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  #1   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 14:16
ItsTheWooo's Avatar
ItsTheWooo ItsTheWooo is offline
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Default Our cultural values, lifestyle, and the obesity epidemic...

I have noticed two types of individuals who have weight problems. Those who are capable of learning moderation, and those who are not. (For sake of argument, let's assume both people are not triggering metabolic sensitivities. Also, when you read this post, it would help to realize when I use collective pronouns I am referring to our culture and the obese collective. I full well understand there are exceptions and for some people it is as simple as carbs. I am not trying to say what I say applies to you individually.)

There are those people who, even if it isn't natural to them, learn to feel satisfied emotionally when eating "fun" or "unsafe" food. They eat half an apple, feel satisfied, and never progress to self destructive behaviors.

Then there are those people who are triggered into self destruction by attempting to eat "fun food". At first they might find an evening treat of half an apple indulgent. Then, they find they find that half boring and not as psychologically fulfilling as it used to be, so they need a whole apple. Soon they discover apples are just not doing the trick anymore. Then they move to store bought low carb apple pie. By the time they move to the processed food, it's all over. They eat the entire pie, and, whatever they can get their hands on. All this over eating and eating increasingly carby food is also messing up blood sugar. Soon they are back in the cycle.

What is the difference between these people? Why can one person feel satisfied, and another just loses control? Even more perplexing, why can some people "recover" and learn to eat normally, while this dream of control continues to elude others?

I believe it is how we perceive food which is the main difference. The first person is thinking "like an artist" - patient, calm, meditative, and enjoying the smallness and simplicity of their meal. Because they are more focused and attentive to details, normal and small portions saturates their brains with stimulus. This stimulus registers as pleasure, and, they satisfy emotional needs for food. They are more likely to find food associate activities a pleasure - the cooking, planning, and serving process are stress free and indulgent.

This theory raises two new questions.
1) How can all of us learn to think that way about food?
2) Why is it elusive to some, easily learned by others, and completely natural to a third segment of the population?

Differences in perception can explain the results of our behavior. It cannot explain why our perceptions are different to begin with, or, how to change them.
In a thread about this in the emotional eating forum, cartersg1 raises an excellent point I did not think of. The reason our perceptions are different is because our lifestyle, attitudes, and lifestyle demands are different. It's our stressful, faced paced lives which are making us stressed out compulsive eaters. We don't sleep enough, we don't spend enough time with our loved ones, and we don't take the time to make home made meals. We are always working or going to school or doing something. Constant stress does a lot of nasty things to our body. For one, it increases insulin resistance and makes us hungrier and store fat. It also does nasty things to your emotions and mind. It makes us want to eat fatty, salty, and/or sweet foods to relax and numb ourselves even when not really hungry. It makes us be in such a need state all the time that when we eat, we eat *so very much*. It's an emotional and physiological cycle.

There's more though...
I think it is stress that is causing us to feel so in need of relief, but it is our culture that is causing the obesity epidemic.
We don't know how to really enjoy ourselves. We don't see the value in anything around us, it is all for granted, all so trite. The west is obsessed with the future and productivity. This causes us to associate "pleasure" with novelty, new supercharged sensations, and getting the most for the least. If it isn't faster, bigger, louder, sweeter, or saltier than its predecessor, then it isn't what we're craving.

Our culture is so concerned with the future that the intrinsic value of the present escapes us. The thing is, valuing the present is the only way to ever feel truly satisfied and relieve stress. Other ways of relieving stress often make it worse in the long run. For example:

Our culture says "working a ridiculous amount and sleeping 4 hours a night so you can afford a huge car makes you happy". It does not say "a simple life with peace to reflect upon your world is actually better than working yourself to a heart attack death while stuck in traffic in your unsightly large car".

It is our cultural value system that says "the banquet 3 course carside to go meal at applebees will relieve your stress without sucking up precious time". It does not say "making the time to indulge in the simplicity of making a simple, beautiful, healthy small meal at home will make you feel even better".

We are so physiologically and psychologically stressed OUT, and, in a cycle, the ways we relieve our stress just make it worse in the long run. The psychological causes the physical, and back again, in a cycle.
We have rendered ourselves defective in that we are incapable of healthy meditation. It is so unnatural for us to sit, focus, observe and find this practice *enjoyable stress relief*. We say we don't have the time, but what we really mean to say is we don't desire to LEARN how to change the way we live.

