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Evolution, Environment and Weight Gain

The recent international Congress on Obesity blamed evolution and the environment for the “global obesity pandemic.”

As reported by Reuters News Agency, Kate Steinbeck, co-chair of the conference, said, “We know this [obesity] is not about gluttony—it is the interaction of heredity and environment.”

In his book, “The Nine Truths About Weight Loss,” Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum says, “We are fighting against biological survival mechanisms that have allowed the human race to stay alive through famines and other environmental disasters.”

These mechanisms include the ability to store fat as efficiently as possible and to lower the metabolic rate when food is not available, a predisposition toward binge eating, and a built-in preference for fatty and sweet food.

These in-born mechanisms served the human race well in an environment where food was scarce. However, in today’s world, those same genetic survival tactics are now our downfall.
Our bodies are still like those of our prehistoric ancestors but we live in an environment where a fast-food meal can have 1,000 calories.

Is the human race then doomed to die out from obesity-related diseases? Kirschenbaum does not believe that biology is our destiny because we are smarter than our biology. He says we can use our brains to outwit our genes.

Understanding why our bodies are designed to hold on to our fat is not meant to give you a convenient excuse not to lose weight but to help you be more successful in controlling your weight.

If you are overweight, you are not a “weak” person, a glutton, or someone with poor willpower. Rather you are a normal human being with a body whose main priority is survival.
So let go of negative self-blaming attitudes and devise a meaningful action plan to deal with those biological forces.

Sweet tooth
Kirschenbaum gives three reasons why we are literally born with a sweet tooth.
“When we are hungry, sugar provides the quickest antidote… When humans or other animals are starving, they consistently show heightened preferences for very sweet foods. This, again, shows the body’s orientation to satisfying extreme hunger and food deprivation quickly and effectively with sugar.

“Sweet foods are safe foods. Can you think of any examples of wild fruits or berries or vegetables that are sweet and also dangerous to eat? Probably not. If you find something hanging from a tree and it tastes sweet, it is almost certainly safe to eat. On the other hand, sour or bitter fruits or vegetables are much more likely to be poisonous.

“The body is programmed to eat large amounts of sugar or sweet foods whenever they are available. This made sense for hunter-gatherers; if they found something that tasted sweet, their bodies wanted to encourage them to eat large quantities of it.”

Honey is a prized find in primitive societies like the Aborigines of Australia and the Bushmen of South Africa. They go out of their way to find the sweet stuff and consume large quantities of it.

Action plan: Don’t skip meals so you don’t become hungry and seek out sugary foods. Avoid processed food high in sugar and refined carbohydrates because the more you eat them, the more your body wants them. Try to eat some protein with every meal. Studies show protein helps to keep you feeling full.

Fatty food
As revealed by the practices of primitive hunters, human beings like fatty food. The fattest parts of an animal are eaten first. Animal bones gathered from caves inhabited by the Neanderthal man show that the marrow was carefully removed.
This makes sense because animal fat is easier to eat than tough muscle. It is also the part that is the most flavorful. Intra-muscular fat makes meat juicier and moister. Lastly, fat is the densest source of calories at nine calories a gram compared to four calories for protein and carbohydrates.

Action plan: Eating fatty food may have served its purpose when you had to run after your food. But, in today’s society of abundance, food high in fat contains far more calories than your body needs. Choose baked, boiled or grilled food over fried. Choose leaner cuts of meat. Drink non-fat milk.

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