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This is Why You're Fat (and why I am too)
March 13, 2010 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Obesity: The killer combination of salt, fat and sugar - "Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains. As they do, we become more sensitive to the cues that lead us to anticipate the reward. In that circularity lies a trap: we can no longer control our responses to highly palatable foods because our brains have been changed by the foods we eat."

I know we don't do obesity well at MetaFilter. I think we've made strides on how we handle other topics and hope we can show the same thoughtfulness to this one as well.
posted by Mick (105 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, you may stray. But you'll always return to your dark master: the cocoa bean.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:29 AM on March 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


But you'll always return to your dark master: the cocoa bean.

Why worship the cocoa bean when you've got the potato, god of french fries?
posted by sallybrown at 7:32 AM on March 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


...these are a few of my favorite things.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:40 AM on March 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm really tired about people viewing food as the enemy. No longer are our yogurts simply fat free (do you know how hard it is to find a full fat yogurt??), they write right on the label "guilt free." An unhealthy relationship with food is unhealthy at any weight.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 7:40 AM on March 13, 2010 [56 favorites]


What if they were to combine the starchiness of the potato with the richness of the coco bean, and then salt and sugar it like crazy?
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:46 AM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The perfect food is Irish Coffee because it has something from all the major food groups--fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I guess I just never thought of salting it before now.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:48 AM on March 13, 2010 [19 favorites]


do you know how hard it is to find a full fat yogurt?

It's ridiculous. I went to like the different stores and they had dozens of yogurt all low fat or non fat, or with fruit mixed in or something. I just wanted some plain regular yogurt. I think I will have to hit up the local hippie store or Trader Joes.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm really tired about people viewing food as the enemy. No longer are our yogurts simply fat free (do you know how hard it is to find a full fat yogurt??), they write right on the label "guilt free." An unhealthy relationship with food is unhealthy at any weight.

Yes, yes, yes.

It's important to have this additional education, if it helps people moderate their diets (just as most people know to be cautious of overindulgence in alcohol, or recreational drugs). But this kind of "Reefer Madness" applied to food in last 10 years or so is not only ridiculous, but could even be creating a kind of learned helplessness.
posted by availablelight at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fat = satiety. It's a good thing, in balance and with the right kinds of fats and oils (many are not healthy). In my opinion, the plethora of "fat free" products encourage people to eat more (and not surprisingly, buy more).
posted by crapmatic at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Frightening people about obesity seems to be a cottage industry in the UK, even more so than in America. When I lived in Sweden I guess they didn't have enough of their own shows, because every night there was some stupid UK show about obesity on the television. It was something like "2 TON MUM" or "OBESE TEENAGE PARENTS 5." I used to want to visit England, but after being exposed to that every day I decided England probably wasn't like Jane Austen. It had to be more like Alabama.

Of course the Swedish people were amused. They aren't fat, despite consuming plenty of silly gummy candies/waxy chocolate (godis), beer, and sour cream flavored potato chips. Their secret seems to be that they don't consume those things every day...mostly during the weekend drinking sprint. They also don't serve them in school or buy them in massive quantities.

In fact, the interesting thing about godis was that they don't sell them in bags like they do here in America where I there only way to indulge in Hershey's kisses is to buy a bag of 100 or so. Godis are in bins and usually I saw people take a few gummy berries, a few crappy chocolates, a few sour things. People do seem to gain weight as they age, but they don't have much obesity in young people.

They also have usable bike paths, one of the things I miss EVERY DAY now. It was wonderful to be able to bike anywhere and not get menaced by cars. Because of that everyone from mothers and babies to grandfathers bikes.
posted by melissam at 8:01 AM on March 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


When I realized I was prediabetic and started eating to the glucose meter, for the first few weeks it was very hard. Fortunately, the meter provided very concrete feedback; I quickly found that I could not risk any kind of starchy food at all, in any noticeable quantity. Then, after a few weeks, the powerful cravings I had for that kind of food simply disappeared. The ordeal of staring down hamburgers and donuts became more of a shrug.

I then promptly lost 40 pounds which I've kept off for two years. Lately the meter reports that my tolerance for starchy foods has improved, and I can occasionally eat a hamburger with bun (though donuts still put me well over my 140 mg/dl limit). But I still don't crave those foods much, and even if my pancreas eventually starts functioning normally again I'm not planning to start eating them in enough quanitity to trigger those cravings again.
posted by localroger at 8:03 AM on March 13, 2010 [15 favorites]


I can't recommend enough Good Calorie, Bad Calorie, Gary Taubes' amazing science journalism book about dietary science and what we know (and don't know) about the relative role of carbohydrates and fat in health. A shorter version of his argument is in this NYTimes Magazine article, and if you're really short on time you can jump to his conclusions. But the story of how he gets to that understanding is as important as the conclusion itself and teaches a strong respect for how complex metabolic research is.

This Guardian article does a good job explaining how market-driven research is resulting in unhealthy fast foods. Betcha can't eat just one, "more irresistible than ever". Shudder.
posted by Nelson at 8:15 AM on March 13, 2010 [23 favorites]


"Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains."

I usually try to grin and bare it when I see articles like this, where a pop-sci author can't resist throwing around punchy sentences like this without so much as a clue about what they are saying. But for some reason, I'm going to need a hug this time. I miss the days when we frowned up SLNYT op-eds.
posted by drpynchon at 8:16 AM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hitting 40 made me really think about what I was eating, and cutting out soda, Starbucks milkshakes, french fries, and most other sugary snacks has caused me to lose 20 lbs in a month.

I still eat a hamburger once every couple of weeks, and I get appetizers in restaurants or I just split a meal with my wife now. I still drink beer, just not as much.

The times I've tried this in the past, I just couldn't maintain it, but this time wasn't hard at all.

Just a funny aside, Alton Brown lost 50 lbs and did a show about it. I wondered what he'd be doing after that, but I guess I shouldn't have worried... last week's show was about adding salt to sweet things.
posted by Huck500 at 8:24 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm really tired about people viewing food as the enemy.

I view food as the enemy. And follow this sage advice:

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Internal is about as close as anything can get.

I win.
posted by Splunge at 8:29 AM on March 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


How nice that Howard Stern speaks about his health concerns regarding obesity.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 8:30 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


where a pop-sci author can't resist throwing around punchy sentences like this without so much as a clue about what they are saying.

It's actually a decent article. Just because it's been simplified for mass consumption doesn't make it wrong. I study dopamine/reinforcement learning for living, and if I want to explain it to my family, I don't start off talking about the distinction between D1 and D2 receptors.
posted by logicpunk at 8:31 AM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Food is addicting. Some people succumb to those addictions more easily than others. It's easy to say that the entire blame lay on the person, and certainly some personal blame is to be had, but acting like it's all entirely the person's fault is just unrealistic in today's society.
posted by Malice at 8:37 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's actually a decent article. Just because it's been simplified for mass consumption doesn't make it wrong. I study dopamine/reinforcement learning for living, and if I want to explain it to my family, I don't start off talking about the distinction between D1 and D2 receptors.

