Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. (Voltaire)
Oh, the power of food. It satisfies our mighty hunger. It comforts us. It nourishes us. It makes us feel good. It relaxes us. It energizes us. It brings us instant gratification.
Nature intended for us to eat for one single reason – to provide the energy and nutrition to our bodies when we need it. Our digestive system was designed to adapt to a wide variety of food and our bodies are equipped to withstand occasional famine. Throughout human history we’ve had to physically work for hours each day in order to ensure a continuous food supply.
Only a distinct feeling of hunger is the body’s healthy sign that it is ready to digest food. It is a modern society’s phenomena that besides hunger, we now eat for a variety of reasons, like
The human race’s prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenseless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenseless against ourselves. (Arnold J. Toynbee)
Stress eating seems to be one of the easiest and most readily available ways to combat negative emotions arising from difficult family situations, work overload, financial pressures, broken relationships, or battling chronic illnesses.
Nature, however, has created a stress initiated “fight or flight” response in our bodies. Certain physiological processes such as adrenalin pumping in the blood, or blood diversion from inner organs to muscles are supposed to prepare us for intense physical activity (e.g. running away from a wild animal or fighting the enemy). Therefore, the only effective way to relieve stress should be a physical activity. Instead, many choose to sit and eat.
Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified? (Chuck Palahniuk)
While eating an apple out of boredom can be totally justified, eating a slice of pizza or an entire box of Oreos…not so much.
Food brings people together and equalizes them, making shared meals a perfect social activity. Eating and talking about food is something we are all good at.
• Our busy lifestyle demands
For many of us, meal time is no longer a ritual. Meal time has become inferior to many other activities we perform. Trying to fit regular meals into our busy schedules doesn’t always work so we eat whenever time and our schedule allows, even when not hungry.
• Pleasure of instant gratification or habit
No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut. (Channing Pollock)
…or two popcorn kernels on movie night?
• Just because…
There is food left on the plate…
That pastry sure looks mouthwatering…
My kid didn’t finish his dinner and I’d hate to waste it…
The boss brought doughnuts to the meeting…
What we eat
Older people shouldn’t eat healthy food; they need all the preservatives they can get. (Robert Orben)
Most modern produce is depleted of minerals and nutrients due to over processing of the soil. Fish and seafood carries chemicals from polluted water. We farm raise cattle or poultry and stuff it with hormones and antibiotics. We farm raise salmon and feed it colorings to make them look more natural. To add further insult to injury, we process the food and bathe it in artificial sweeteners, dyes, preservatives, anti-caking and thickening “agents”, hydrogenated oils, MSGs and other impossible to pronounce chemicals. The problem is that it makes modern food abundant, cheap and convenient for the consumer, and profitable for the industry. Usually the most work we have to do for our food is to walk to refrigerator or drive to the nearest eatery.
How we eat
You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars. (Charles Kuralt)
To summarize how people in modern society eat, fast would be the first word that comes to mind and mindless would be the next.
Where does this lead us?
I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand. (Benjamin Franklin)
What do we do about it?
• Pour money into research
Money won’t buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem. (Bill Vaughan)
I am always wondering (especially in those hard economic times), do we need to spend precious time and money scientifically confirming that:
o We are fat and getting fatter
o Although we live slightly longer than previous generations, we are acquiring chronic conditions early in life and are as overmedicated and surgically altered as humankind has ever been
o The wealthier and the more developed the country is, the more it is plugged with obesity and degenerative diseases
o Everything we’ve done so far as the result of those researches, is not working
And mainly, researches don’t change the way we are addressing the problem.
I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is two weeks. (Totie Fields)
Nearly one-third of the U.S. population is overweight and another third is obese. We spend billions of dollars on diet products and books each year. A government review found that two-thirds of Americans who tried dieting regained all the weight they had lost within a year and 97% had gained it all back within five years.
Nevertheless, diets are so popular now that one needs a diet encyclopedia to consider all the choices. Diets can be classified by calorie restriction, elimination of certain types of food, food group compatibility, body type, blood type and so on. If this isn’t enough to get your head spinning, a science called Nutritional Genomics says it is all in your genes – in other words, a diet good for some people might not necessarily be good for others.
It is my opinion that the idea of dieting is flawed at its core. Any enforced and sustained restriction of food or certain types of food (usually the most craved), or constant fear and confusion in choosing the right meals, will bring more longing, dissatisfaction, lifestyle limitations, frustration and eventual failure.
• Hope that advances in medicine will help
Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic. (Thomas Szasz)
Diet pills, gastric bypass surgery, liposuction…hmm. No matter how you look at it, diet pills are medications, and bypass surgery and liposuction are surgical procedures, and therefore, they are not only don’t work for everybody, but carry substantial risks and side effects.
