Economics and Overweight

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More, and Cheaper

In his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan wrote that the strong-arm collaboration between the federal government and agribusiness has produced a copious amount of commodity grains (like corn) that lead to an increasingly abundant of cheap calories.

In almost every manufacturing industry, technological advancement and economics force cheaper production of goods in higher quantity. This has permeated the food industry, too, for which America’s love for eating is strengthened while her waist is suffering.

Like plastic watches, cellular phones, and modular homes, food is available at greater quantity and at cheaper prices. The success of a free-market system encourages an aggressive commercial push to manufacture and sell more food.

It’s an industry that trickles from the giant corporations all the way down to the mom-and-pop restaurants, the diners, and the local coffee house on the corner. Everyone wants to sell you something to eat.

It’s smart business and you can’t blame the food industry. They’re simply taking advantage of our genetic wiring to eat when food is available. They know that if they enhance the flavors of food supranaturally, the addiction circuitry in our brain gets tripped, and we’ll come back for more. Food, it’s big money.

Food Everywhere

Access to food, thus, is nearly limitless. This alone could explain the rise in obesity.

Although there are many theories on the biological mechanisms that regulate energy balance, those mechanisms might be broken by the chronic over-stimulation by supranatural flavors, excessive intake of calories, and environmental influences on our eating psychology and behavior.

While advancement in food technology has kept much of the overpopulated world fed, they also have created an environment in which food abundance has fatten and sicken most of those in developed countries. There’s just too much food in all the wrong places — simply because these places tend to have money to spend on food.

And, because of the free-market’s creation of a ubiquitous and unnatural food environment, we must have an equally unnatural plan to keep ourselves from homogenizing into the growing statistics of obesity.

The Plan: Intermittent Fasting

So, whether or not you believe that humans are meant to eat in the style of intermittent fasting, it is still a great eating style to liberate ourselves from the grip of the food industry.

Food is everywhere, and not many of us can (or really care to) fight it all the time. Intermittent fasting allows us to relax a little, and live a little.

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32 Responses to Economics and Overweight

  1. Jennifer says:

    I stumbled on your web site a few weeks ago. I have read your site and a few others and decided last week to jump on board. I have to say, this isn’t too hard! I have gained so much weight and I have oodles of knowledge on HOW you are “supposed” to lose weight. So much knowledge on the different diets, different theories, tried SO many things. I have no idea WHAT to eat anymore! I LOVE your ideas! Keep it simple, eat what you like, stay as natural as possible and don’t stress. Brilliant! With the holiday’s apon us there is an abundance of food around the office. The other day we had a large breakfast potluck. I merely adjusted my IF window and ate a nice breakfast, no lunch no dinner, and only coffee the next morning until my fast ended at noon. Simple! I do experience some hunger but as you said I wait it out. I drink water, hot tea or coffee and a little while later I am fine. I have been able to lose weight and NOT obsess about food. I also find myself reaching for a better quality of food when I do eat as opposed to just shovelling something in. Your site has been a real eye opener for me. I check back everyday for inspiration. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Greg Linster says:

    This is one of the best posts to date Johnny!

  3. David says:

    I find it amazing to think about the volume of food we believe that we need to eat with all of our available options. We have warehouses full of food and we stack our carts full to make sure that we have enough to get us through our three meals a day plus snacks. Of course if we bought fresh food it would rot before we could consume it all so we buy huge freezers and store cans and boxes of processed food in pantries the size of a small kitchen. Then as we sit in front of the TV late at night shoveling processed snacks into our mouths while we wonder at the obesity in America as we follow shows like Biggest Loser.

    For us food is no longer a necessity. It is a past time, an entertainment and an addiction.

    • Stephen says:

      Food is supposed to be more than a necessaty. Even in primitive cultures food is pastime, entertainment, spirituality, leisure, socialization and pleasure. But it’s not an obsession. We don’t have to think of food as just a necessary or fuel in order to make smart choice and eat the right amount of be satisfied without being sick stuffed.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Wood,

      Thanks for the link. This associative finding doesn’t offer insight into what kind of food the subjects ate (in Singapore). It’s also uses an “interview” method in which subjects were asked to recollect from memory.