The simplification comes without even a hint of hedging. Without the slightest grasp of how strong the evidence for his overblown, sexed up conclusions.

You think it's decent for a journalist to arrange for animal experiments with a researcher in another country, and then publish articles in the popular press with overblown conclusions based on some dopamine levels, even prior to any peer review? I think it's ethically questionable nonsense. The parts focusing on the food industry insider stuff was decent enough, but then it lost all credibility for me.
posted by drpynchon at 8:40 AM on March 13, 2010


My current "bliss point": Lindt Creation 70 % Fig & Caramel Chocolate.
posted by The Mouthchew at 8:42 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if they were to combine the starchiness of the potato with the richness of the coco bean, and then salt and sugar it like crazy?

Isn't that most fast-food "shakes"?
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:43 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is really not that hard to just eat everything you like in moderation. (The last part is the real key, though.)
posted by Xany at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if they were to combine the starchiness of the potato with the richness of the coco bean, and then salt and sugar it like crazy?

Sounds like my friends who dip french fries into their wendy's frosties.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:46 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is really not that hard to just eat everything you like in moderation.

One could say the same thing about alcohol. Just drink in moderation, right? Unless you are talking to someone with alcoholism. And so it is for many people with food: it really is that hard.
posted by FishBike at 8:49 AM on March 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


Nice! Scientific proof that fast food is objectively delicious.
posted by danb at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


This isn't to say that the food industry wants us to stop chewing altogether. It knows we want to eat a doughnut, not drink it.

Thank you for reminding me how Brundlefly eats.
posted by pernoctalian at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2010


Shorter Kessler: "I did it, so can you!"
posted by Ouisch at 9:05 AM on March 13, 2010


One could say the same thing about alcohol. Just drink in moderation, right? Unless you are talking to someone with alcoholism. And so it is for many people with food: it really is that hard.

We aren't inundated with articles written by alcoholics advocating for a return to prohibition, but articles such as this one about fast food always seem to have the whiff of "We need to be protected from ourselves!" about them. Attempts to penalize the food industry, by for instance a luxury tax on crap food, are ultimately unworkable, because who defines what is crap? Regulations like limiting the amounts of fat and salt in a standard size meal also seem doomed to fail, because people can always find ways to work around limitations (ordering double portions, adding more salt or sugar to things), and of course if they are truly addicts, they will. In the end, learning to make good choices for yourself is still the best way to not become sucked in by the allure of fast food.

To me the key point this author misses is how artificially cheap this food has become. Take away the corn subsidies, force the meat producers to actually keep animals in reasonable conditions (driving up prices), and as the price of fast food rises it will lose its popularity.
posted by aiglet at 9:20 AM on March 13, 2010 [21 favorites]


What if they were to combine the starchiness of the potato with the richness of the coco bean, and then salt and sugar it like crazy?

Chocolate covered potato chips.
posted by amtho at 9:23 AM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Like many folks, I have a less-than-easy relationship with food. What finally helped was the doc telling me to lose twenty pounds last fall. I was 5'7" and 176 lbs, six months shy of forty. I wasn't horrific but was definitely in the "overweight" category (I'm a chick).

What the tiny, elfin, and above all *young* doc said made me exceedingly angry. (How dare she and her size 2 ass tell me about losing weight? Like it's easy for me! She has good genes. I have two fat parents. How can I possibly compete with her good genes? Rant, rant, rant.) However, because I was in an "I'll show HER" sort of a mood, I made some dietary changes (Eat less food, mostly plants. Eat at mealtimes, do not snack. Measure portions using a measuring cup. If drinking soda, it must be diet. No fast food. Eat mostly stuff cooked from real ingredients.) and the weight started to come off. I was significantly angry and I stuck with that for two weeks, whereupon I was thinner. Encouraged, I kept at it -- I'm a hundred and sixty pounds today, down a pants size and a half. :) I've got a ways yet to go (140), but I'm making slow, steady progress in the correct direction.

The most interesting thing I discovered in this process was that after a while of eating proper food, I don't really miss the old food. It tastes too... plastic. Processed. There's a sticky plastic mouth feel to it that I don't care for. I still eat "real" food, real butter, real lard, real eggs, real full-fat milk, real pork, real steak, etc. My portions are smallish, but the food is all real and as tasty as I can make it, with fresh ingredients of high quality. At least for me, having outstanding food in smaller portions is as satisfying as having large amounts of crappy-quality food... plus I get to be skinnier. Oh, and because I pack lunches for work now, I'm actually spending less now than I was before. The transition period (about the first month) from "Lots Of Crappy Food" to "Smaller Amounts of Great Food" kind of sucked but once I was past that, it got a lot easier. I can see myself eating this way for the rest of my life.
posted by which_chick at 9:26 AM on March 13, 2010 [40 favorites]


amtho, that is just what I was going to say.
posted by annsunny at 9:41 AM on March 13, 2010


I've found full-fat greek yogurt to be easier to find. I just culture my own most of the time, since it's delicious, cheap, and easy.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2010


I make my own yogurt. It's incredibly easy and makes me feel unreasonably wholesome--like Heidi milking goats with Grandfather except that I'm watching reruns of The Office while my yogurt is coagulating in the crockpot.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Eat at mealtimes, do not snack.

I don't think a lot of people could do that. Fortunately, a dozen or so almonds and an apple, celery, or carrot really makes a difference in my day.

But which_chick must certainly be right about knowing how to cook. Most people I run into, even those at the grocery store, can't fathom the idea that ordinary people can buy a pile of ordinary ingredients and turn it into something extraordinary on a regular basis. Even my friends seem to look on basic cooking as a kind of magic. No wonder everyone eats shitty food--most people don't know what good food is anymore.
posted by Hylas at 10:25 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Starbucks stuff in the article is intriguing to me. Starbucks is a perfect excuse to gorge on all of these things -- well, the salt not so much, but the other three -- without danger of feeling guilty. The place is optimized for bourgeois satisfaction -- the precisely marketed architecture, interior design, music, and mood, not to mention the drinks and the pastries (generally small enough to make you feel like you're indulging by buying one, but not gorging). I work at a university that is very big on health optimization, but all of the places to eat anywhere near campus are fast-food joints -- except for Starbucks and one or two upscale sandwich chains. The fast-food places don't get a lot of traffic. The Starbucks is almost always packed. It's not only a place to get your caffeine fix, it's place to be seen doing it. I don't patronize it except to buy newspapers in the morning -- I get my caffeine fix at a smaller bagel chain down the street. But it's always interesting to stand in line there and watch the dynamics and feel the buzz of insistent consumption and urge satisfaction in the air.

