I recently read an article that claimed that our current obesity problem could be solved if everyone would cook all their own food. Frankly speaking, this idea may have value, but it falls short of solving anything. First of all, it’s not necessarily practical for many people. Secondly, it’s got the same issue as diets: it’s a restrictive rule that – even if followed – can still easily lead to poor eating habits.
Some people like to make nutrition complicated, but it doesn’t have to be so. In short, our bodies need two things: energy and nutrients. Energy comes from calories, and anybody who is eating unhealthy food can rest assured you are getting enough of these.
In addition to energy, nutrients (vitamins and minerals) are needed for various organs of the body to function properly. No matter how much food/calories we eat, we will feel hungry anytime we are not getting enough nutrients. So when we eat food with little or no nutrients, the calories we consume will continue to add weight on our bodies while we continue to feel hungry. Another way of thinking about it: an obese person is someone who is literally starving to death due to lack of nutritious food.
Modern Causes of Unhealthy Weight Gain
With this in mind, it is worth noting that the conveniences of modern life are making it inconvenient (i.e. difficult) for the majority of us to get our nutritional needs met. Below is a list of five modern causes of unhealthy weight gain.
#1 Processed Foods
Processed foods are high in calories, and have little or no nutrients (in my opinion, there are no nutrients in any processed foods). Generally speaking, the processing itself destroys the nutrients. Note that nutrients in food are rendered “worthless” by either heating (pasteurizing) food, or grinding it up (which is what your own body does to release nutrients from food).
#2 Fortified Foods
Fortified foods are food with nutrients that have been added (such as breakfast cereals). This makes people believe that the processed foods they are eating are actually healthy. In a similar manner, most people believe that taking multi-vitamins are healthy. However, studies suggest that taking them is not only a waste of money, but could be harmful. So keeping in mind the old adage “it’s too good to be true”, I would recommend erring on the side of caution and viewing the nutrients found in fortified foods as being useless for the body, and if eaten in large quantities, potentially harmful.
It’s possible that the microwave is partly responsible for a large portion of the younger adult generations not knowing how to actually cook for themselves. Additionally, microwaves cause two problems: 1, they make it possible to easily eat entire meals of processed foods (so-called “microwave dinners”), and 2, they supposedly destroy nutrients even quicker than heating food by conventional means.
In general, if you eat nutritious food, there should be no reason to snack (as you shouldn’t be hungry in between meals). Furthermore, most people wouldn’t snack if it weren’t for the fact that it is so easy to do: no cooking involved, simply open a wrapper. This makes it very easy to eat bad “food” at all hours of the day, while eating healthy food remains less convenient and more time-consuming.
#5 Modern-age Distractions
These days there are many distractions that make us lose focus on what we are actually doing. Are we eating or are we watching TV? Additionally, many people eat lunch at their desks at work, focusing on their work instead of their food. We aren’t getting pleasure out of what we are eating, partly due to the fact that the food that we are eating really isn’t that enjoyable to eat anyway.
#6 Emotional Eating
A lot of eating occurs for emotional reasons: we eat because we are bored, or we are anxious, or we are sad. The reason this is a modern issue is because the combination of grocery stores, restaurants, and processed foods make it possible for us to easily grab something to eat anytime we feel the urge.
Emotional eating is also a way of avoiding psychological issues on the mental level by “addressing” them on the physical. For example, one person might subconsciously gain weight as a way of physically distancing himself from a painful relationship. Likewise, it could be to avoid the possibility of entering another relationship, and the potential pain it could cause.
Because eating compulsions are are way of avoiding emotional pain, they will not be cured by understanding nutrition. On the contrary, such people are probably also “beating themselves up” for not being able to control what they eat. So these types of problems must be tackled at the psychological level.
It would be very easy at this point to try to make a set of rules that would force us to eat healthy, such as: eat only what you cook. But even well-intentioned rules generally have “loopholes”. For instance, if a person only ate only self-cooked meat and potatoes every day without eating fresh produce (where most nutrients in food are found), there would still be a problem. So instead of making a rule, it would be more helpful to focus on learning more about what foods are actually nutritions, and then making a conscious effort to add these types of food to your diet.
- WebMD. Experts: Don’t Waste Your Money on Multivitamins. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/news/20131216/experts-dont-waste-your-money-on-multivitamins#1
- Greatist. Why Multivitamins Might Do More Harm Than Good. https://greatist.com/grow/why-you-dont-need-a-multivitamin