In the last post, I made the argument about how we humans might not be destined by our DNA to over eat after all.
This post is addressing what I like to call the “now or never” desire to eat.
It’s well documented that the desire to acquire or consume something goes up when we learn there are limited quantities. This is why marketers often use the “supplies are limited” sales pitch.
The dietary literature states that we humans feel the need to constantly eat because we evolved through times when food supplies were uncertain. We didn’t know if we had food to eat tommorow so we had to consume it whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Now of course, many of us live in places where food is plentiful, cheap, and easy to consume. So it makes sense that we would naturally over eat. If we feel the need to eat when food is present, and it’s always present, then we always feel the need to eat.
The classic dietary strategy is to impose some sort of limitation upon our food consumption to “rescue” us from our over eating tendancies. It might be about nutrition, additives, or whatever, but every diet has the same basic idea:
Take away some of the freedom to eat whatever and whenever you like and you’ll limit your consumption.
It certainly works for the restriction of calories, but it also means we have to deal with the “now or never” panic mode of consumption.
Back when I was following various diets, I would grow anxious when presented with forbidden foods. I knew I was not supposed to eat the food, and because of that, I knew I may not have another opportunity to eat that slice of cake or bag of chips. If I passed up the food, I felt like an opportunity had been lost. If I give in, I would feel like I had broken some barrier and had blown my diet. As a results I would say “well I’ll get back on track tomorrow so I had better indulge now while I still can.”
So by imposing some sort of restrictive rules, I was once again setting myself up for a now-or-never urge to eat. And due to the fact that I was surrounded by forbidden foods I was always faced with a now-or-never eating opportunity.
The funny thing is, now that I can eat anything at any time I hardly ever have the now-or-never need to eat.
If a friend offers me a slice of cake I feel no need to jump on it like a velocaraptor on a chicken. If I want the cake I eat it, but if I don’t I pass it up. It’s no big deal because I can get cake any time I want it. Because there is no shortage, I feel far less need to eat when the opportunity comes about.
So maybe we do have the genetic programing to pounce on food when we see it, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to control us. It’s most certainly possible to condition ourselves to comfortably say no to food because we honestly don’t want it.
Being able to eat anything at any time is a huge luxury we should be thankful for. Billions of people the world over would literally kill for the culinary paradise we find ourselves in. There is no reason to deny ourselves of the options and opportunities we have all around us.
Being surrounded by cheap and convenient food doesn’t mean we have to eat all of the time. It means we have the luxury to turn food down when we honestly don’t want it.
That alone is a luxury in its self.