A big worry that many of us who wants to eat healthy have, especially at the the beginning, is how to deal with cravings. There are a lot of answers given – eat enough calories, eat a high-carb diet (preferably fruit), make sure to get a savory meal like a stew, many different answers to many different cravings, but one that I have noticed recently is actually exercise. As I have continued on this exercise regimen and gained strength I tend to subconsciously evade many of the less than optimal foods that I have eaten before as they will directly interfere with my fitness regimen. Especially fat, there really is something at work behind the scenes making me not buy the nuts, the avocados and many other high-fat foods as they would not work as well as what I’m doing now. Of course I might have a handful of nuts, a little of nut butter or some nut milk every once in a while, but somehow it’s subconsciously kept within the limits in a way that no amount of “willpower” managed to do before. This despite the fact that due to economical reasons as I eat more cooked foods my caloric intake has lowered a bit. I find this extraordinarily inspiring.
Have you ever been addicted to fat? No, that was a rhetorical question. Of course we have all been addicted to fat, just as we have been addicted to salt and sugar, because humans are created to seek out salt, fat and sugar- they are the three tastes that we have receptors for at the tip of our tongue. In a natural environment, where we are not interfered with this is no problem we get them in the right amounts within the fibrous contents of other foods and the concentrations will be regulated with the seasons. Unfortunately we no longer live in a natural environment, but are very much interfered with. Some subtle, some not so subtle. This is a great hazard for us, as we like all other lifeforms are designed for two primary functions – survival and reproduction. Many functions aid in our survival, but for now let’s concentrate on food. Food is the most important survival issue and each creature must make sure to always get enough. To this end we are capable of catching the caloric difference of 5 calories/bite between one apple and another. Let’s consider a few interferences and how they relate to this condition:
- Refined foods: Brown sugar lies at 3800 calories/kilo. Olive oil lies at 8840 calories/pound. If we compare this with natural foods, an apple is at 520 calories/kilo, a banana is at 890 calories/kilo, even a fatty fruit like avocado is only at 1600 calories/kilo, so most of the weight in natural foods would be fiber and water. In this situation our survival instances of picking up the caloric content is essential to make sure we get enough to continue to live. But while our modern environment has changed drastically we have not. The reason why so many people are addicted to junk food is because when we take a bite out of that corn chip our survival instincts kick in and tell us “you are doing the right thing”.
- Another form of interference is globalization. Thanks to globalization we can get all kinds of fruit almost all season of the year. This means that our diet can be incredibly varied, we can have mango and avocado in december if we want to, even though those fruits is not in season during that time. While convenient, it is also dangerous. In the natural environment the kinds of foods we would eat is geared so that we eat them all in their proper place. Especially fats are dangerous, because they only come in season during the summer, which would give us that extra caloric bang, maybe putting on a few kilos for the winter and getting a bit extra vitamin-e and vitamin-k that our body need. In the natural environment however the winter never comes, this coupled with the fact of constant availability and the increased caloric content of fats as compared to other foods, makes it extremely easy to become addicted to them. This has many consequences, two of them being that we do not get enough other nutrients and since our cells demand carbohydrate to function, our energy levels will drop significantly. We also will not be able to be as satiated.
How do you fix a fat addiction once you realize you are in one? It’s easier to say than to do as we are geared to get that most calorically dense foods. Also when we increase the intensity of something (e.g. caloric content) our bodies will given a little bit of time get used to it. You can run this experiment, e.g. at your local swim hall. Take a swim in the normal temperature pool, then get in the warm pool. It feels warm, stay in there 5-10 minutes and it will feel like the other pool and when you return to that pool it will feel really cold.
This makes just not eating the fat problematic. You have become used to this increased caloric bang. Dropping straight out is going to go against all your survival instincts (even though we don’t call them such, we call them “cravings” or similar). There are a few ways that one can help however. It takes 3-5 weeks for you to be most the way out of this trap and 6-10 weeks to be all the way out, the first time is the hardest. One way to give yourself a boost is to do juice fasting for 2-3 days, taking your fat and salt receptors TOTALLY out of the equation, even on the amounts in whole, natural plant foods. When you then taste these foods after the fast you will be able to pick up on this a lot easier. More intense way is to do a water-only fasting. You just drink water for the same amount of time and getting your body TOTAL sensory deprivation. After the fast the whole, natural plant foods are going to taste a lot better.