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Walking through downtown Palo Alto, Ca., one gets bombarded every few steps with signs, window ads, aromas, and visual cues of food, food, food. Every few paces there’s a restaurant, a cafe, or a bakery, most with doors that open like arms of loved ones.
Although food has been enjoyed through the ages, at certain periods even in abundance. But I don’t think it’s ever been unleashed on us blitzkrieg-style the way it is in the age of modern commerce and free market.
Business competition is fierce, and food manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants all want to sell us a plate, and their marketing is so aggressive that it practically resembles cultural force feeding.
In the spirit of “added value,” meal portion inflates to ridiculous sizes, just to charge a few pennies more. And we’re conditioned to seek this added value on our plate, even if that means the result is added fat on our hips.
Studies show that we tend to eat the entire meal placed in front of us, regardless of its portion size. Also, the site of food, the proximity to food, and the expectation of eating food, are enough to trigger appetite in our brain. Immerse ourselves in such an environment and we have an uphill battle; unfortunately, much of the Western world is such an environment.
Of course, there are multiple and complex factors affecting appetite and eating behavior, but the constant and abundant appeal to eat eat eat is a strong driver of overweight and obesity.
Overweight and obesity have little to do with our own will power, but much to do with the food industry’s resolute to manipulate our behavior, at the expense of our health, through advertisement and manipulated literature (i.e. “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”).
We’re virtually helpless against this industry assault.
But it’s irresponsible to place the entire blame on the current state of food commerce, as we still have choices, no matter how difficult.
The continuous expectation to eat (lunch, snacks, etc.) causes an ambiguity that constantly nags at our brain’s reward system, triggering a hormonal cascade that exerts powerful control over our behavior. We become obsessed with the thought of eating.
But when we acquire and adopt a different perspective on eating habits — that it’s OK to not eating all the time — we liberate ourselves from eating obsession. We learn to eat less through time, and eventually we realize that the terrible hunger to which we once succumbed has actually diminished.
Intermittent fasting is like shutting off the valve. One swift twist of the valve. And all the noise that is industry coercion to eat eat eat becomes silenced. Turn off the valve, and it’s easy to walk right by the 18 screaming bakeries in downtown Palo Alto.
However, if you’re ever in the area you must stop by the Prolific Oven. After all, you gotta enjoy the little gifts in life. Intermittent fasting allows us to still enjoy these little gifts.