Now that there's a recession on, and Starbucks is getting stiff competition from places like Mickey D's, Starbucks is employing cost-cutting and time-saving techniques (mimicked from Toyota) to make itself more like its fast-food competitors, not less.
posted by blucevalo at 10:30 AM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Most people I run into, even those at the grocery store, can't fathom the idea that ordinary people can buy a pile of ordinary ingredients and turn it into something extraordinary on a regular basis."

Are there classes for that sort of thing? Where would one go to learn that? (I know you'll probably say "try, fail, try again," but if you could point to a concrete resource, that would be great.)
posted by Alt F4 at 10:33 AM on March 13, 2010


Even my friends seem to look on basic cooking as a kind of magic. No wonder everyone eats shitty food--most people don't know what good food is anymore.

I was at the supermarket the other day and the checkout clerk looked at my purchases -- which were mostly basic cooking ingredients, nothing that I consider overly health-conscious, but also not a preponderance of processed garbage -- and she marveled at the items and said, "Boy, you must sure know how to eat healthy!"
posted by blucevalo at 10:33 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Starbucks doesn't sell coffee. They sell milkshakes. Looking at a "mocha frappucino" and thinking it's something other candy is a measure of how effective their brand is. Fruit juice isn't healthy either. It's functionally equivalent to soda. Pure sugar.

Alt F4, one good place to start learning how to cook is Bittman's How to Cook Everything.
posted by Nelson at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Where would one go to learn that?

Get a good cookbook, or several. I've heard good things about Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, but that may be too foofy for some (I've not looked at it). Not a cookbook that asks you to prepare a gourmet meal -- one which is simple to use, has clear instructions, and which relies on basic ingredients. The difference is easy to tell, and if you are short on time and money, the difference is significant. Supermarkets definitely seem to overprice "basic" foods and underprice processed ones, in my experience. The reward system for buying and eating processed foods is so ingrained that even going to the supermarket with a list can be a challenge if you're trying to save money. There are also frequently good cooking threads in Ask Mefi, such as this one.
posted by blucevalo at 10:43 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Starbucks doesn't sell coffee. They sell milkshakes.

Yes, exactly. Another reason I don't patronize them anymore.
posted by blucevalo at 10:43 AM on March 13, 2010


Fat is healthy. Fat is necessary. Fat is naturally occurring in things that also contain vital nutrients that our body needs to function. Avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconuts are all naturally occurring sources of fat that are high in vitamins and minerals we need. I eat a lot of those things. About 30% of my calories come from fat.

The point at which fat is stripped out of its natural, nutrient-rich housing and separated into just a puddle of calories is where it stops being healthy. Yes, it makes us feel satiated, because it's a mammoth dose of calories. But if you are going to eat enough food to provide your body with all the building blocks that are essential for optimal functioning without over-consumption of calories, you need to avoid taking in that kind of no-nutrient calorie punch. Stop dousing salads in a sesame-oil dressing and instead sprinkle it with sesame seeds, etc.

I would rather eat full-fat yogurt than nonfat yogurt any day. I would rather put half-and-half in my coffee than use the sugar-and-crap concoction that is fat-free half-and-half. But I am even happier having cut dairy out of my diet entirely. It wasn't an easy switch -- when I started eating the way I do now, I went through a week of withdrawal symptoms before I stopped feeling the constant need to pump my dopamine levels with chocolate, fat, and salt.

I do not expect everyone to come to the same, somewhat dramatic lifestyle choices re: diet that I have, but I don't understand why people get upset about having more information about our bodies' responses to nutritional stimuli. I don't understand why similar information used to anger me irrationally, either -- I remember the first time I read someone's essay on how cheese is addictive, and I came away shaking my head and muttering "crackpot!" Unlike that essay, though, this one has the benefit of having some science in it to back it up. There are more rigorous scientific studies on this and similar subjects available for those who find the science in this article insufficient, as it is. This article was written perfectly well for what it was intended to be: a layperson's introduction to the notion that certain foods can trigger addiction-like behavior in those who consume them. I think it's better taken as an invitation to find out more on the subject than as something that's supposed to convince you of the truth of its findings! all on its own.

coagulating in the crockpot is my new album name
posted by kitarra at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Food is addicting.

Yeah! As hard as I try, I just can't quit this eating habit. I blame my mom, she ate all the time while I was in the womb. I was born with fetal food syndrome.

Ridiculous bullshit statements like this that pathologize basic needs do nothing to improve our fucked up relationship with food. Eating well is not a question of willpower, it's about developing the skills and knowledge you need to be able to feed yourself rather than offloading all responsibility to the corporate agro-industrial beast.

Fuck the Man and his fat free yogurt; grab some milk and lemon juice and make your own delicious full-fat noms!
posted by Freyja at 10:56 AM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Starbucks doesn't sell coffee.

What? Starbucks sells coffee--the three things I ever get there are: a medium drip, black; an espresso (sometimes you have to go around about how you really do just want espresso in a little cup); or a short (8oz) macchiato.

Just because they offer loads of other vaguely coffee-ish crap doesn't mean you have to order it.
posted by everichon at 11:06 AM on March 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Where would one go to learn that?

I recommend Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe. It's not aimed at Rachel Rayesque quick meals, but neither is it a glorified doorstop. There are recipes for average comfort foods. (Neither is it a diet book, be warned.)

The best part of it is that each recipe has an essay about what makes it work. It takes a lot of the mystery out of cooking and helps to explain some of the principles behind it. Like what certain ingredients do in a recipe and what you can change and not change. (I like Alton Brown for this, too, in TV-land.) It also has explanations on technique, equipment, and reviews of common ingredients. Basically it helps you learn how to cook instead of just telling you what to do.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


This thread is like the greatest hits of MetaFilter opinioneering condensed into 50 comments or less.

The thinner the post, the more freedom people feel to chime in without reading it. You didn't even need a link for this one, just a title that says "OBESITY. Go!"
posted by hermitosis at 11:09 AM on March 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


HURF DURF ADDICTED EATER.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2010


The thinner the post, the more freedom people feel to chime in without reading it. You didn't even need a link for this one, just a title that says "OBESITY. Go!"

I'm not getting the same impression from the comments. And I read the article all the way through, and while the science is interesting and useful, the breathless tone adapted by the author (not uncommon) of, "Willpower is not enough for anyone to resist!" isn't helpful to anyone. We don't need to be saved by outside forces from dread, heroin-like food.
posted by availablelight at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2010


I read David Kessler's book, The End of Overeating, a few months ago. I have to say, it was a huge education in how the skillful combination of sugar, salt, and fat can re-wire your brain to make you want more more more more more. It helped me understand some of my own behaviors when it comes to food, and now when I get that crazy craving for something that I know is terrible for me, I can stand back and evaluate the compulsion rather than berate myself for being undisciplined or having no will-power. And this is coming from someone who knows how to cook and enjoys fresh, real ingredients. There are some "foods" that are the opposite of all of that which still draw me in like a magnet, and that has always made me feel like crap. At least now I can be nicer to myself when I feel that magnet start to activate.

