Part I :
It is NOT the consumer’s fault
Rather than frame overeating problems as a question of any one individual’s will power, it is time to bring into view three of the mega-corporations, behind both the physical and psychological epidemic of overeating problems in the US.
These 3 mega businesses, affect our self- perception, our diet and the supposed solutions for the weight problems, which they perpetuate.
These 3 businesses form a triad, with the PROCESSED FOOD INDUSTRIES on one apex, the DIETING AND HEALTH FAD INDUSTRY on the second apex, and the BODY IMAGE FOCUSED ADVERTISING INDUSTRIES on the third.
Together, these three industries combine to attract hundreds of millions of individuals into a system of erroneous, misleading beliefs about body image, nutrition and health, as well as driving over eating disorders on several fronts.
PART I (again):
Let’s Start with the Processed
Food & Agri-business Industries
The Physical-Metabolic Drivers Underlying Aspects of the Overeating & Weight Crisis in Children, Adolescents & Adults
Very highly processed, high shelf-life foods, or “edible food-like substances” *
What’s the problem?
- Nothing if you want to enjoy any food now and then!
Although this overeating treatment supports “all foods fit”, meaning there are no ‘bad foods’ per se, this section exposes the manipulation by food companies to hijack appetite and eating drive toward their high profit “non-foods”.
- Everything, if you are prone to a relatively recent medical discovery that our food source drastically affects our metabolic hormones. Genetics and epigenetics play a large role in how much we are affected by the amount and ratios of processed foods in our diet, especially foods containing a majority of refined grains and sugars. Metabolic hormones are now seen as playing a major role in determining whether our food goes toward energy, motivation, concentration, and the desire to be active, or toward storage as fat instead.
- This is not an article about fatness as bad. It is about the stolen power and energy from our own physiology, when highly processed foods of a certain nature are eaten regularly.
- Our culture’s prejudice against overweight backfires in every way possible. Judgment about weight, and body image in general destroys human potential on many levels.
- Ultra -processed ‘food like substances’ have little relationship to actual food. With the addition of a variety of types of sugars, salt, modified fats, chemical stabilizers, food coloring and loud flavorings, many ultra processed foods are highly profitable to large food conglomerates since their long shelf life saves billions of dollars of overhead. Being relatively cheap, easily accessible, whether as fast food or grab and go type foods, vulnerable populations are attracted to snack foods, deserts, entrees and sugary beverages as a go-to solution for feeding themselves and their families.
What’s the problem?
- These “non foods” have been manipulated to bypass normal satiety (fullness) centers. “BETCHA CAN’T EAT JUST ONE” was Lay’s Potato Chip slogan, cute, unless you’re vulnerable to overeating problems, which destroys lives.
- The serious long-term consequences of eating a diet that is high in refined, processed foods is now seen in the rising tide of over insulin production, and metabolic syndrome, never mind the devastating levels of related diabetes type II. Alterations in liver function, appetite regulation, triglyceride and cholesterol, inflammation across the body, blood pressure, and normal body weight regulation occurs. The body favors making fat instead of energy out of foods, leaving the very young alongside all ages, caught in a vicious cycle of low energy, increased appetite and fatigue.
- Key here, is that the fatigue, loss of concentration, and loss of a sense of well being, create a drain to the motivation needed to live a meaningful life of activity and desired accomplishments. Never mind that increasing insulin levels and other markers of metabolic syndrome and diabetes create weight gain, which in and of itself becomes a burden both physically but unfortunately, psychologically within our weight stigma culture.
- Gut micro-biome changes are deeply and negatively affected by highly processed foods, especially high concentrations of sugars and refined grains. These gut micro-biome changes drastically affect our entire body health, and significantly our moods—to such an extent the gut micro-biome is thought to be a ‘second brain’.
- Highly processed foods and metabolic syndrome like dynamics increase inflammation, and other markers of vibrant health, such as cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Of significance is that fatty liver—destructive changes in liver physiology occur, without any relationship to alcoholism. Children, teens and adults are getting fatty liver disease just from predominant consumption of highly processed foods.