      The parameters examined was not fasting but in the deviation of meal timing — greater than 2 hour deviation, two or more times a week.

      This is different from the DIF style that I do and write about, in which the meal time is mostly consistent. I usually eat my first meal around 4pm and last around 10 or 11pm.

      The world’s oldest man passed away recently, and for most of his life he ate only breakfast and lunch and skipped dinner — basically living a life of daily intermittent fasting until he died at aged 113.

      The point is not that DIF helped him lived this long, but that it didn’t affect him negatively.

      Other cultures also eat once or twice a day and live long, healthy lives void of cancer and diseases — H-Pilory, gastritis and otherwise.

      I think that in the end, the evidence of benefits from IF should be calculated into the whole health equation, so I don’t worry about a single associative finding with limited variables examined.


  4. Sooooooooooooooo right.
    I’ve given up sugar, all of it, honey, sweeteners, whatever, and I haven’t felt ever better in my life. Sugar is the first historical processed food and it is so insidious in our history of eating, at first you feel like a heretic! But believe me it’s the best decision you can make for your health, your life!!!
    See my blog:
    The Labor Pains of Nutrition

    Guy The Healthy Paleo Guy

    • Stephen says:

      Imo, that’s true of excessive sugar comsuption of diet where half the carbs are from sugar or drinking liters of sugared soft drink a day. But I still enjoy sugary treats without any adverse effect because everything is still dose-dependent.
      And I say this after being sugar-free for one year but whatever diet I thought I had mastered didn’t last eventually. Now I think no food must be off-limit and no food should be banned forever from the diet, unless you don’t like it.

      • Guy Giard says:

        Sugar is not food, sugar is a man creation, like cocaine, alcool or cigarettes. So you would recommend that if someone likes cocaine or smoking, well it’s ok to do it. Willpower is overrated, a diet by definition is a temporary condition. I don’t do diets, I create lifechanges that promote my health and my longivity, same as with the quantity of food we are advertised to eat…..
        I eat fruits and vegetables, meats and nuts, these are foods, but sugar is definitively not food, it’s the same as a polymer, a sweet plastic. I choose long term life over short term pleasure, and without sugar real food becomes real tasty pleasure, so I get both!

  5. Sue says:

    Johnny, do you think a 48 hr fast is okay to do after a big pig out or as a jump-start to daily fasting?

  6. Steve says:

    Great Post! I have to say the interview that you did was awesome, I am leaving for a vacation for two weeks but as soon as i return I am beginning my IF journey thanks to you!!!! I cannot wait.

  7. Johnny says:

    Guy writes: “Sugar is not food, sugar is a man creation, like cocaine, alcool or cigarettes.”

    Hi Guy, sugar is found in nature and so is alcohol. Even though table sugar is made by man, there’s no evidence that in small dose it is detrimental. Read “The Blue Zone,” a book about super-old individuals from around the world who enjoy robust health void of almost all diseases, yet they still enjoy candies, in small amount.

    I think a large obstacle to most people’s long-term dietary habit is that they tend to blame a specific food, rather than the dose. Then it’s All-or-Nothing, and that eventually becomes a temporary diet.


    • Thanks Johnny, I’ll look it up!

      Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m no food fundamentalist, heck I just had a baklava tonight to celebrate our concert! Yet….

      There’s no evidence that in small dose it is detrimental, well tell that to Nancy Appleton, John Yudkin, Connie Bennett and other writers scientist, so I can’t agree here. I challenge my food choices on research.

      How many apples would you have to eat to get that one small dose of table sugar? How many in a can of Coke or Apple juice… what would be the point of eating 6 apples to have that just that one spoonful??

      These super-old individuals might have a full-nutrient lifestyle otherwise so a bit of poison might heal itself all the time…. I mean if you cut yourself once in a while your skin does heals, but if you always pull on your scab you don’t heal anymore. Small dose doesn’t talk about 20 years or 30 years of small dose, Parkinson has been related to sugars….