I also second the recommendation of Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe for someone who wants to start learning to cook. I am the kind of person who needs to understand the hows and whys of something in order for new things to really click, and that book has hows and whys in spades. And if you want to skip the preamble to each recipe that explains how the recipe works, the recipes themselves are easy to follow and solid.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:34 AM on March 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


For anyone (l33tpolicywonk?) who would like to read a more nuanced, less epithet-filled version of my comments on this article and about 200 more like it, I'd be happy to pass my master's thesis draft around for feedback. It's about the many ways by which the food industry manipulates the biological, psychological and cultural mechanisms involved in food decision-making to ensure continued profitability. So, like the article, but without the quacky addiction-type "brain rewiring" bits.
posted by Freyja at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


The response I have to fast food when I have it after a while of not eating it is enough to convince me it's addictive. It's gross but I want it anyway. That's a textbook response to addiction, right? My mother talks about "trigger foods" that you can't stop eating. Fast food and snack foods are like that a lot of the time, so it's no surprise they're designed to be that way.

(I claim no special virtue for cutting fast food out when I do; I just sometimes go without for a while for various reasons. One of these years I won't go back.)
posted by immlass at 11:45 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I knew a man who use to be a very senior food scientist for Frito-Lay. He is responsible for many of the 'qualities' that have made the company successful.

They know what they are doing, it is the equivalent of what tobacco companies did to increase the addictiveness of cigarettes.
posted by Mick at 11:57 AM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]



You think it's decent for a journalist to arrange for animal experiments with a researcher in another country, and then publish articles in the popular press with overblown conclusions based on some dopamine levels, even prior to any peer review?

a cursory glance at Google scholar indicates that the researcher in question has a metric buttload of peer-reviewed studies on this topic. It's not in doubt that food increases dopamine levels. It's an interesting angle that food can be designed to exploit the dopamine signal in a manner similar to commonly abused drugs. Assuming a well-published scientist was collaborating with a writer in order to sell a few papers/books in an unethical manner is a dubious claim that you need to back up.
posted by logicpunk at 12:00 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


My chocolate covered peanut obsession makes so much sense now.

DAMN YOU THREE POINTED COMPASS!
posted by davey_darling at 12:02 PM on March 13, 2010


The perfect food is Irish Coffee because it has something from all the major food groups--fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I guess I just never thought of salting it before now.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:48 AM on March 13


I'm late to the party, but if you brew coffee with a pinch of salt, it takes away some of the bitterness of the coffee. So you really can add salt without it being completely ridiculous.

...mmmm Irish coffee...
posted by inmediasres at 12:16 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alt F4, one good place to start learning how to cook is Bittman's How to Cook Everything.
posted by Nelson at 1:40 PM on March 13 [+] [!]


this is true, and I have this cookbook. except:

when you look at a recipe, and it says, (for example) x minutes prep time, x minutes cooking time, that's after you've learned how to do it. the problem for me, and for most other people who weren't taught how to cook as children (because that's how most basic proficient cooks learn) is that I have to figure out, first of all, what all the words mean. what's braising? what does it mean to fold? to sift? and, sure, I know the difference between coarse-chopped, fine chopped, minced or half-inch dice, but I'm a very slow cutter of vegetables and so your prep time ain't the same as mine.

as for learning what all those words mean, I know Bittman defines everything in the front of the book, but that means I have to set aside a whole 'nother period of time to pre-read, read, synthesize and plan, and that's before I ever cook even one thing.

last of all, there's the trial and error part of learning to cook. obviously on a budget, you eat your mistakes. but what if your mistakes are gross, or you're not the only one you're cooking for, and those people are even more aesthetically demanding (picky) than you are? the fear of failure drives you right back into the arms of fast food or processed frozen dinners.

learning to cook is rewarding and awesome, but the learning curve can be tremendously intimidating.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:16 PM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


The thing I dislike about "I did it and so can you!" means that so many people will never be satisfied with the way they feel because there's so many people pointing out how bad they look.

Shame sucks. It sucks when advertisers do it, it sucks when families do it, it sucks when workplaces do it.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 12:17 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Food is killing us...yet our life expectancy keeps going up. Logic is ALLSOME.
posted by Ouisch at 12:34 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


learning to cook is rewarding and awesome, but the learning curve can be tremendously intimidating.

It can be intimidating, but it's worth it. I'm talking as someone who at one point in his life was afraid to boil water.

Not only does cooking your own food save you money, it is hugely satisfying in a lot of other ways. As for the learning curve, it's certainly a lot less of a curve than other pastimes and hobbies that I've come across, and in the end, it is a lot more rewarding than a lot of other hobbies on a day-to-day basis.
posted by blucevalo at 12:41 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I eat under 1800 calories per day, I lose weight.
If I eat at or around 2000 calories, I maintain the same weight I am right now.
If I eat more than 2200 calories, I gain weight.
Each of these can be tweaked a little, depending on how active I am.

It took me a year of experimentation to realize this. It's really not that hard. Calculating calories takes about 60 seconds out of my day.

I have yet to meet an overweight person who can tell me how many calories they eat per day.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:41 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assuming a well-published scientist was collaborating with a writer in order to sell a few papers/books in an unethical manner is a dubious claim that you need to back up.

Don't be obtuse. I assumed no such thing, and I don't doubt the importance of dopamine in all manner of things. In fact, I keep people alive by infusing dopamine directly into them on a daily basis. What I was implying was that disseminating scientific information through the filter of The Guardian without a modicum of scrutiny, prior to publication or peer review, is a crap practice -- and potentially even dangerous. In my mind this is a violation of professional ethics, not because I think they're trying to sell books (yes, that too would be bad), but because I don't think the results of biomedical experiments should ever be disseminated in this fashion, and doing so does a disservice to the general public.
posted by drpynchon at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2010


Sorry to say but food *is* the enemy if it's being designed by neuroscientists to get you hooked.
posted by Joe Chip at 12:57 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I cut salt out of my diet long ago, and now find many prepared foods to be excessively salty. I nearly cut french fries out (once a month, in the pub, is the quota) and now find that I'm no longer scrabbling for the last greasy scraps. Perhaps I'm re-rewiring my brain.

I guess I need to work on sugar next. Soon I won't want to eat anything.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:58 PM on March 13, 2010


Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains

Just like every other thing in our environment that catches our awareness, and our own thoughts and memories, and aging, all rewire our brain all the time.

Warning! This website will alter the electrical charges in the circuits of your computer's microprocessor!
posted by straight at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have yet to meet an overweight person who can tell me how many calories they eat per day.

On average, I eat around 3,000 calories a day. I do sit down and figure this out every so often, and I'm 30-50 lbs overweight. If I get a decent amount of exercise, I slowly lose weight eating that much. If I don't exercise, I slowly gain weight. During periods of my life when I had bigger problems with junk food than I do now, 4,000 or even 5,000 calories in an average day wasn't unusual for me. I sat down and figured it out then, too, and it was scary.

