Theory: Americans are fat because we don’t eat enough

I’ve long had a theory that dieting makes people gain weight. Just think about it for a second: at the very least, the correlation is tremendous.

Lots of studies have shown that diets are pretty useless–people tend, on average, to lose little to no weight on them. The whole diet industry, from diet sodas to lite beer to Weight Watchers, is, of course, basically a fraud.

The reasons are probably simple: One, humans have evolved no mechanisms to resist eating whenever possible. Your ancestors are people who ate when they could, not people who were indifferent to food, especially not tasty food*. And two, we live in a society with abundant, cheap, delicious food. Chances are good you’ve never even lived through a famine, much less had to go without for significant periods every few years of your life.

*Or have we?

I have watched people try to diet (mostly relatives.) The process goes something like this:

1. Relative declares, “I am going to lose weight for sure this time!”
2. Eats meager breakfast of oatmeal and apples.
3. Eats more apples for snack.
4. Comes over to my house, devours all my chips.
5. Weight-loss fails.

(A lot of people claim that you are supposed to feel “full” using various diet methods, but I’ve watched this happen enough times to enough different people to suspect that it’s a pretty common scenario.)

So tonight I was getting a bowl of icecream for a sick kiddo. Normally when getting icecream, I sneak a bite at the end. I can’t eat a full bowl of icecream, because hypoglycemia, but the taste is very tempting. But tonight, I looked at the icecream, and said, “No, I don’t want icecream.” What the hell was wrong with me? I’d just eaten a bowl of beans + cheese. I was full.

I suspect that our willpower, our ability to resist the kinds of foods that we can basically all agree aren’t really great to be eating, goes completely down the drain when we are hungry. And people are most likely to be hungry when they are dieting. So if you eat nothing but apples for breakfast, then somewhere along the way, you’re likely to eat nothing but cookies for dinner. But a solid breakfast of eggs, toast, and even a little bacon will probably leave you feeling full and happy, rendering temptation less, well, tempting.

5 thoughts on “Theory: Americans are fat because we don’t eat enough

  1. I try to eat healthy, but I also have a weakness for foods that are unhealthy or I want to avoid for other reasons. So my strategy is like yours: I try to eat the healthier stuff first, and by the time I get to the stuff I shouldn’t eat, I’m closer to full so I don’t eat as much of it.

    Also, I’ve learned that you can change your taste over time. Like, if you cut down on salt or sweets, your taste will grow blander over time. After a while, you find that you don’t want things as salty or sweet as you used to want them.


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