Why is Overweight so Prevalent, and How Can it be Reversed without Diets and Willpower?*
Fifty years ago, it was unusual to see someone who was overweight. Now it is common to see lots of overweight people, many of them obese. This sudden rise in obesity cannot be blamed on genes— there is no way that genes can evolve that quickly. The following are some of the many causes of obesity:
A Need for Instant Gratification
Increasingly, we feel that we should get what we want when we want it. We can order an item on-line and get it the next day. If we have a question, the Internet can provide millions of answers in a fraction of a second. If we take a photograph, we can see it on the camera screen immediately afterward and print it in a few minutes. If we want to talk to someone anywhere in the world, we can do so on a cell phone. If we want entertainment, there are over 100 TV channels on at any time of the day or night. So why should there be any time gap between the glimmer of an idea about food and its presence in our mouths?
Constant Availability of Food
Fifty years ago, if you were hungry and away from home, you had two choices. One was to go hungry until you got home, and the other was to go to a restaurant. In both cases, there would be a substantial wait for the food to be prepared. Now ready-to-eat food is easily available, with virtually no wait. Fast-food restaurants are open until late at night and are prevalent. Supermarkets, large and small, are also open late—some all night. A dinner that would otherwise take the better part of an hour to prepare can be pulled out of your home freezer and cooked in minutes in a microwave oven. So you can eat whenever you want, with little or no wait.
Frequent Reminders about Food
Fifty years ago, TV was in black and white. There were few commercials for food because of the lack of color. Now, with color TV, food commercials, many for fast foods, are prevalent as well as food-preparation shows.
Habituation to Excess
Because many people experience an emptiness in their lives and jobs, they turn to excesses of stimulating activities such as driving their cars fast and recklessly, listening to music so loud that it damages their hearing, watching extremely violent movies and television shows, and eating large amounts of spicy, salty, highly stimulating food. The emptiness felt by many stems from many causes, one of which is an alienation from nature and the lack of an ability to express creative energy in their lives and in their jobs.
Consequences of Habituation to Excess
The results of eating too much, eating too much of a particular nutrient such as protein or carbohydrate, drinking large amounts of liquids with meals, and eating a haphazard combination of foods** (which is difficult or impossible to properly digest) cause the stomach to become stretched and its lining to become inflamed. The result is that the volume of the is increased, and more food is required to fill it. This process is cyclic, and the volume and irritation of the stomach keeps increasing. To make things worse, when the stomach empties, the walls rub together (stomach pangs) and cause a feeling of discomfort. That discomfort is relieved by eating more food and, consequently, mistaken for hunger.† The result of all of these factors is a stomach that needs a lot of food often.
How can being overweight be reversed? In most cases, dieting does not work.‡ The start lies in learning about digestive limitations (chewing food, food-combining,* digestion times, the effect of drinking liquids with meals, and the effects of overeating). Next, it is important to pay attention to the feeling in the stomach when enough is eaten; most people disregard these cues and eat “for the mouth.” Re-education, not willpower, is the key. When you leave the table before your stomach is full, the food will be digested comfortably and optimally. After a few minutes, you will forget about eating. Over time, your stomach will slowly shrink to normal size. You will become comfortable when your stomach is empty because the causes of its irritation have been eliminated. Also, allowing your stomach be empty for extended periods of time will allow it to heal. Your weight will slowly normalize, and your health and looks will likewise benefit. Time and an understanding of and an attentiveness to the effects of the way you eat are the keys—not deprivation and the willpower to sustain it.
The process of reeducating your mind and body will be slow, so don’t expect immediate results. Whereas you will never attain perfection, you can steadily move in that direction. You will be amazed at how well you will feel and look and how healthy you will become. Eating correctly will be increasingly easy as you see the results and your body reestablishes its inner knowledge.
*From Robert Chuckrow, The Intelligent Dieter’s Guide, Rising Mist Publications, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 1997.
©Copyright 1997 by Robert Chuckrow
**see article: Principles of Combining Foods for Optimal Digestion
†see article: True Versus False Hunger
‡see article: The Problem with Diets and Willpower
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