"The Force" is Against Us
Weight loss is a big part of my practice. Weight loss is an important part of my practice because achieving healthy weight means lowering inflammation, risk for painful chronic diseases and premature death. Many of my patients lose weight when they stick with my program, but eventually they enter a maintenance schedule and, like going to the dentist, some people space their maintenance visits out a little too far and start taking bigger and bigger breaks from treatment recommendations.
What bothers me is not the individual regressions or working with someone to get back on track. What bothers me is this “Force”. There is this Force that is greater than me that is pushing my patients towards this cesspool and I’m desperately trying to push them back away from it.
Following a plan that is going to last a lifetime and thereby be protective for your body long-term requires a level of commitment and strength that exceeds the strength of “the Force” pushing you down. What is this Force? The Force is a fire-breathing dragon made up of mega-influential industry advertising + corporate-greed + societal shifts in values + cultural hooey. Can I be more specific? Yes:
Industry marketing and industry greed go hand-in-hand. Food companies largely don’t care about your health. It doesn’t make sense for them to care in a world where value is placed pretty much entirely on profits. In fact, companies benefit from your body’s ability to literally become larger in size because it means that you can consume an “infinite” amount of their product as a single human without spontaneously dividing into multiple humans (the latter of which is so far impossible). As long as they can make the food rapidly disappear from your stomach and get your hunger signals going again quickly, they’re in good shape because you can eat more and more and simply store it on your body. While I am not in any way suggesting there is literally an orchestrated conspiracy among food companies, I am suggesting that these companies know that getting people to eat more means they sell more which means they profit more, and that’s their measure of success. So, these companies and their brilliant and talented advertising teams develop ways to subtly and gracefully encrypt this end-goal into a message that our brains soak up like a sponge. Suddenly, we have all these conceptions about food and eating that are nothing more than advertising campaigns that have seeped into cultural norms which is what I refer to when I say “cultural hooey”. Examples: eating lots of meat is masculine, eating luxurious milk chocolate candies is deserved after an emotionally-trying day, forgoing BBQ ribs for quinoa salad at a party makes you a “hippie”, “anorexic”, “orthorexic”, a tool, etc…. Having super unhealthy and sugary food on your birthday is pretty much a birthright, giving your child a healthy dinner with vegetables as the ONLY option is practically child abuse and riddles parents with guilt….. the list goes on and on. These understandings that we have are not facts. They’re not truths. They are simply conclusions or perceptions subconsciously etched into your brain by Industry genius.
Next we have societal shifts: our work is incredibly sedentary and stressful. So our caloric requirements are decreasing amidst mountains of excess calories available to us, and now we’re super stressed out causing us to eat more and eat more of the wrong things. Meanwhile, stress surges our cortisol levels leading to increased fat storage over time. We are working longer and longer hours for less money leading people to rely on cheap convenience foods that are (almost) never conducive to metabolic health and to eat them very fast. And when healthful choices are inconvenient which they often are, industry capitalizes on that by offering you not just unhealthy options that are more convenient, but also reasons why those options are the more desirable - “you deserve it”, “it’s the cool thing to do”, “everyone else eats this way”, “don’t be a weirdo”, “everyone dies eventually you might as well enjoy living first”, “you ate well yesterday or exercised and therefore this cheat makes sense”, so on and so on.
Yesterday upon driving back from a long weekend in Western New York, we found ourselves unprepared - no healthy foods prepped and packaged for the 8-hour drive except for a few bananas and package of almonds. We stopped at a few rest-stops and were faced with burger joints and pizza options. Rather than key-in to Industry voices in my head, I turned around and had several bananas and almonds. Did I die? No. Was I famished? No. Was I worse off because I DIDN’T eat the burger or pizza? NO, absolutely not. In fact, I felt better for it. Many individuals in our culture will breathe Industry on you in a similar situation and make you feel uncomfortable for making the truly better choice. I get it, and I think such peer pressure is awful. I wish things were different. But right now, the way away from the cesspool is to stand up strong and stick on your own side. Do it because you want to. Do it because it’s right. Do it because you value your health. Do it because you’re strong. Do it simply because.