That said, I'm not in favor of legal restrictions on types of food or anything like that. Restrictions on certain classes of ingredients or standards for food that actually make a nicer product are fine with me (like the rules in Ontario that ban fake cheese). Going back to the alcohol analogy, just because some people have a problem with that, I don't think everyone else should be prohibited from consuming it.

Rules for accurate nutritional information on packaging seem like a good idea, and many such rules seem to exist already. But that's not really part of my problem either. Whenever I consume junk food, I have no illusions about just how awful it is and how many calories it contains.

For those of us who do have issues with eating too much of the wrong kinds of food, it just doesn't help that there are companies engaged in an effort to make these foods even more addictive, and that the best way to do so results in their products being even worse from a health perspective.

That this happens doesn't absolve us from responsibility for what we eat, it's just one more challenge to be overcome. I'm not sure if people who don't have these issues understand why it's a challenge at all.
posted by FishBike at 1:04 PM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


ordinary people can buy a pile of ordinary ingredients and turn it into something extraordinary on a regular basis

It's amazing how many boomer kids weren't taught to cook by their parents. I was a bit lucky, in that my mother was an enthusiastic cook who felt we needed to help her, so I got the basics. She also was too frugal to spend much on over-prepped food.

My girlfriend's mother was, before her taste-buds atrophied, a fine cook, but she's in thrall to the classic over-prepped stuff like Tater Tots and Lunchables, and it shows.

I think the problem was the proliferation of pre-prepared foods that became available in the '60s, TV dinners and their ilk. Even though they were actually kind of crappy, they were sold as a treat, but then they became the standard, and eventually people just forgot what they were replacing.

Props to people like Alton Brown for working to reverse the trend.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:17 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ouisch: "Food is killing us...yet our life expectancy keeps going up. Logic is ALLSOME."

Compare how the US has been doing compared to other first-world nations here. We started out pretty solidly in the middle of the pack, and are now at or near the bottom. There's no way to correct for only-how-the-standard-American-diet-has-impacted-the-numbers, but a comparison like this will come closer to painting the whole picture than if we just look at the US life expectancy number on its own.
posted by kitarra at 1:22 PM on March 13, 2010


What I was implying was that disseminating scientific information through the filter of The Guardian without a modicum of scrutiny, prior to publication or peer review, is a crap practice

Again, these are not new results that are bypassing peer-review. Google Scholar is your friend. Di Chiara has published his findings in well-respected journals. Here, for instance. Basically, palatable foods are found to activate the dopaminergic system in a similar fashion as, say, cocaine. That's all been published and peer reviewed. The "experiment" in the article sounds like a bit of fluff included to make the article more public-friendly, not some grand violation of ethics.
posted by logicpunk at 1:23 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Quiet little pointer to a free iPhone app titled Lose It. Calorie (& carb & sodium & fat if you want it) counter on your hip 24/7. Knows most foods & fast foods by name. Allows you to build recipes. Also tracks your weight on a graph so has nice motivations. Also calculates a daily budget based on how much you want to lose per week. Nothing makes it harder to eat one more chip than knowing I'm going to have to tell the iPhone I'm eating another chip. I'm a happy user. Thank you, please drive through.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Whoops, I botched that link...this should work!
posted by kitarra at 1:29 PM on March 13, 2010


If I eat under 1800 calories per day, I lose weight.
If I eat at or around 2000 calories, I maintain the same weight I am right now.
If I eat more than 2200 calories, I gain weight.


In theory, calorie counting is all well and good. But it's a bit like saying "only smoke one crack-rock a day, and you won't end up living behind a dumpster" Cocaine doesn't just get you high, it also makes you want more cocaine.

I used cocaine as an example for a specific reason. I happen to be a person that cocaine doesn't work on. I have a good friend who ended up in rehab over it. Just because of my metabolism or brain chemistry or whatever, it would have been stupid for me to tell him that getting clean "wasn't that hard".

I know a lot of people (including myself until recently) who struggle with their weight but don't understand how the food they eat affects them. If you're trying to eat less food, but the food you're eating makes you want more food, you will fail, no matter how diligently you count those calories.

Saying "it's not that hard" totally misses the point of the conversation. For a lot of people, it is that hard, and they have no idea why. The subtle insinuation that it's a character flaw or personal weakness that makes people fat when there's strong evidence that there's also outside forces at work is counter-productive.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:35 PM on March 13, 2010 [21 favorites]


I agree with billyfleetwood (and the original article) that external factors do come into play in the so-called obesity epidemic, that it's not all a matter of personal responsibility, but addiction is not the right model to explain the complex interaction of evolved mechanisms, cultural environment and personal factors that determine why and how we eat.

It's very much in the zeitgeist right now, this impulse to view all pleasurable behaviours taken to excess (from eating to shopping, sex, and arguing on Mefi) under the substance abuse lens. It's an attractive model for psych-types because addiction is something that falls under their professional jurisdiction, and it's reassuring to those who struggle with whatever behaviour because it partially absolves them from the persistence of the problem.

However, this approach suggests treatments that don't take all the relevant factors into account, the first of which is that eating is not pathological, and we're back to personal responsibility for failing to seek medical help to "cure" bad habits that are perfectly natural. It's not individuals who are dysfunctional, it's the whole damn modern food chain.
posted by Freyja at 2:06 PM on March 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm less concerned about the average adult counting their calories. Fine, it's your body, your time. I'm more concerned about the number of adolescent (primarily) girls who count calories and start having a disordered view of eating while barely into middle school. This includes young athletes, too.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


aiglet: We aren't inundated with articles written by alcoholics advocating for a return to prohibition, but articles such as this one about fast food always seem to have the whiff of "We need to be protected from ourselves!" about them. Attempts to penalize the food industry, by for instance a luxury tax on crap food, are ultimately unworkable, because who defines what is crap? Regulations like limiting the amounts of fat and salt in a standard size meal also seem doomed to fail, because people can always find ways to work around limitations (ordering double portions, adding more salt or sugar to things), and of course if they are truly addicts, they will. In the end, learning to make good choices for yourself is still the best way to not become sucked in by the allure of fast food.

To me the key point this author misses is how artificially cheap this food has become. Take away the corn subsidies, force the meat producers to actually keep animals in reasonable conditions (driving up prices), and as the price of fast food rises it will lose its popularity.


Who's asking for food prohibition? They are asking for regulation. Alcohol is taxed, has regulated distribution, is heavily controlled for quality and alcohol content, and lists many health warnings on the label. Ask some good 'ol boys if the ATF is OK with them rebuilding their moonshine still.

