Sunday, February 12, 2012
As paleolithic and neolithic hunters and gatherers and early farmers, we evolved to be hungry part of the time at least. Hunger was what motivated us to exert the energy necessary to obtain the nutritional requirements essential to our survival. So: not only is hunger not an emergency. Being hungry is biologically normal. And what are we most hungry for? The foods that required the greatest effort to obtain when we were hunters and gatherers and farmers.
Fat: it took a lot of energy to chase down the mastodons! Obtain whale blubber!
Protein: ditto, with every other animal protein source: trapping wild pigs, spearing salmon . . .
Sweets: climbing trees, fending off angry bees . . .
Salts: miles of travelling to the ocean where salt had precipitated and could be gathered and hoarded as the precious substance it was.
Carbs: gathering seeds, ploughing, planting, harvesting, winnowing, grinding, baking . . .
The exercise necessary to acquire these highly-craved nutrients pretty much offset the calories that they contained.
We still need all of these nutrients to survive . . . but we're programmed to crave 'em way too much because earlier in our evolutionary history it required so much energy to obtain 'em.
And now: not so much energy is required. All of these nutrients are so readily available, cheaply at that. Fat and protein in burgers and fries from the drive through (duh, don't even have to get out of the car!!) . Salt and sugar and carbs in the snack food aisle. All of the above in the prefab meals in the freezer. Throw 'em in the cart!! Wheel it out to the car! Drive it home and microwave it!!
But . . . . .although I don't have to grow 'em for myself, those veggies would require some washing and peeling and maybe cooking. Soups and salads take work. Fruits too. Even chewing 'em would be a little more work. All that effort just to satisfy our rational knowledge about what we should eat?? But -- that's intellectual knowledge, logic. Less powerful by far than the biologically- driven craving for fat, salt and sugar.
On top of that, we're surrounded every day with thousands of cues to eat to excess what we are biologically programmed to crave: commercial advertising (TV, computer, even on SparkPeople), billboards.
"What would I like to eat?" Hmmm. As I'm leaning into the fridge. I'd like to eat what I'm biologically programmed to eat, of course. So: not a good question.
What do I need to eat? Vitamins, minerals, some carbs, some fat, some protein. Within my calorie range. To meet my pre-planned rational decision as to my nutritional needs.
This would be a better question probably. But it's less firmly located in that ol' limbic brain of mine. In fact, not there at all.
It's not so long ago that slimness was associated with poverty. Take a look at these famous Venus paintings. Pretty chunky, weren't they? And now they've been photoshopped to contemporary fashion in body shape by Anna Utopia Giordano:
Our ideal of beauty has changed: our biology, not so much.