Monday, February 23, 2009

taste is deceptive, part 1

Some background info:
A few fairly popular ideas regarding taste:
  • If it tastes good, then its ok to eat.
  • If it tastes good but you know its bad for you, then its ok to eat in moderation.
  • Food addicts are all fat and overweight.
  • If someone is skinny and fit, then they cannot be addicted to food.

Habit: you enjoy doing something, but once you find out it is bad for you, you stop doing it. You "break the habit".
Addiction: you enjoy doing something, and once you find out it is bad for you, you make excuses to keep doing that thing.

Part 1 will address the first bullet point: If it tastes good, then its ok to eat.

Even with natural whole food, this notion is FALSE. Let's look at fruit: its juicy, sweet, and delicious. Does this mean that all fruit is OK to eat, in however many quantities that we want? In the past, I would probably say yes. After all, your body knows what it needs, right? But now I am not so sure.

Haven't you ever thought that food might have an agenda?

Let me explain. Fruit has seeds that are spread by the animals that eat it. Fruit "tries" to be eaten so that its seeds will be carried away by the animal, pass through its digestive system, and then end up somewhere else. Its a nice symbiotic relationship, but it raises an interesting question.

If we crave some fruit, is that because of our own body's survival skills, or the fruit's survival skills? In other words, do we actually need the food or is it just tricking us?

It gets even more complicated once you introduce cooking. The whole concept of cooking is to make food taste better. There is no condition in which cooking food makes it better for us. It might make unedible"food" (i.e. food that we shouldn't eat ever) edible, however the heat by definition destroys most of the good stuff along with the bad stuff. Now we're not just fighting natural deception, we are fighting our own deception. Now, it is almost impossible to tell if we want to eat for the right reasons or not because everything that we eat is designed for us to want to eat more.

I was with a group of friends one time and we were eating so I pulled out an avocado and began to eat it. One of my friends gasped in horror, she seemed genuinely concerned that I was eating it without any salt. Looking back, I can see that she was deceived by salt. When she ate avocados, she put salt on hers to make them taste better, and then who knows she could maybe eat two or three whereas without salt she might not even be able to eat all of one.

This is because once you remove the issue of taste, you will never overeat. Think about water - you will never over-drink water because it has no taste. If you feel thirsty, then you drink until your thirst is quenched and no more.

Its hard to take a definite stand on the issue because to me God designed food for us to enjoy. However, we have been so de-natured from years and years of eating horrible unnatural food that our Creator never intended us to eat, so it has become really hard to enjoy foods the way that he wanted us to.

For me, though, I believe that eating to fulfill nutrient needs, i.e. when I am actually hungry, is the best reason to initiate eating, and during that time is when I can give thanks and enjoy the food. Eating this way is when I am the most satisfied physically and emotionally (if you think emotions aren't involved, read the subsequent Parts)

I have developed a simple test to determine if I am really hungry, or if I just want to eat. I ask myself this question:

If I was eating something else right now instead of what I'm "craving", would I still want to eat?

What I've been learning is that for me most of the time the answer is NO, just like the salted avocados. Does that mean that I am personally always in the right mindset to act accordingly? No, but I think that admitting that we are deceived by taste is the first step towards realizing dietary health. The next step is wanting to do something about it.

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