      So basically what is the point of eating man-made sugars??? Can you answer anything else than pleasure, or your right to pleasure???? It sure cannot be for nutrition’s sake! Honestly, give me another reason beside pleasure and I’ll consider it!


      • Stephen says:

        I still don’t believe people who are not paying attention to their diet and eating a standard diet including sugar are all unhealthy and short lived. Except from fringe authors with money to make I have never seen any evidence that people are dropping dead because of eating cake, which is something we have done for centuries. People are not getting poisoned by sugar but some of them are getting poisoned by excessive sugar consumption which is why people were healthier 100 years ago, but there was sugar in the diet of course.

      • Johnny says:

        Hi healthypaleoguy,

        Except for the bloating from the sheer volume and fiber, I don’t think that eating 6 apples periodically could be harmful. Likewise, I don’t think that eating a little sugar periodically can be harmful either.

        Here’s the point to keep in mind, and one that I’ve implied many times elsewhere: no one needs sugar of any kind, and most people may do better without it, but by how much can they do better with complete abstinence, and can this difference be compared to the health that comes with pleasure and joy?

        I believe that people oversimplify health and longevity, when the fact is that even scientists don’t understand all the contributing variables. If people believe that categorical food restrictions or complete elimination are better for them, then I’m alright with that. But I have a problem when people push this ideology as the only way to optimal health when there’s no scientific support and when there’s evidence to the contrary.

        If people prefer to make weight management and health more complicated and more obsessive, then this blog is not for them.


      • Jordan D. says:

        “Honestly, give me another reason beside pleasure and I’ll consider it!”

        Guy, what other reason is necessary? Pleasure is a perfectly legitimate reason all by itself. Not to overeat a food item, of course, but occasional and/or moderate consumption- sure, why not? Food isn’t a religion. We don’t have to remain “chaste” in order to protect our “purity.” lol. The problem is excess, not pleasure. As Johnny has made abundantly clearly, the poison is in the dose. Pleasure is a part of life, a good part of it. lol.

        Besides, whole foods can be pleasurable, too. I don’t eat steak for the protein… although that’s a nice bonus. 🙂 I eat plenty of “healthy” foods like broccoli, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, yogurt, eggs, fish, etc. But every single one of them tastes good to me. I don’t force feed myself any type of food, period.

        The other issue is deprivation. Is it better to never eat something and really miss it and become fixated on it until one gives into the temptation, probably overeating it in the process… or to eat a little bit here and there, not turning it into an irresistible temptation, but rather just another occasional treat? Obviously, we’re all free to choose. You can do what you want. I’ll take the latter. 🙂

        And if the issue of deprivation is irrelevant to you because you’re never, ever tempted by anything, lucky you! lol. But some of us do feel temptation, and if we feel that occasional and/or moderate consumption is a better way to handle that temptation than trying to never eat that tempting food ever again, I don’t think we can be feel faulted for that.

      • Stephen says:

        It’s not even a matter of temptation, temptation is only for those things that supposedly would make you less “chaste” and “pure”.

        It’s just that I enjoy those foods. I’m not tempted by a great movie on the cinema — it’s not a temptation, it’s simply healthy pleasure. I want to see it. I don’t have to battle a force that say “don’t see that movie”.

        Also it’s sad when you can’t experience a new food when you’re traveling in another country, or you can’t make your mother or grandma happy by eating the food they made and telling them how good it is or when you can’t enjoy the cake at a birthday (which is kind of symbolic, too; I mean the one throwing the party would be pretty disappointed if no one ate the cake), or when you can’t enhance an entertaining moment (at the carnival, at a concert, at a night out) with entertaining food or when you can’t enjoy a brunch or happy hour with your friend or when you can’t feel the warmth and spirits of holidays, which is traditionally about food, too. And it was that way even centuries ago: before the food industry, every culture on earth loves eating big and certain foods during holidays.

        Adaptation is the most important quality of the human race — if we can’t adapt we’ve lost like 90% of all our potential.