I agree that food is artificially cheap and some subsidies are unnecessary. However, I fail to see how simply raising the prices of the bulk source foods is the complete answer. Fast food joints do all kinds of stuff to make their almost synthetic food taste "good". If beef prices increase they'll start using even poorer cheaper types of "meat" and further flavor enhancement to maintain their value meal prices. Without regulation it's a race to the bottom as far a food quality and health are concerned. Control of food quality and taxation sounds like part of the solution to me.
posted by Procloeon at 2:18 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


re: Kitarra --

Inequality – economic and political – is bad for our health.

The United States has by far the most inequality in the industrialized world – and the worst health.


This is my guess for why that comparison to other nations doesn't look so great.

There are so many, many, many social determinants of health. Diet is just one tiny factor. And I say that as someone who works professionally in nutrition.
posted by Ouisch at 2:24 PM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks to those who suggested cookbooks. I'll be checking those out.
posted by Alt F4 at 2:39 PM on March 13, 2010


Basically, palatable foods are found to activate the dopaminergic system in a similar fashion as, say, cocaine.

Playing with your children activates the dopaminergic system! It's addictive!

You'd think the dopeminergic system was a bad thing, the way it's being touted by every damned blue-nose in the country. Just because cocaine releases dopamine, that doesn't mean that everything that releases dopamine is cocaine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:58 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my opinion, the plethora of "fat free" products encourage people to eat more (and not surprisingly, buy more).

Amen! "Lite" and "low-fat" products are usually cut heavily with high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. People who are worried about their weight buy them thinking it will help. The more "light" products they eat, they heavier they get. And the heavier and more worried they get, the more "lite," "non-fat," and "low-fat" products they buy. It's a great racket.

It's hard to find salad dressings that aren't disgustingly sweet, unless you make your own or find an off brand. And, yes, it can be hard to find yogurt that isn't sweetened.

From one of Nelson's links: Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease of civilization. and Sugars - sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically - are particularly harmful ... Researchers have been saying this kind of thing for decades. Media still acts like hamburger's the problem.

It's actually a decent article. Just because it's been simplified for mass consumption doesn't make it wrong.

It's not terrible. But phrasing like "Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains." and "we can no longer control our responses to highly palatable foods because our brains have been changed" encourages fatalism - 'We can't help it, the fast-food companies are using neuro-magic on us!' Sure, food manufacturers do research on how to get the best results with the cheapest ingredients - mostly salt, corn syrup, soy-bean oil and flavorings. But people can acclimate themselves to new diets. See localroger and which_chick in this thread for instance.
posted by nangar at 3:18 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Over time, habituation set in, dopamine levels fell and the food lost its capacity to activate their behaviour.

But if the stimulus is powerful enough, novel enough or administered intermittently enough, the brain may not curb its dopamine response. Desire remains high. We see this with cocaine use, which does not result in habituation. Hyperpalatable foods alter the landscape of the brain in much the same way.


This is why, 25 years after I first started injecting cocaine, I'm still doing it--NOT! The problem with all of these "addiction" theories is that only a minority of people who try or even regularly use the most "addictive" stuff become addicted. And even among the addicts, depending on your definition, a good proportion recover.

The notion that people don't "habituate" to cocaine is sorta true if you compare it to heroin-- take more heroin and you eventually need more to get the same high. Take more coke and you still need more over time to get the same high-- but you do get more paranoia and side effects per gram, an effect which is the opposite of habituation (AKA tolerance) called sensitization. Sadly, you get tolerant to the high and sensitized to the nasty effects-- otherwise, you'd be able to take less and less drugs and get higher and higher! Clearly, this is not what happens with coke-- so that's why it's only sorta true. And that's part of why Kessler's argument is misleading.

Further, the idea that food is addictive because it activates the same brain regions as drugs is literally ass-backwards. *Drugs* can be addictive because they activate the same brain areas designed to get us hooked on food and sex. To turn around and claim that food is addictive as a result is to argue that evolution designed us to be junkies and we somehow figured out that food and sex could scratch that itch before we invented coke and heroin.

Yes, food companies try to make their products maximally pleasurable. But is this "rewiring" our brain in a sinister fashion to create addiction? Only in the sense that we didn't evolve in a world of plenty with such products around. Only in the sense that this makes it harder to exercise self control and indeed, some people are going to be more vulnerable than others.

Adding the "addiction" idea however tends to stigmatize even as you attempt to destigmatize. If you claim that we're mindless victims of the food companies, then you can take intrusive measures to protect us from ourselves and treat us like children. People quite naturally resent that and instead say you are fat, lazy, addict scum. Instead, work to educate people without exaggerated fear and learn to understand the neurochemistry etc. without providing a view that makes claims that are just not supported by the addiction data.
posted by Maias at 3:37 PM on March 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ouisch - my guess is that we're violently agreeing here. If you read my comment again, you'll see I'm not trying to say that diet is the only reason we'd show such a disparity (absolutely the huge wealth gap is part of it...it's also part of why such a huge swath of the US eats so abysmally). Rather, my point is that just because our average life expectancy is increasing doesn't mean that nothing is wrong.

Food and nutrition and eating are all so intrinsically linked to self, society, and incredibly complicated biological mechanisms that it's impossible to make blanket statements that are absolutely true. I think that's one of the reasons MeFi is "bad at it" -- however valid something can be, there will be someone here who's had conflicting experiences, or feels as if their particular bit of focus is being left out/ignored/contradicted.
posted by kitarra at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2010


the idea that food is addictive because it activates the same brain regions as drugs is literally ass-backwards. *Drugs* can be addictive because they activate the same brain areas designed to get us hooked on food and sex.

Maias, that's a brilliant way to put it. I like the way that it reframes the discussion.

Humans evolved to optimally respond to our natural environments in order to supply our bodies with the nourishment required to thrive. Fruits and nuts were more difficult to consume than roughage, so we learned to love sugar and fat enough to seek them out instead of not bothering with the extra work. And now "food scientists" are using those cues to create edible items that hack our bodies into craving things that are actually deleterious to our health.

I am not advocating sweeping legislation restricting our food choices to what I personally consider healthy. Blargh. I am advocating for as many people as possible to understand that there are people actively crafting food products to be as habit-forming as possible, and in the process, rendering them almost useless to our bodies as actual nourishment, even as they slather on more calories than we need.
posted by kitarra at 4:15 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


But phrasing like "Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains." and "we can no longer control our responses to highly palatable foods because our brains have been changed" encourages fatalism - 'We can't help it, the fast-food companies are using neuro-magic on us!'

It's not quite like that. Kessler does suggests ways in which we can control our responses, but they're in his book. It's unfortunate that the article doesn't go into it.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:10 PM on March 13, 2010


Here are some tips from the article. Nothing too revolutionary. And even though this article does come off as sensationalistic, I'm still glad it's encouraging a discussion about the context of our eating.


How to take back control

Plan when and what you will eat: There should be no room for deviation; the idea is to inhibit mindless eating and eliminate your mental tug-of-war. Once you've set new patterns, you can become more flexible.

Practise portion control: Eat half your usual meal; see how you feel one and two hours later. A just-right meal will keep away hunger for four hours.