Before we can learn to eat normally we need to resolve the stressful nature of our lives. We need to change the way we live and look at the world. We need to redefine our values, and what it means to enjoy ourselves and feel satisfied. We need to sleep, we need to be in the sunshine and take walks, we need to purge ourselves of all this extra that doesn't really make us happy and just chains us to so much work. We need to free ourselves from pressure and stress and live like we were meant to live. With that, the body will heal, and when the body heals, so does the mind.


Last edited by ItsTheWooo : Sun, Feb-26-06 at 14:28.
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  #2   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 17:02
Judynyc's Avatar
Judynyc Judynyc is offline
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Plan: No sugar, flour, wheat
Stats: 274/207/165 Female 5'6"
Progress: 61%
Location: NYC

Oh boy....this is a huge topic Woo!!! I think that it come to the old topic of nature vs nurture. I'm not good at writing about this stuff but will give it a go anyway.

Some of us are more prone to having addictive type personalities. I will speak of my own experience and I'm sure that it will resonate with some.

My mom was a compulsive over eater, her dad was a severe alcoholic and their entire family suffered from his disease. My mom's mom was the Martyr and suffered in silence. My mom became a martyr in her marriage and while my dad was not a drinker, he was still an impatient, abusive and nasty man to both my mom and me.....

While you speak in general terms of lifestyle and stress, I think that what we learn as children is very hard to unlearn as adults. So if being a martyr and not expressing our true feelings, is what we learn from our mothers.....that is the way we will go about our lives as adults until we go on our own search of learn about ourselves and make changes.

I always like this quote by Socrates: " A life unexamined is a life not worth living.

Then there's the old Serenity prayer which says so much in just a few words:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can......and the wisdom to know the difference."

I have done alot of reading over the years: The Road Less Traveled by M Scott Peck, Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman MD...and the list goes on and on. Along with all my years in therapy, I think that I have gotten to the root of some of my problems and uncovered my own "story" in the process.

I will not compare myself to those who have never had a weight issue or an eating/food just would not be fair to me. I am unique as we each are...making broad generalities to try to understand an aspect of myself does not work for me.

So in the end, I think that its a combination of nature and nurture that makes us who we are.....overeaters, undereaters......obsessed with how we look and filled with diseased thinking about our bodies. The books that I read from OA were extremely helpful as they are filled with stories of hope and recovery from this diseased thinking. And that is what it is...diseased thinking!! We need to replace the diseased thoughts with positive ones and fight back against the beast that speaks to us in our heads. It may sound corny to some but its the only way I know that worked for me.
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  #3   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 19:42
drjanni drjanni is offline
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Plan: atkins
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Location: Missouri
Default Busy Lives

Speaking from my own experience: I live a fairly busy life. I work full-time, I am finishing another college degree and go to school full time, I'm married, I have two small children (4&7) whom I take to various sporting events throughout the week (basketball, gymnastics, boy scouts), I own a home, I have a nice car, I am fairly stable financially. . . . I live a fairly busy life, a fairly typical life.

I'm not unhappy. In fact, this is quite possibly the happiest I've been as an adult. I don't even obsess too much about my weight (which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you view it). I want to be healthier, so I'm willing to eat healthier.

The problem with the idea that people need to simplify their lives is that most people thrive on a little stress. Plus, what's the fun of life if you don't have a few luxeries? Personally, I like my huge SUV (its a very pretty vehicle) and am willing to work to have it. I like my home, I like being able to afford nice things for my children and myself. While working does cause me stress which does tend to make me eat more . . . . it doesn't necessarily make me unhappy. I certainly had a lot more stress when I was struggling to pay bills, struggling to find money for nice things, struggling to discover what I wanted to do with my life. Personally, I think that obese people tend to think of food as a reward . . . and lots of sweet/salty high carb food as a big reward. Change that thought, and you could probably save me a whole lot of grief. What if I could view food as fuel instead of as something to give me pleasure? I think that I will always have a problem with food as long as I take such great pleasure in it. That's the good thing about Atkins . . . you get your fill and pleasure from food that is healthy and helps control your weight. You don't necessarily have to give up that pleasure, you just derive pleasure from different kinds of food.