  8. Hello Johnny

    I totally agree, health that comes with pleasure and joy, actually more joy. The thing is finding joy in the right place. I looked through the Blue Zones and Dan Buettner. He does a great presentation on TED tv here:

    In the end I find a sense of purpose is one of the most important, then comes nutrition. I don’t like the word abstinance, nor willpower, and I understand that we are trying to put forward what is practical for most people to do in everyday life, guidelines are more like it. The thing is we don’t live in a society where we are encouraged to educate ourselves, so each person can make an educated choice according to their genetics/environment/social conditions.

    I’ve done days and weeks waterfasting and enjoy it, and once in a while IF also, so I’ve learned a new relation with food, I select it. In the end, as you wrote in your post, there is too much food around, and I’m adding that 99.9% of the food that is pushed to us is junk, so that leaves .1% you can enjoy as sugars when you want!

    Thanks again

  9. CB says:

    Hey Johnny — Been reading through the site, and haven’t seen this question addressed, apologies if I missed it:

    Where does caffeine fit into this? You often reference drinking coffee or tea, but I’ve always read to avoid caffeine where possible as it negatively affects your metabolism…any thoughts on this? Especially curious as I find that a cup of coffee is helpful when hungry in the morning…

    • Johnny says:

      Keep enjoying your coffee. No reason to give it up.


      • Audley says:

        I am in the coffee camp as well. I have given it up a few times, only because I was working all night shifts and was drinking a pot or 2 each night to keep me awake.
        After I got off that schedule, I cut back, was sick at first, but felt much better afterward. Now a cup in the morning, an occasional cup at lunch works.

        This is a question and answer from theVince Gironda website Iron Guru. Vince has passed on, but his spirit and legend lives on, as the site runs questions asked of Vince years ago. Vince was the master of ripped, many years ahead of his time in bodybuilding:

        “I have heard that you like to drink a great amount of black coffee, Vince. Do you believe it helps training?”

        “I drink very little coffee now, but I did drink it when in my best shape a few years ago.
        Coffee is a stimulant and may serve to give you a lift. It can be helpful as a substitute for food when you are on a diet.”

  10. Sue says:

    Caffeine has a lot of benefits – just do a search.

  11. Steven says:

    I… love… coffee.

  12. Jordan D. says:

    Good point, Stephen. I was talking about “temptation” mostly in the context of a response to unnecessary deprivation. Trying so hard to resist something, but eventually succumbing to it. I think people create an obsession by forbidding foods. None of that is necessary. You’re right that it shouldn’t be seen as a temptation. Just enjoy it, but don’t eat too much of it. Pretty simple. 🙂

  13. Al says:

    Johnny, what is your take on beans and/or legumes? I don’t think you have touched on this subject much in your previous posts.Thanks!

  14. Pat says:

    Wanting to implement DIF but I need a little guidance considering my schedule. I wake at 5:30 and walk 45 min, I BW/DB train 3 x week at 5:00 – 5:30 PM (30 – 35 min.). I sprint or do short met cons on other days. I eat primal and have lost 35 lbs but would love to lean out a little more (prob. 10 – 12 %bf now). My question is how can I DIF when I can’t train until 5 ( don’t mind training fasted) I usually don’t get dinner until 7 and I am in bed by 9:30 – 10. Should I eat a small meal at 4, a bigger meal at 7 and a small meal at 9:30. Seems like all i will be doing every night is cooking and cleaning. I also do all the cooking for a family of 4 (my wife loves the arrangement). BTW I despise lifting in the AM it aint gonna happen. What would you do?

    • Stephen says:

      These studies doesn’t take into account why one skips breakfast.
      It’s different to consciously skip breakfast because you don’t feel like eating or doesn’t think of it as an important part of your healthy lifestyle.

      It’s another thing to skip breakfast because you got drunk the night before, because you had insomnia, because you are someone with OCD who wants to keep your caloric intake below 800 calories, because you have an horrible diet and on top of that you don’t find time in the morning to eat.

      When it is not a conscious health choice and changes are not made to the eating window like eating a bit more or healthy foods, skipping breakfast is correlated with dysregulated eating behaviors and obsessive compulsive disorders.

  15. Wood says:

    I know, but still…. annoying.

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