Evolution, Environment, and Weight Gain
Part Two

The tendency to go on eating binges doesn’t just happen to people with bulimia (an eating disorder wherein someone binges and then vomits out the food) or compulsive eating. Binge eating seems to also be a survival mechanism. It is triggered by deprivation and periods of not having enough to eat. Since food was not always easy to find, binge eating was advantageous so that primitive man would eat and store as many calories in one sitting as he could.

Scientists believe human beings are also hardwired to be visual eaters. You may not be hungry but when you see a commercial on TV for pizza, you suddenly feel a craving and your fingers are soon reaching for your phone to order home delivery. You don’t intend to have dessert but when you see the chocolate cake your friend orders, there go your good intentions.

Action plan: If you go on a starvation diet, a binge will not be far behind. Cut back on calories moderately so you don’t feel deprived and trigger an eating binge. Don’t keep sweet or salty temptations at home where you can see them. If you feel a craving from seeing a food commercial, distract yourself for fifteen-minutes by doing something that requires your attention and focus. If you really aren’t hungry, the craving will usually pass.

Food was not always as readily available as it is now. If we were created like koalas that only eat eucalyptus leaves, we would have become extinct. Thus, we are designed to eat almost anything edible on this earth.

According to a report in the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Newsletter, human beings are genetically programmed for “sensory specific satiety”. This simply means that if you keep eating the same kind of food, you get sick of eating it. The report explains it another way: The second chocolate bar never tastes as good as the first and might go unfinished.

That’s why you eat more when you eat “family style” in a restaurant where everyone orders something different and you share all the dishes compared to when you order your own main course. This is the reason why you pig out at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

It explains why people lose weight on one-type-of-food diets like the Cabbage Soup Diet. No matter how much you love adobo, if you have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner day after day, you will end up disliking the very sight and smell of it. You end up eating less from the sheer boredom of the diet. You might think that these types of diets are the answer to all your weight loss problems but unfortunately, your body will rebel.

Biological psychologist Marcia Pelchat tells of an experiment wherein people who drank nothing but a vanilla flavored milk supplement drink and water for five days started to crave for the opposite type of flavor of food like steaks and pizzas rather than the same type flavor of food like ice cream, cookies, and cake. Pelchat notes cravings might be the body’s way of encouraging you to eat a more varied diet.

Action plan: Avoid buffets if you are trying to lose weight. Eat simple meals. Researchers have found that people who do not eat a large variety of food (except for fruits and vegetables) have an easier time losing weight. This means it’s okay to have three kinds of fruit available at home but not three kinds of dessert. Avoid one-type-food diets. You may lose weight initially but eventually it will backfire on you.

Genes and environment
Someone once said, “Genes cock the gun but the environment pulls the trigger”. In an interview with American Health Magazine, Dr. Steven Heymsfield put it another way, “The environment is the switch that turns on the genetic time bomb”.

If you change your environment (meaning your lifestyle), you can overcome your genes. In a study comparing 350 female twins, scientists discovered that the sister who was more physically active was slimmer than the sister who was sedentary. This was in spite of the fact that all the twins had a high genetic tendency to be overweight. The researchers also found out that the more active the woman, the greater her chance of staying slim.

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