When food avoidance becomes a necessary evil


Eat this

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Avoid that

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The great late Jack Lalanne, an American fitness, exercise, and nutritional expert and motivational speaker once said that “if it tastes good, spit it out” meaning according to him, a food that is highly palatable can automatically lead to overeating. While I really admire Mr. Lalanne’s fitness and health, from that statement he made above, I strongly disagree. I think that it’s a miserable way to enjoy eating. Most of us know that we gain weight as a result of accumulation of excess unused calories and not because of the type of food per se, in case you didn’t know. Anyway, he probably came up with that notion simply because he was once a “sugarholic” and a “junk food junkie” until he was 15. He also had behavioral problems, but “turned his life around” after listening to a public lecture by Paul Bragg, a well-known nutrition speaker. With no doubt, being a popular fitness expert during his time, he was probably one of the founders of “clean eating” regimen. In case you missed reading my blog about clean eating and when it is appropriate, I explained it’s context of application here

In real life scenario outside bodybuilding, many people need not to be super strict to their diet to maintain a healthy weigh range. Eating the foods that we like to eat(highly palatable foods) can be a double-edged sword because it can be either a reward or a punishment. Why is that? For those people who can tolerate a moderation type diet, they may do well maintaining their weight/ body composition eating a wider selection of foods. I also explained in details why I personally prefer calorie counting strategy here in order to achieve the freedom/ diet flexibility thus a wider variety of foods means more nutrients. For people who are highly active just like what I wrote here, they can easily lose/ maintain their weight because they create their calorie deficit or they are meeting their neutral energy balance state just by being highly active that’s why they can eat more foods. However, especially in our modern day environment setting, not everyone has the opportunity to burn that many calories on a day-to-day basis that’s why to some or probably most people these days must find their way to create their calorie deficit state through their diet. So, that brings many people to wonder if what foods they should eat on a diet which I explained in this blog. While the truth is that there are really no specific type(s) of foods that are fattening, some foods can be easily overeaten than the others. How we respond from the effects of palatability(color, texture, smell, taste) of foods can highly vary from person to person that’s why there is no diet that would cater to everyone’s needs. Eating highly palatable foods to some people could create a feeling of reward therefore making them eat less calories thus they feel more satiated. On the other hand, eating highly palatable foods to some people can lead them to create a punishment of ruining their diet because to these people, eating palatable foods makes them overeat of specific type(s) of foods. This also applies to some people with insulin sensitivity issues or people with metabolic syndrome whose insulin sensitivity are impaired. Impairment of insulin sensitivity can also mean an impairment of appetite regulation so to these people, it’s really hard for them to control their calorie intake.

If you will only take your time to analyze different diets such as low-carb diets, paleo diets, south beach diet, etc, those diets simply eliminate certain type of foods which are often in the form of sugars, starchy carbohydrates(rice, bread, pasta, cakes, etc) and highly processed foods due to it’s calorie density and the food’s palatability. How many people do we actually know who really follows the recommended serving per portion of foods? When you are eating an ice cream for example especially if you like the flavor, do you really stick to 1/2 cup serving size? When you are about to eat a potato chips, can you stick to an ounce serving? I doubt it. The point is, there is a great variance depending on genetics, cultural background, environment, stress, etc. that affects our eating behavior and individual food palatability. No one knows ourselves more than we do(our own self). Take a keen observation to yourself on how you respond to specific type(s) of foods. For example, if your goal is lose weight and you decided to create a calorie deficit through dieting, analyze your personal response to certain type(s) of foods if it gives you the feeling of reward or a punishment. It takes several trials and errors to really know our individual uniqueness when it comes to choosing our foods to eat in a diet. Personally, eating the foods that I like to eat gives me the feeling of reward. It makes me adhere to my diet more but how I respond can be different than yours.

In the end, what really matters is finding a diet that we can stick to. There are some things in life that needs a compromise to make the things that want to happen.

***Update:

It’s probably better to not to stock foods at home that are highly palatable that can easily be overeaten such as chips, ice cream, cookies and other highly processed foods. Although these foods are not automatically fattening per se, they can easily be overeaten. In a real world scenario where everyone is busy working combined with long hours of work, many people simply do not have time to cook. When there are no food options at home, the tendency of many is to settle eating hence overeating these foods instead. Most of us end up doing this habit on a regular basis which results on gaining too much weight in the process. The practical solution is to stock on more nutrient-dense/ lower calorie dense foods at home such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, processed meats(although moderate it’s consumption), frozen vegetables or fruits, fresh fruits, beans or the golden rule is, the less processed it is, the better.

References:

http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v27/n10/full/0802391a.html

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_LaLanne

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  1. I think there’s another thing at play here, a psychological thing, partly due to over-restriction, partly due to classifying things as good/bad, that leads to an inability to moderate certain foods. I can eat a half-cup of ice cream because for me, it’s not forbidden, it’s just high calorie thus not something to be eaten often or in large amounts. If I felt that I absolutely should never eat it, I’d have a harder time with it.

  2. Yes, you are correct. Psychological and behavioral issues plays a big part when dieting. Obesity/ excess body fatness is a complex because it is a multifactoral matter. My issues may be different from yours and everyone else that’s why it’s very important to analyze the context of scenario so that we can choose the most appropriate dieting tactic on a given scenario. Some people can moderate their food intake while some does better on their dieting using extreme elimination of certain types of foods. Individual response to certain types of foods can be both a result of physiological & psychological variances. Our taste preference/ response can be a result of genetics/ environmental factors(culture, social environment, etc).

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