Dr. Gary Bell
Our drive to eat goes way beyond basic hunger. There is a drive within all of us to eat, eat, and eat some more. What’s worse is that this drive seems to be focused on foods that are horrible for us. When was the last time you had an intense, mouth-watering craving for Brussels sprouts?
At our most basic level, we are built to crave high-fat, high-sugar, and high-protein foods. Sure, many of us develop an appetite for more healthy foods and learn to shun the empty calories of milkshakes and soda, but if you believe that is the result of anything other than conditioning and training, you are kidding yourself.
The next time you see someone smugly turning up their nose at dessert or claiming not to enjoy fried foods, you can be satisfied knowing that the person is probably either lying or that this attitude is the result of years of painful self-denial and emotional training. If children exhibit a more fundamental form of human emotions, their appetite for sweets and aversion to vegetables speaks for themselves.
Gluttony is a feature we share with nearly all animals. Anyone with dogs or cats knows how they can gorge themselves on treats, meat, and other rich and savory foods. We have to regulate the diets of our companion animals carefully, or else they will become overweight quickly. The same goes for laboratory animals: rats, mice, rabbits, fish, monkeys – you name it.
Zoo animals, too. Great care has to be taken to select their diet, not just to include the diversity of food that they need to be healthy, but to regulate their intake so that they do not become morbidly obese. In sum, all animals, and especially humans, if left to their own devices, will overeat to the point of extreme obesity. Why on earth is that?
Contrast that with the seemingly contradictory fact that you seldom encounter obese animals in the wild. Animals in their natural state, that is, the environment they are adapted to, are most often trim or even skinny.
When we put them in an artificial habitat, they will immediately balloon up if we’re not careful. Why would this be? Could it be that the artificial nature of the simulated environment just isn’t right for them?
Indeed, it was previously thought that the stress of captivity caused hormonal changes and nervous overeating. It turns out that that doesn’t seem to be the main issue. You might also guess that the lack of proper physical activity and exercise is the culprit. Nope. Plenty of experiments and anecdotal experience have disproven both of those hypotheses.
Tune in and learn how to manage this relentless urge!
“Cold Section”, Courtesy of Eduardo Soares, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Grocery Aisle”, Courtesy of Franki Chamaki, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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