Just my two cents.
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  #4   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 20:21
eve25's Avatar
eve25 eve25 is offline
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Stats: 315/274/175 Female 69 inches
Progress: 29%

Originally Posted by ItsTheWooo
What is the difference between these people? Why can one person feel satisfied, and another just loses control?

I think that what we learn as children is very hard to unlearn as adults.

i agree with this. but in my situation i know that for me, from a small child i was criticised for my weight by my family (i was only a few pounds overweight). i was constantly restricted food, and pestered about what i ate. and of course, what do we always want?? what we cant have. i would sneak it, and inhale it (didnt want to get caught of course). it got to be like a rebellion rather than a hunger that drove me. at least thats where i think it started.
i think my younger sister may have had the same issue but then my brother, who was third in line and a BOY, never had those restrictions and didnt end up obese like we did either.
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  #5   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 21:31
LC_Dave LC_Dave is offline
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Location: Melbourne Australia

There is definately big problems n the Western world. More than we like to admit.

In Australia, because we are english speaking, we are heavily influenced by American culture as is most of the world.

We are plugged into American television, movies, and internet. The American Fast food culture has taken us over! Asian countries call Australian an American colony.

This frustrates me, because most of the problems we face are caused by this.
Suddenly Aussies all want to work long hours and be soo materialistic. I suppose we were always that way!

Courtesy and good many are gone in modern life. Funnily enough customer service is gone down

Now how government wants to de-regulate the workforce, to make us more like Americans! Our CEOs in Australia, if they are not Americans themselves are paid obscene amounts of money because we have to compete with Americans!

You can't have a hollywood movie these days without an Aussie involved!

Where are we going we our obesity problems ? Just look At America!
Instead of loking at the good and bad things that a country like America does, we just try to emulate them without doing it our way

It's sad too because our kids are fatter than ever, and it's partly due to McDonalds and the like!
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  #6   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 22:26
Frederick's Avatar
Frederick Frederick is offline
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Very thought provoking post.

In my view, overeating is a naturally occurring phenomenon not only to humans, but just about every other species as well. I’d imagine that just about every animal overeats if given the means and opportunity. In that sense, it strikes me that our propensity to overeat is very normal, while eating in moderation would be abnormal.

Given that over the past century, we all have the means and opportunity to eat in whatever amounts at any given moment, it is hardly surprising that obesity rates are climbing in western society where food is in such readily available abundance. Even in the past, the wealthy had access to unlimited food and were often marked by corpulence.

I don’t necessarily agree that the rigors and demands of modern society are the cause of obesity. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to assert that the abundance of available foods of every kind made possible by modernity highly increases the possibility that an individual over indulges. I’ve found that many “successful” people (meaning those who work long hours and exercise regularly) simply don’t have the time to overeat. For example, for the person who wakes up at 6 am for a morning run, then dash to the office without breakfast working a full day (to achieve that big house and fancy car) and not eating until 8 or 9 pm has almost no opportunity to over indulge in food. It doesn’t mean their respective lives are any less stressful, but merely that “eating” isn’t as important as achieving, however the individual defines successful achievement.

In my humble opinion, those with the highest propensity to overeat are usually those whose utility of satisfaction from eating foods supersedes their satisfaction from other pursuits. For these individuals, it would require extreme discipline to refrain from eating too much. The same can be said for those who covet material success. These individuals are obsessive compulsives driven to overwork—the only difference is that getting fat in the bank account has a very different result than putting on added girth around the waist.

In closing, I don’t think our obesity is the result of our cultural tendencies, but rather a result of our natural instinct for human progress, which as a direct result created such an over abundance of readily available food that people find difficult to resist. As per the Oscar Wilde adage, “the only way to rid temptation is to yield to it.”

This certainly isn’t the politically correct answer, but as in just about everything in life, it really just comes down to discipline. It would be truly extraordinary that the interminable human spirit could withstand the great wars, build the great pyramids of Egypt, place a person on the moon, split the atom, and run the 4 minute mile—and, yet be utterly powerless to refrain from overeating.

With kindest regards,

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  #7   ^
Old Sun, Feb-26-06, 23:10
nedgoudy nedgoudy is offline
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Plan: Whey Protein & Skim Milk
Stats: 240/150/160 Male 66 inches
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Obesity in the 21st century
IMO is caused by inactivity, STRESS
and a prevalence of junk food.

Our society has something to
do with it too. Families are
eating more and more meals
'out' per week and it only continues
to increase.