It seems logical to me that all the research, diets and medical advances won’t solve the problem, because they are not addressing the problem itself, but rather its ugly consequences. Why? Because addressing the problem would be extremely difficult. We’ve evolved into a civilized society with its virtues and flaws and we cannot go back. We are trapped between our body’s evolutionary “instruction manual” and modern lifestyle, which our faster developing brain has advanced us to.
What can we do?
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit. (Aristotle)
Although, we cannot change a society’s established ways of living overnight, there are simple but powerful things we can do. First, we can adhere to a few good habits. Change done in small but persistent steps will not seem so overwhelming, like a new crash diet or an exhausting exercise regimen. But over time you will be amazed at how simple habits can profoundly change your health, influence other people and eventually affect your community.
1. Mind what you eat.
In his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, Dr. Weston Price, described isolated social groups/tribes he studied all over the world. Each group lived primitive lives and was depended on food available locally. For example, Eskimos of Alaska lived primarily on fish, sea animals’ organs, berries and ground nuts. Isolated Gaelic’s lived on fish, oatmeal and rye bread. Isolated Swiss’ nutrition included rye bread, dairy products, vegetables and occasionally meat. Indians in the far North of Canada ate mostly wild game, like moose and caribou, adding some plants during summer months.
Dr Price’s observation was that despite the fact that due to climate, soil conditions and primitive technologies their food choices were extremely limited comparing to ours, they all possessed excellent health, complete absence of dental problems, beautiful physics and enviable stamina. Their health, however, declined rapidly after switching to civilized society’s diet.
Modern humans are fragile. We have food intolerances and allergies. As a Practitioner, when I am asked what other conditions besides asthma could be treated with the Buteyko Method, as I go through the list, usually different people react to a specific problem they have. When I say “digestive problems” I get an instant reaction from almost everybody.
Being “digestively impaired”, we have to listen and be mindful of what kind(s) of food our body is not receptive of.
Educate yourself on reading food labels. Saturated fat and cholesterol on the label is not always the enemy. Processed food, white flour and sugar are. Eating organic eggs, butter, meat and whole milk in quantities sensible for your lifestyle, won’t make you fat or increase your cholesterol. Food with artificial sweeteners, dyes, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, anti caking, thickening etc… agents, hydrogenated oils, MSGs and chemicals, however, must be eliminated or reduced to an absolute minimum. Be aware that many “diet” or “no sugar” labeled products contain even more harmful substitutes.
Do your best to switch to organic produce. Instead of baiting on a next sensational diet or diet pills, spend your money on buying organic locally grown meats and fresh produce. Substitute food quantity with quality.
I am so pleased to see that now every grocery store has an expanding organic section. I am even more pleased to see small, local butcher shops and bakeries opening. There also seems to be plentiful farmer’s markets running throughout summer and fall. Even in the regular grocery store aisle we now see more products labeled “no hormones”, “no antibiotics”, “free range”, “no preservatives”, “unbleached, unbromated” and so on. That means consumers are demanding more “clean”, natural foods, and we are hopefully going back to what healthy eating is supposed to be.
Do not underestimate the power you have as a consumer. The more you buy a better quality food, the more grocery suppliers will offer it. You’ll support local farmers, and with more competition, chances are prices will go down.
Cook at home more often using as many fresh ingredients as possible. This way you are more in control of what you eat. Besides, you’ll be surprised at how budget friendly it is.
Choose raw, steamed, broiled or grilled food over deep fried.
And yes, eat more fresh fruit, berries and vegetables.
2. Change how, why and when you eat.
Eat only when hungry. Distinct feeling of hunger is a signal that your body is ready to digest food properly.
Stop eating at the first feeling that you are full.
Eat slowly! Chew! A large part of healthy digestion happens in your mouth.
Stop eating at least two hours before bed.
3. Address specific digestion problems.
Clear any existing intestinal parasite and fungal infections
4. Do a basic research on vitamins and supplements and see if you need any. Do not overload. (See my article “What is in my medicine cabinet”).
5. Ideally, fast or detoxify one or two times a year.
6. Be aware of your breathing and eating connection.
According to the Buteyko theory, breathing and eating are indeed connected. What you eat affects your breathing. For example, animal protein will cause you to breathe more than eating fruits and vegetables. Deep fried food will cause you to breathe more than raw or steamed food. That might explain, for example, suggested nutritional solutions for easing asthma. It is possible that some mild asthmatics are able to reduce their symptoms with changing their diet toward healthier, “greener” food choices.
However, your breathing profoundly affects all the core processes in your body, including your digestive health and your metabolism. While good nutrition is important, only by addressing your breathing will you be able to overcome your asthma, fundamentally improve your overall health and in many cases successfully stabilize your weight.
Buteyko Clinic USA offers unique breathing rehabilitation programs that result in long term drug free control over asthma, allergies, COPD, rhinitis, chronic cough, snoring, sleep apnea, anxiety, panic, chronic hyperventilation syndrome and other chronic conditions. Contact us today for a free consultation.