Why Do I Like To Eat Foods That Are Bad For Me?
The other day I was explaining to a client the benefits of good nutrition and why some foods can be harmful to a person’s health. She then asked me, “If I know certain foods are bad for my body, why do I like to eat junk food?” “There are a number of reasons people like to eat anti-foods,” I told her, “the most obvious being that they taste good, the second that they are convenient.”
The reason we think junk foods taste good stems back thousands of years to our most primitive ancestors. Until recent times, humans had a very physically demanding existence which required a large number of calories to sustain life. Eating massive amounts of calories, most easily found in fats, helped ensure a person would have enough energy to plow the fields all day, climb over a mountain range, hunt for dinner or survive a harsh winter. Fat was highly sought after. People have been known to die of malnutrition when they were eating deer and rabbit. The animals were just too lean to provide enough dietary fat.
Salt was also important in one’s diet as it is a necessary mineral and is not readily available in natural foods. It was used for food preservation and flavor enhancement.
Carbohydrates are also an excellent source of fuel for the body, and until the farming culture it was difficult to find. Sweets were rare, they provided a source of quick energy and a pleasant flavor.
The Flavor Trifecta
Foods that contain fat, sugar and salt have a near magical bust of bliss to our flavor center. Many compare this flavor trifecta to an addictive drug. Junk food are made from this trifecta. The food industry has been injecting these three nutrients into our diet in an effort to cause us to eat more and therefore buy more of their foods. They have been successful, but now we are eating ourselves to death.
Foods that contain sugar, fat or salt are not bad foods, in and of themselves, but when the quantity is too high, and the activity level of the person is too low, they can be harmful. Plus, when this trifecta is eaten together, it is extremely difficult to not overeat.
Modern conveniences have improved life for humans but have also helped to make us less healthy in several ways. People don’t often die in this country from under-eating anymore; they die more often from over-eating. They don’t get killed by bears; they get killed by bear claws. Potato chips would have been a wonderful food for a mountain man because they are full of high calorie fat and carbohydrate with plenty of salt, but for the couch potato, they are not such a good choice of nutrition.
Technology has improved farming, transportation, food preservation and packaging so much so that food is the largest commodity in the world and is readily available any time of day, in nearly every place humans travel or live. This is great, except the majority of these “convenience” foods are highly processed with too much sugar, fat and salt.
It Is Hard To Resist
Foods loaded with fat, simple carbohydrates and/or salt are considered bad because they are often eaten in excess. And we, as humans, have a hard time fighting centuries of genetics and large corporations with huge advertising campaigns pushing food at us.
Food Is More Than Fuel
Food has become glamorized, commercialized, specialized and celebrated. There is a television network completely dedicated to food, schools to teach people how to cook and there are more cookbooks and “diet” books than any other type of book published. Food is a major part of our lives since we have to eat, but it is difficult to know what to eat or how to eat. We are bombarded on a daily basis with visual, auditory and olfactory advertising (the smells wafting out of restaurants) – then there’s the rumble in the stomach – it’s difficult.
The business world has commercialized food, their aim is to make it fun, convenient, colorful, and flavorful. What’s more, who can picture Thanksgiving Day without a huge meal on the table? This is a holiday that is dedicated to overeating. Christmas is a close second followed by Superbowl Sunday, Easter and, of course, birthdays must include cake (sugar, fat and salt). Mothers love to bake sweets to show their children how much they love them. Food satisfies emotions: happy, sad, lonely, bored, frustrated, nervous, and is often the focal point in celebrations, dates, business meetings, and entertainment.
The Power Of Food (and drink)
Food can also offer stimulation, especially foods containing sugar, caffeine or alcohol. Many times people will eat not because they need the calories or nutrition, but because they are bored or need a change of state. Eating is a good way to change the body’s physical and emotional state. As the digestive process picks up, the body temperature rises, glucose is increased in the blood stream and the person feels different – a lift or comfort. This same effect can also be achieved from exercise. Even an activity of moderate intensity such as walking will increase the heart rate, giving the person a little lift. Given the choice of eating a piece of cake or going for a walk when a person wants to free themselves from a physical rut, most, unfortunately, would choose the cake. However, if the walk is given a chance, chances are they will feel satisfied on several levels.
The Bottom Line
Simply put, people like the taste of junk food. If they are as physically active today as they were 200 + years ago, it wouldn’t be as harmful to their health. But the world has changed and our eating habits have changed too – but not for the better.
You Might Also Like:
- Episode 30 – The Sugar Battle: Heroes and Villains
- Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes
- No Time For Healthy Eating?