The lower living standard also hurts.

Given that men and women have to
BOTH work to support a family and some
have to have 2 and 3 jobs to survive, and
the fact that people are working longer hours
and getting paid less on an inflation
adjusted scale, plus long commute times
adds up to STRESS which people deal with by
eating comfort FOODS.

So, IMHO it is all societies fauilt!
That and the misconceptions my parents
gave me as a youth. SERIOUSLY!
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  #8   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 00:27
Marvin Marvin is offline
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Progress: 121%
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Originally Posted by Frederick
Very thought provoking post..............

With kindest regards,



your post was not only thought provoking but extremely well put.

anyhow, your posts seem to be some of the most intelligent and logical ones on here. Very impressive, I'm glad this forum has someone like you on it.

just thought I'd point that out.
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  #9   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 02:38
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ojoj ojoj is offline
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Stats: 210/126/127 Female 5ft 7in
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I thiink, that if you go way back when we were cavmen etc, the need and drive to eat was the one thing that got us off our butts and find food. When we found it, then we'd eat as much as we possibly could as we didnt know when we would eat again.

That drive/instinct is still with us, but the scarcity or difficulties of finding food are not!

The ability to store fat that seems apparent in some and not others I think is a genetic thing that probably would have been an advantage in caveman times, it probably wouldnt have happened much or to the extent it does today though

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  #10   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 03:35
Bakerchic's Avatar
Bakerchic Bakerchic is offline
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Plan: Moderate low-carb
Stats: 186/140/135 Female 5"5
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Really, around where I live, there is nothing to do besides go out and eat. You turn on the TV, and there are commercials that make a Big Mac look like a culinary luxury, even when you get it and it's slop on a bun. Even when I'm going out with friends, we have to stop somewhere and eat, like it's mandatory.

Plus, meals are no longer sacred. No kids my age sit around the dinner table and observe the traditional "Happy Days" dinner. Mom bought a pizza last night, sister got Taco Bell, and Dad's getting deep-fried fish down at the bar and grill. There's no sacred meaning to food anymore. The dinner table in my house is not really a place of gathering, but rather an island to stack old newspapers and junk mail and set dirty dishes. And with mom and dad working so many hours, school being a bust, sitting down for a meal can sometimes only cause argument and bantering, and one person's leaving because they're impatient and angry, so the rest get up and go shortly after.

In a sense, the era of the sacred dinner table is over. Even on popular television, the characters are out at a popular joint getting burgers and shakes or doughnuts and coffee. You rarely seen these places on television in the 1950's when the family mom was preparing a meal for their family, and eating generally took place around the dinner table.

In another sense, food morality has kind of waned. When I see dieters, I see two types. The on and offers, you know, the classic Yo-Yo's and the extremists who have almost a diet bible they seem to abide by in their heads. It seems like every chocolate bar says indulge, or Lays says "You can't have just one." I once told my mom I was a food pervert. Meaning my whole relationship with food was perverted, like a sexaholic seeking gratification from anonymous peoples and prostitutes. Except really the only shame was being fat, but overeating was terribly encouraged by my peers and the media at large. It only brought shame when you were fat. I always wondered if thin girls who seemed to eat everything and not gain weight only did it under peer pressure and then returned to some type of anorexic lifestyle outside the eyes of friends and families. I was always trying to justify their thinness because I failed to maintain my weight pleasing others and myself by eating food.

For me, it really took a whole new environment to gain some self control. Moving out of the house, and in some cases, getting rid of friends and contacts that drained me emotionally. It’s hard, because it’s almost like you have to kill a part of yourself to change, and then you really have to want to change your relationship with food, even more so than the strong urges of temptation where you just want to throw in the towel.
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  #11   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 05:24
saffron28's Avatar
saffron28 saffron28 is offline
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Plan: Atkins
Stats: 244/217/140 Female 5ft. 5in.
Progress: 26%
Location: Michigan

I have to admit that after a long, hectic, stressful day at work, I have {more times than I like to admit} opted for the drive thru at McD's rather than take the time to make a dinner for me and my sons. I know for me stress is a big stumbling block to eating healthy. I make a conscious {sp} decision every day to come home from work and cook a good meal. I want to be healthy and lose weight, and I want my kids to eat healthier, but it is hard some nights. All that food is just down the street and so much easier than cooking. It is hard when every 5 min. the t.v is showing fast food commercials, and the food looks so danged good.
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  #12   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 05:32
Lisa N's Avatar
Lisa N Lisa N is offline
Posts: 12,028
Plan: Bernstein Diabetes Soluti
Stats: 260/-/145 Female 5' 3"
Progress: 63%
Location: Michigan

Given that men and women have to
BOTH work to support a family and some
have to have 2 and 3 jobs to survive, and
the fact that people are working longer hours
and getting paid less on an inflation
adjusted scale, plus long commute times
adds up to STRESS which people deal with by
eating comfort FOODS.

