Speaking of that tool between your ears, better known as the brain, now a days one has to put it to use to scrutinize what we eat. I know the last thing anyone wants to do when getting ready to tear into a plate of fried chicken and mac n cheese is to consider the health consequences. The truth of the matter is, it can be a matter of life and death.
Food is not the same as it used to be. Before the pre-packaged fast food revolutions food was generally healthy compared to today. Now, food is packed with all the things we have come to know and love. Food has, lots of sodium + a ton of fat + almost endless sugar = taste fucking great! Not only do these foods taste great, but like I mentioned before, they tend to release certain chemicals in your brain that make you feel quite good. As a consequence, many people have actually found themselves becoming addicted to this feeling.
Studies on Food Addiction
Wait, what's that? People can be addicted to food? Why yes people can, and often times are, addicts to the all the good tasting, not so healthy, food that is consumed daily. According to an article published in Endocrine Society, pleasure eating releases rewarding chemical signals that causes a person to overeat. These signals often override the feeling of being full. The release of these chemicals often leads to Hedonic Hunger, or the need to eat for pleasure and for enjoyment or taste rather than to restore the body's energy needs. Even though hedonic hunger is not fully understood, it is believed that the hormone ghrelin and chemical compounds such as 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are drivers in the cravings. So if you tend to devour a half pound of cake after that big plate of the Colonel's special, then this may be happening to you. Excuse me as I look away in shame.
So scientifically the equation that I proposed above has scientific backing. Highly palatable foods release the same chemicals in the brain as hard core drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Along with ghrelin, these foods also release dopamine which is another notorious feel good hormone that uplifts your day higher than most. Like the effect of hardcore drugs, your body becomes tolerant to the higher doses of food that you consume. The result is to get that same feel good high you have to consume more. The more you consume, the more tolerant your body becomes thus release less of the hormones you have come to crave, so the more you consume to get that feeling. So that's some of the psychological effects of the Double S+ F equation, now let's talk the physical affects of each.
The Components of Addictive Food
Some have come to know it as the spice of life. As with anything too much of a good thing can often times kill you. And here's why. Sodium draws excess fluid into your blood which increases its volume. When the volume increases, so does your blood pressure. High Blood Pressure can lead to a higher risk of stroke, kidney disease, and heart disease among other serious conditions.
Everyone wants the sweet life. Too much of the sweet life can cost you more than you are willing to spend, especially in medical bills. Great consumption of sugary foods and drinks can lead to an increase in weight, blood glucose levels (which increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes), and your LDL or 'bad cholesterol" levels. A diet high in added sugars including processed sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc, can also increase triglycerides or unwanted fat in the blood.
The Obesity Conspiracy
It's no wonder with all this happening that the obesity rate has risen in the U.S. from 13% in 1962 to 35.7% in 2010. This fact has not escaped the notice of the nation's top executives in the food processing industry. Once upon a time in 1999, eleven executives from companies which included Pillsbury, Coke Cola, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Mars, Kraft, Nabisco, and Nestle convened in Minneapolis to discuss the ever increasing obesity rate and the growing pressure on the industry to do something about the high concentration of sugar, fat, and salt among other things in the foods and beverages they make.
Sounds great right? Well this meeting of concern, good intentions, and industry accountability reportedly took a sharp turn to nowheresville, when the head of General Mills balked when it was suggested that the food industry was targeting kids with commercials such as those for Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes that were tantamount to, if not more damaging than, the tactics used by cigarette companies. The kicker is, General Mills had more to lose in changing than the rest because they have a large share of the grocery market, almost having a stranglehold on many of the favorite products that we consume on a daily basis. In country terms this is what's called "The hit dog hollering".
Not sold on this? Consider all the naughty foods that you love to eat. Better yet, consider all the snack foods that are on the shelves period. It's not a conspiracy theory to notice that an overwhelming majority of them fits this formula. Think that all of the food companies came about this accidentally and a coincidence that they all sell variations of these foods at the same time? Um, maybe. *shrugs shoulders* However, the proof is always in the food label, most times of course. There are other factors that contribute to the rise of obesity and related health concerns from the over consumption of foods rich in salt, sugar, and fats, i.e. fast foods, processed foods such as pasta, rice, and canned goods. So in light of this, what is a person who wants to be more healthy to do?
What you can do to change
The first step is to make a conscious decision about what you want to be. Don't try to lose weight, make the choice to be a healthier person. Not everyone wants to be healthy because some sacrifices will have to be made, but once a decision is made get educated on the foods to eat and find recipes that are healthier and don't necessarily sacrifice taste. It will take some trial and error to find what is healthy and satisfying to you.
Get moving! Diet is a major part of change, but it also takes exercise. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can go a long way to keeping yourself healthy. Find an activity you enjoy doing rather than something you have to force yourself to do. If you don't enjoy the activity for it's own reasons you'll eventually tire of doing tio and stop.
I am a big dude and am very comfortable in my skin. Even though I may have been teased as a child I find myself encountering some very real 30 and 40 year old children out there. Still, I have maintained a love for myself and a love for others who don't fit that certain "Hollywood" mold. The majority a people I encounter actually like big men. It isn't about my size. The main thing for me is being healthy. It can be difficult to do. Trust me, I for one have been struggling with this issue most of my life. However, I am not as young as I used to be. As I get older I recognize the real threat of some of these very health issues more and worry that someday some my become a reality. If you are in the same boat don't worry. The good thing is, once you decide to make changes there will be no stopping you but you. If this is a concern for you invest in yourself and make the choice of a more healthier life.
Resources and references
"Pleasure Eating Triggers Body Reward System and May Stimulate Overeating"
"Low Sodium and Low Sugar Diet"
"What are the Dangers of High Fat Diets?"
"The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food"
Male Media Mind