Wow, That Looks Good!

Originally published: 11-06-13

By any chance have you just been staring at the pile of Halloween candy your kids collected a few nights ago? Or, are you thinking about the leftover pumpkin cheesecake sitting in your fridge? How about pizza, now that you’ve just seen the fourth pizza commercial in the last hour on TV? Or, are you looking forward to that amazing hot fresh bread you’ll be served tonight when you eat out?

Virtually all of us are highly attracted to at least several foods that are very fattening. This is because the human brain is “wired” to encourage us to eat foods that promote weight gain. Why? This is “survival 101″ for the human body. Our genetic code is based on a heritage of famine, which has plagued our species since we first walked the planet. Weight gain builds fat mass, which provides the energy to sustain human life when food is unavailable. Our ability to efficiently build and store fat mass has been critical to our survival as a species.

Now, of course, famine is not an issue for the vast majority of us in the developed world. Instead, we live in a world of food surplus, and most of the food at our ready disposal is fattening. These foods are not only plentiful, we are faced with constant pressure to consume them from the food industry and our social interactions. This environment combined with our brain wiring leads us to the inevitable: we indulge, often and in large amounts, and we gain weight.

To make matters worse, there are many popular foods out there that most folks believe are “healthy” for them to eat because they are advertised with buzz words like “low fat,” “100 calorie,” “all natural” and “whole grain.” The truth is most of these foods are fattening, and that is because they are composed almost entirely of carbohydrates (carbs), in the form of starch and/or sugar. When we eat these foods, our brain wiring encourages us to eat them in large amounts (as in, “you can’t eat just one potato chip”), and this load of carbs gets quickly converted into body fat.

So, how do we overcome our intense craving for a multitude of fattening foods that are constantly in our midst? First of all and most importantly, we must want to lose weight more than we want the foods we must avoid. Weight loss provides a litany of benefits to our health, appearance and well-being; fattening foods provide a few seconds of pleasure followed by damage to our health, appearance and well-being.

Secondly, we must follow an eating plan that excludes starches and sugars in the afternoon and evening, in favor of proteins, vegetables and non-fattening foods that help satisfy our cravings. Such a plan should be designed and administered by a healthcare professional who specializes in weight management and who is available to provide frequent supportive counseling.

And thirdly, we must regard this eating plan as our new lifestyle and, better yet, as part of our very identity, so that it does not become a “diet,” i.e. a temporary attempt at weight loss followed by failure. This mindset is a real leap of faith for virtually all of us, because all we’ve ever known about weight loss has been about “dieting.” A weight management specialist is uniquely qualified to assist us with the creation of this “thin and healthy” identity.

Dean Sloan, MD

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