- Highly processed foods have been formulated to trigger dopamine release reward and other neurochemical pleasure centers through palate altering concentrations of sugars, sodium, altered fats, and artificial flavors to induce a “highly palatable” product that drives some individuals toward the addictive behavioral drive to overeat. We are all motivated by reward and pleasure, while some individuals are hardwired more toward eating, others toward other addictive behaviors (gambling, sex) versus substances (alcohol drugs).
- To be clear, there is a blur across what constitutes a neurochemical strong reward response, or an opiate- like euphoric response, or how impulse control is involved with addictive tendencies in individuals, whether the addictive tendency is behavioral like gambling or a substance like alcohol. For some, the concentration of sugars, fats, protein flavorings, sodium, certain textures and correlations to specific foods appears to have a stronger trigger toward an addictive relationship with food, than with other individuals. Highly processed foods take advantage of this dynamic. More on this topic is available through my website or email.
- The point is, processed food / fast food companies lure millions of vulnerable children, teens and adults toward these physiology-altering fast foods, snack foods, entre substitutes and sugary beverages, drastically changing the core hormones and processes that regulate our sense of well being, energy and life.
- Without overeating, millions of Americans are silently becoming sick, simply through the processed food conglomerates business plan.
- A Calorie is No Longer a Calorie!
- Weight is regulated by the hormones that tell the body what to do with our food, and what to do with our fat, not by the physics of calories in foods eaten versus calorie expenditure.
- When weight is gained above and beyond what is natural to us, either through the regular consumption of highly processed foods, through an overeating disorder, through any set of circumstances that cause the body to store more fat than it would, given a balanced life and natural foods, an interesting physical dynamic can occur.
- If weight is gained through the middle of the body, there is a good chance that the metabolic hormones insulin and glucagon will become altered. Insulin levels rise, and since they are like a sea-saw in relationship to each other, glucagon levels decrease (see blog on insulin-glucagon).
- Once insulin levels rise (and even before fasting insulin lab tests show they are rising, insulin levels can be heading higher), the body alters significantly. The body goes into more and more of a ‘storage mode’, and less of a very necessary ‘food burning-energy production’ mode.
- Once these metabolic syndrome-like symptoms begin, the body gets stuck in storage mode, so that even when calories are reduced below daily output, fat is still less likely to be mobilized. Due to changes in the micro-biome and hormones regulating weight control, a vicious cycle ensues which drives more eating, less energy production, less mobilization of fat stores.
- Let there be no stigma associated with what we eat or what we weigh. All that matters is that we all want to feel our best, and have the best for our children and loved ones.
- Join in advocacy for those vulnerable to the fast and processed food industry, and those vulnerable to overeating and having gained excess weight.
- Know that some treats are totally fine for most people! The issue here is the regular, day in and day out consumption of sodas, other sugary drinks like coffee drinks, milkshakes, and highly processed foods consumed on a regular basis. Adding a favorite snack or dessert can work amidst adding IN loads of great foods described next.
- Adding IN foods that are intact plants in any way, shape or form, along with adding IN protein if needed, and finding ways to ADD IN more fats from plant sources can be surprisingly fun, delicious, satisfying and can slowly replace fast and processed foods when possible.
- Plants include nuts, seeds, the legume family like black beans and pinto beans. Nut butters like peanut butter, almond butter are fantastic foods despite their reputation as high in fat. High in plant fats is great! Pesto, guacamole, olive oil, quality oils in stir- fries and salad dressings all add richness to foods.
- Debunk the myths about fats. Fats do not increase insulin and they create satiety, and are key in shifting from a highly sugary, refined grain, or highly processed food diet to a new ratio of foods, which encourage more glucagon and less insulin. Even fats from meats and meat products (if meats are part of the diet) can be a better choice than a high proportion of processed grains and sugars.
- Sufficient protein is key to satiety and stimulates glucagon versus insulin.
- Emotional overeating is key to treat psychologically and is NOT treated with any change in diet per se. There are amazing resources on line, in books, and through therapy. Dietitians specializing in disordered eating can be found in addition to working with a therapist, creating a team approach, which is essential for the full perspective in recovery. See the following website and follow the leads! https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed
- A food solution must be guided as there are many advertised answers which do not address the individual situations people find themselves.
Feel free to contact me for resources related to your own overeating problem.