Compulsive Overeating: the Bane of Prosperity
Most Americans live in a state of overabundunce--especially when it comes to food. Never before in the history of humankind have we had so much food available to us year round. On the one hand, that's pretty cool! You're hungry or have the munchies? Food is never far away, and it's cheap and legal, leading to a daily habit of compulsive overeating, emotional eating, and food addiction.
Enter Old Brain
Unfortunately, we are still operating from the brains of our ancestors, who had to work hard for their food. Not only did they burn lots of calories while acquiring it, but calories were much harder to come by. In order to keep the organism motivated to get food, evolution designed our brains to make eating a pleasurable experience--thus, we get rewarded for eating and staying alive (and procreating!). Our brains also give us an extra jolt of pleasure for consuming high-calorie foods.
So here we are today, with a McDonald's on every other corner and a "quick mart" in between. There are unlimited opportunities for our old brains to reward us. Oddly enough, it makes sense that so many people seem driven to overeat and make unhealthy food choices.
Designed for Survival and Comfort
Not only were our brains designed to promote compulsive overeating, many of us learned at an early age to use food as comfort--enter emotional eating. As adults, we still use food for comfort as well as entertainment, stress relief, and as a stimulant for that mid afternoon energy low. We use food as a weapon to "get back" at someone (usually a loved one) and as a distraction from sadness, depression, anger, or paying the bills.
This, of course, is why dieting alone doesn't work for long-term weight loss. We are literally fighting against thousands of years of evolution and decades of bad eating habits.The antidote for compulsive overeating and food addiction involves retraining the taste buds to appreciate low-calorie, nutrient-dense food and retraining the mind to stick to it for the long term!
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