List the foods and situations you can't control: Cut out those foods; limit exposure to those situations. If offered something you overeat, push it away.

Talk down your urges: Learn responses to involuntary thoughts: eating that will only satisfy me temporarily; eating this will make me feel trapped; I'll be happier and weigh less if I don't eat this.

Rehearse making the right choices: Before entering a restaurant, imagine chosing a dinner that's part of your eating plan. Think of this as a game against a powerful opponent. You won't win every encounter, but with practice you can get a lot better.

posted by mecran01 at 5:17 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whilst it's tempting to posit nutrition as wholly an individual responsibility and compare nutrition legislation to something like prohibition, from a public health policy perspective it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Sale of alcohol (at least in Australia) is very heavily legislated. It can only be sold and advertised at certain times, to certain people, from certain places. It is also taxed very heavily so it is artificially more expensive. These legislative restrictions have a direct link to a bevy of issues including health and mortality, hospitalisations, assault rates, domestic abuse, incarcerations, and traffic accident statistics - to name just a few. These links are undeniable and here in Australia we have great ways of checking them because different states all have slightly different legislations, so the effects are easy to isolate.

It would be great if we lived in a society where people didn't have alcohol problems, or were able to control their behaviours regarding alcohol, but from a public health perspective, we don't care. We just want those statistics I mentioned above to go down. (the right) Legislation is terrifically effective at doing that - in spite of the best efforts of alcohol sellers to subvert, skew, ignore and protest them.

So without bringing issues of morality into it - legislation can be a great way of reducing the social toll of a substance. It doesn't feel as good, and some people would argue it's treating the symptom rather than the disease (I disagree), but it works.

It important to remember it's not X person vs. A packet of twinkies. It's X person vs a company of thousands dedicated to selling twinkies; making them look and taste good; advertising them; pricing them; using supply chains to put them front and centre at the grocery store; misrepresenting their nutrition; spending millions promoting them.

It's not the mano e twinkie struggle we like to posit it as. And from a public health perspective, it doesn't matter. It's about reducing the huge costs these substances exact from the citizenry. Far in excess of their "shelf price".
posted by smoke at 5:27 PM on March 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


For anyone (l33tpolicywonk?) who would like to read a more nuanced, less epithet-filled version of my comments

Just to be clear: I read Kessler's book months ago, and I'm actually largely in agreement with his methodology (and, I suspect, yours). Referencing hurf durf was a concise (and admittedly, not very funny) way of suggesting there was too much condescension towards the overweight upthread, which was the context in which the meme occurred in the first place.

posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:07 PM on March 13, 2010


As many people have said, there are underlying economic issues that unreasonably incentivize bad eating. I think that's the key here: people buy unhealthy food because it's delicious, yes, but it's also much cheaper than it should be, and healthy foods are surprisingly expensive. Americans are paying, through taxes, for massive subsidization of things like corn and soy which are fed to animals. Wouldn't it be a better use of tax money to make it financially easy for people to eat well? This article from 2007 breaks it down. We're basically spending billions to feed livestock a bizarre diet instead of economically encouraging a healthy one in humans.

I bought some cauliflower yesterday. About a pound. A nice, lovely, head of fresh cauliflower grown in the US. Not even organic. Guess how much it was?

$2.39. That's only slightly less than the cost per pound of some cuts of beef. Seems kind of bizarre, to me. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be heavily subsidized, not corn and soy. Doing so would make it much easier for people to maintain healthy diets.

So the whole personal responsibility side of the issue is a total red herring because there are huge structural impediments in place for healthy diets and frankly obscene incentives for unhealthy ones.
posted by clockzero at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


Most of the advice on weight-loss is foolishly oversimplified anecdotal snake oil that absolutely won't work for the morbidly obese. Especially in this thread.

The glory of it is, that when the advice fails completely, then you can just blame the fatty for being too weak-willed and not virtuous enough to enjoy being thin. Which, if you stand off a ways and look at it, is pretty fucking stupid.

Any time you use the words "it's easy" in conjunction with losing a hundred pounds or so, you are acting fucking stupid, so please knock it off. Your special little snowflake data point is an outlier and useless. Worse, the stats also say you're more likely than not to gain most of that weight back. As Oprah and Kristie Alley, millionaires with personal chefs, trainers and physicians, how "easy" it is.

Obesity is a matter of endocrinology and psychology, with some other insanely weird factors skewing the mix (stomach flora becoming resistant to a certain protein in the stomach lining, for instance. That little gotcha showed up in the press just this past week.)

No-one has it figured out, and I mean no one, or there wouldn't be an issue, because no-one enjoys being fat.

This article gives some great insight into the difficulty surrounding the problem - the human mind is not a mathematical abstract floating in the glowing ether of free will. It's a chunk of meat, an electro-chemical stew of breathtaking complexity that's poorly understood, and absolutely tied into the rest of the body.

That said, I think the author has touched on a number of important factors, but I'm doubtful it's the one big answer. I'm doubtful there's going to be any "one big answer"... it's likely a number of interrelated factors, most of which aren't even recognized yet.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


What if they were to combine the starchiness of the potato with the richness of the coco bean, and then salt and sugar it like crazy?

Chocolate covered potato chips.


Here you go, then.
posted by operalass at 7:47 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if they were to combine the starchiness of the potato with the richness of the coco bean, and then salt and sugar it like crazy?

Chocolate covered potato chips.

Here you go, then.


amateurs
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:50 PM on March 13, 2010


Kinda following up on which_chick: I mostly drink tea now, and the variety of tea flavors and types (black, green, red, "purple") is just so much tastier and interesting than soda ever was -- so I have no inclination to drink soda (or fake bottled "teas" that are mostly sugar water). And I drink the tea without milk or any sweetener.

My point, like which_chicks, is that eating right can offer more sensory reward than eating crap.
posted by orthogonality at 10:42 PM on March 13, 2010


good read. fucking long though! i don't think most people have that kind of attention span anymore, unfortunately. but yeah, definitely going to cut down on the fat, sugar, and salt. but SALT IS SO GOOD.
posted by crystalsparks at 10:52 PM on March 13, 2010


Quit adding salt to your food and your taste buds will become much more sensitive. You can still enjoy saltiness when that's the actual flavor at hand, but without excess salt, more subtle flavors will become evident.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:11 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I've seen "it's not that hard" and "it's like kicking a cocaine habit, that hard".

In reality, of course, it's somewhere in between, and the exact point is different for each person.

So saying "it's not that hard" is about as helpful as "it's like kicking a cocaine habit, that hard". As in, not at all.

It's much better to say something like "it can be hard, specifically on this, that and those foods over there, although it may be different for you. If you find this hard, do X, Y and Z, if you find that hard, do A, B, and C".