While this doesn't explain the entire problem with obesity, I believe it's certainly a contributing factor. People work 2-3 jobs to put food on the table and a roof overhead and still can't afford much more than lots of rice, pasta and potatoes to eat. Working all those hours also seriously decreases the amount of time either adult has to spend on preparing a meal, so we have see lots of Hamburger Helper, Frozen Dinners and mac & cheese on the table (or visits to some fast food place several times a week).
There are many people in this country that have neither the time nor the funds to eat healthy.
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  #13   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 06:09
DietSka DietSka is offline
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Posts: 197
Plan: Atkins
Stats: 139/129/115 Female 5'3"
Progress: 42%

two types of individuals who have weight problems. Those who are capable of learning moderation, and those who are not.

Similarly, there are two types of people: those who can drink socially and those who become alcoholics. That's why I don't think overeating is something you learn (or can unlearn). It's something you either have or you don't. Like the propensity of becoming an alcoholic.
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  #14   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 08:34
potatofree's Avatar
potatofree potatofree is offline
Fully Caffeinated
Posts: 17,245
Plan: Back to Atkins
Stats: 298/228/160 Female 5ft9in
Progress: 51%

At a certain point, though, I think there's an awful lot of overthinking going on.

A certain percentage of people can seemingly eat all the crap they want and not get fat.

I'm NOT one of them, for whatever reason.

It's not "fair", it just IS. Life goes on.

I think one of the answers is to find something in your life that's more important than food. Volunteering is very rewarding, and it's hard to think that whether or not you've gone over your carb limit for the day is such a big thing when you're helping people who don't HAVE food, or someone who isn't going to live another month, or someone who just lost their child.
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  #15   ^
Old Mon, Feb-27-06, 08:55
ValerieL's Avatar
ValerieL ValerieL is offline
Posts: 9,388
Plan: Atkins Maintenance
Stats: 297/173.3/150 Female 5'7" (top weight 340)
Progress: 84%
Location: Burlington, ON

I think we do a disservice to people to group them into two distinct categories like this. People are constantly evolving and changing and the person that might not have been able to learn moderation may learn it next year or next decade.

One can say there are two types of people, those that can conquer their weight issues and lose weight and those who can't. I've been obese since childhood, if you'd talked to me in early 2003, you could have said I was one of the ones unable to control my weight. I started low-carbing, in September 2003 and lost 100 lbs in less than a year. I have been maintaining my weight loss (and losing more) for about a year and half now.

I think Frederick is probably more accurate in his analysis of overeating than Woo though. I do think it's human nature to do what makes you feel good, for some people that's eating.

I also think that to say that we can discuss issues of moderating eating while NOT factoring in metabolic sensitivities (I'm assuming this includes carbohydrate sensitivity and insulin resistance) is an exercise is futility. It's an integral part of the discussion. When I'm not low-carbing I have little or no ability to moderate my eating, the carb/blood sugar/insulin cycle is stronger than my willpower and I overeat on poor nutritional choices in response to hunger and cravings. I have about as much chance of not overeating in response to that cycle as I have to stopping breathing. I can do it for a minute or two, but after that, the body kicks in and forces you to start breathing again. My only saving grace is that in the couple of days that I can make willpower override my carbohydrate/insulin issues, I can eat low carb and disarm the carb/insulin cycle.

Stress seems like a red herring to me. I'm not sure we really have more stress in today's society than they did 100 or 200 years ago. Different stress to be sure, but there has always been stress in the world. Now, on an individual level, dealing with stress no doubt can help with conquering overeating, just as learning our individual triggers to overeating and our own tricks to moderating food help, but I don't think any one way of dealing with stress or dealing with food will work for all people. Each person has to find their own way.

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