel for the brain. From there, the brain signals the gastrointestinal system to prepare for what it hopes will be rewarded with food. The stomach secretions begin often translated as the gurgles or stomach sounds often associated with being hungry. If we are lucky and able to eat, we eat, or more accurately, inhale the food in front of us. There is very little regard for the speed in which we might be consuming and a really bad habit developed through our years of eating that most are not aware of it happening. We eat until we feel full or close to it and that is where the issue begins. Enter the brain-stomach connection back into play. Sensors in the stomach detect expansion or “fullness” and signal the brain to say “hey, I think we’re done down here”. The problem is that signal is delayed. Most experts believe it to be a survival mechanism ingrained in our brains from a time when food was scarce. How delayed is that signal? About 20 minutes according to the research. So while the feelings of fullness usually indicate to most people to stop eating the body was delayed in telling us to stop eating over 20 minutes ago. What damage could possibly be done in 20 minutes? More calories consumed than previously planned or required.
The Food Landscape
Through the years, some people have taught their body’s to override that stomach “fullness” signal and consume quantities of food beyond their original, true capacity. As previously stated, food is available at every corner and in some cases, beyond what would be considered normal. (i.e. buffets) A lot of times when diets are discussed, it is often brought up about our European neighbors across the pond. The French eat a ton of bread and cheese. The Italians eat a lot of vegetables and olive oil. Remember the Mediterranean Diet? We attempted to loosely associate their dietary habits and apparent success with what they ate. The most overlooked component of that success is that food is respected and eating it is a highly regarded activity. Sitting down to a meal is an event, not something to be quickly consumed and onto the next event. Yes, they eat whatever they want and enjoy every bit of it. They’re also more active but that is another discussion.
The point is that you need to concern yourself less about what you’re eating and how you are eating it. Junk food and highly processed food is really designed to offer a quick fill need. There’s very little true enjoyment with savoring that crap.
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.