But I guess that would be way too nuanced, and people who would find that useful would have stopped reading after the first sentence.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:39 AM on March 14, 2010


people buy unhealthy food because it's delicious, yes, but it's also much cheaper than it should be, and healthy foods are surprisingly expensive.
I think this theory is flawed, because junk food is much more expensive here than fresh food and you don't see any McDonald's going broke.
posted by dg at 4:20 AM on March 14, 2010


I have yet to meet an overweight person who can tell me how many calories they eat per day.

I have yet to meet a person who has never been overweight who can tell you the same information.

That's because people who grow up eating healthfully, and well, do so instinctively and don't have to struggle with these issues, including calorie counting. A lot of the advice in this thread is sound for helping people who have already gone down the path of disordered eating (in whatever form, including 'addictive' behaviors like overeating, fasting, fast food, etc.).

But from a public health perspective what is needed is to get to kids when they are kids and show them how to eat well, how to cook, and how to enjoy sophisticated flavors.

Most schools don't have home ec classes anymore, which might be a good thing, given my memories of home ec (we literally learned how to use canned biscuits to make deep-fried doughnuts-- my parents were HORRIFIED)... but we need to figure out some way to teach the kids of this country. Otherwise no amount of prohibition or elimination of subsidies is going to make a difference.
posted by miss tea at 5:27 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to urge opiners here to reread what Slap*Happy wrote above.

It's absolutely right that we don't know how the metabolism works. Claiming a mechanistic understanding and system of metabolism (I.e. Food directly makes us fat) is facile and simplistic.

That we have to go to much more involved lengths than to simply restrict caloric intake to reliably lose weight and stay thinner should indicate that the metabolism is more complicated than simply input and output.

Please, I beg of you, remember this complicated landscape before promulgating the idea that the system is simple and easy to understand. Doing so really complicates and criminalizes innocent actions and lives lived in good faith.
posted by kalessin at 6:49 AM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Oh, you may stray. But you'll always return to your dark master: the cocoa bean."

There is nothing wrong with raw cocoa. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure (I can attest to this personally as well.) The problem is processed cocoa and the sugar that is added to most chocolates.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


For years I had headaches which nothing including medication, neck surgery, and minor diet changes did not eliminate. In desperation, I almost totally eliminated the caffeine, meat, dairy, processed sugar, white flour, and artificial additives from my diet. The change was unbelievable. Almost immediately the headaches improved drastically, and in the first month I lost 6 lbs. The first week was hard, especially not grabbing a soda for my long commute home, but after 2 months I've discovered how much I enjoy cooking, how little I desire the processed food that I craved before, and how much better life is without a constant and often debilitating headache.
posted by Lost at 5:34 PM on March 14, 2010


Having spent two years in culinary school for pastry.. I can say that some of it flat out is genetic. There were more than a couple of girls in my classes who went through the program and never gained much weight- because of how blazingly fast their metabolisms were. They were frequently told to eat more- to gain weight.

That said, I did gain a fair amount of weight in school, but I also lost it fairly soon after by following the adage of 'everything in moderation, especially moderation'. Denying myself something I want isn't going to make me any happier or less likely to overindulge, it just makes me crankier. Better to cut down to one serving of $treat a week, than one every day.
posted by Hwin at 8:51 PM on March 14, 2010


In desperation, I almost totally eliminated the caffeine, meat, dairy, processed sugar, white flour, and artificial additives from my diet.

Dairy gives me vicious headaches due to sinus pressure. It's not an uncommon reaction. If you like your ascetic diet, then stick with it, but if not, try adding back one item at a time until the headaches return.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:29 PM on March 14, 2010


NYT has this today on the co-incidence of obesity with food insecurity, with the South Bronx leading the nation at more than 36 percent of residents experiencing food insecurity.

their point? that there are craploads of greasy fast food outlets in the area and very few supermarkets, and when you're working a couple of jobs, you eat what you can afford of what there is.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:11 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


For years I had headaches

I had a chronic daily never ending headache that spanned 10+ years that magically went away in the last year. The number, intensity and duration of my migraines went down too from one or two a week to maybe once or twice a month? The neurologist I saw pretty much wrote me off as incurable well you can this, this and this, but I don't hold out much hope it'll help you and, I pretty much consigned myself to a life of unyielding pain. I've cut back the on junk and refined carbohydrates. I don't miss them like I thought I would and, when I do have them they're too sweet/salty/processed ... I used to like Icy Squares but now they're too cloying dangit.
posted by squeak at 8:15 AM on March 15, 2010


where a pop-sci author can't resist throwing around punchy sentences

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David Aaron Kessler (born May 13, 1951 in New York, New York) is an American pediatrician, lawyer, author, and administrator (both academic and governmental). He was the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from November 8, 1990 to February 28, 1997.

Although his appointment as FDA commissioner in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush won bipartisan approval, many of Kessler's actions were controversial, and he soon became more popular with Democrats than Republicans. He moved quickly to make the agency more efficient, cutting the time needed to approve or reject new drugs, including AIDS drugs, and more vigilant in protecting consumers against unsafe products and inflated label claims. It was also under his watch that FDA enacted regulations requiring standardized Nutrition Facts labels on food. In one memorable action, he had 24,000 gallons of Citrus Hill orange juice seized because although made from concentrate, it was labeled "fresh".[2] Kessler was reappointed to the post of FDA Commissioner during the administration of Bill Clinton.
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WHAT
posted by chalbe at 8:43 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Billyfleetwood: Saying "it's not that hard" totally misses the point of the conversation. For a lot of people, it is that hard, and they have no idea why.

For the record, I said counting calories wasn't that hard. Eating within the restrictions I set on myself is hard, but I do it because I don't like being a fatass.

Shocking fact: Sometimes you have to do things that are hard if you want to be healthy and feel good.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:32 PM on March 15, 2010


Shocking fact: Sometimes you have to do things that are hard if you want to be healthy and feel good.

I don't disagree with you, but I wonder if you really think that's the best advice to give to someone who was struggling with health and weightloss issues. Because people have been getting that advice for years and we still havent eradicated the problem. Because in there is the subtle insinuation that if you don't have the willpower to fight the cravings/rationalizations/bad habits, then somehow you "like" being a fatass.

Pointing out external factors doesn't relieve anyone of their personal responsibility. But the truth is it doesn't have to be as hard as it is for a lot of people. I don't understand why so many people have such a problem with the idea that no matter how hard you try, there are also external factors working against you.

Whatever works for you, fine. But what works for me is the knowledge that my struggles with weight weren't because I was weak, but because i was uninformed. A lot of people have the strength to keep trying, but without the knowledge to succeed, they end up doing themselves more harm than good.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:42 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fruit juice isn't healthy either. It's functionally equivalent to soda. Pure sugar.

People seem to be far too focused on what they should avoid to the point where they no longer think about what they need. Fresh fruit juice contains all sorts of nutrients that you just aren't going to find in your average can of soda.

You could argue that you're better off eating whole fruit rather than juice, but that's something else.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 11:15 PM on March 16, 2010


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