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When we see fat people we always assume they have been overeating

The simple definition of overeating is that we eat more food than we need to maintain our weight. Anyone who goes on a diet tries hard to control their food intake. We try to eat less food, but we get so hungry and miserable. All we can think about is food. We finally break down and eat eat eat. The big question is, why do we overeat?

Do we lack will power? Are we just plain weak? Why is it so hard to stay on a diet?

Faulty hunger drive?

We have a powerful hunger drive that tells us when and how much to eat. It is like other strong drives that make us breathe, drink water, have sex, and avoid danger. All of these drives are necessary for the survival of our species. Without our hunger drive, we might get busy doing other things and forget to eat for weeks. We could easily starve to death.

So why would our hunger drive make us overeat? After all, overeating harms our health. This affects our survival in a negative way. What throws our hunger drive out of whack?

Animals have hunger drives too. But when we observe other species in the wild, we seldom see fat animals. There is a natural food (or foods) that is perfect for every animal. When that food is available they eat it. And somehow they eat exactly the right number of calories to keep them lean and healthy. 

You have probably seen a fat squirrel in the park or a fat duck in a pond.  Is there a malfunction in their hunger drive that makes them overeat? No, these animals are eating human food, which is not their natural diet. 

We often see overweight dogs and cats. They may be eating human food. But they also need exercise. Before they were domesticated, they were out walking every day, searching for their own food.

The natural diet for people

If every animal has a natural diet, there must be one for humans. The best way to figure this out is to look at some people who have never tasted a Big Mac or a corn dog. It is getting hard to find these people, because the western diet is spreading rapidly around the world. But if we go back thirty years or so, we find them:
corn beans squash

  • Throughout Asia, people ate rice, vegetables, and tofu.

  • In tribal Africa, they ate millet, teff, root vegetables, and greens.

  • In latin America they ate corn, beans, and squash.

  • In New Guinea, people ate yams.

Most people ate plants. Why? because they could not afford meat, or it was simply not available. People had no overeating problem. They ate until they were satisfied and then they stopped eating.

Life was not perfect for the plant eaters. Some died in childbirth. Some died of starvation when food was not available. Many died from infectious diseases like malaria and dysentary. But they were slender and active, not fat!

In the far north, plants were hard to find. Eskimos ate seals and walruses. These foods were not ideal. The average Eskimo had a short life span. They got severe osteoporosis from their high protein diets. But they lived long enough to reproduce and to raise their children to adulthood. That was the only thing that was necessary for our species to survive.

Where did we go wrong?

The traditional human diet was based on whole unprocessed plant foods. We went off course in two big ways:

  • We started eating more animal foods and less plants. The animal foods were high in fat and cholesterol. They contained no good carbohydrates or fiber. They were missing the healthy plant nutrients that our bodies crave.

  • We began separating out the various parts of plants. We removed the sugar from sugar beets and sugar cane. We pressed the oil out of soybeans, corn, olives, and other plants. We removed the bran and germ from wheat and ground the rest of the kernal into white flour.

We mixed the white flour with sugar and oil to make delicious foods. But they were foods that contained very few of the original plant nutrients. We began overeating. It was easy to eat too much, because the the foods did not satisfy our hunger. They were low in fiber and high in calories.

We have moved very far from our original plant food diet. We can not even recognize any plants in much of the food we eat today.

The China Study

The China Study
In the best-selling book, The China Study, we learn that in the 1980's, the Chinese ate more calories than Americans, yet the Chinese weighed less. Their daily average calorie intakes were:

    Chinese: 2641 calories

Americans: 1989 calories

The Chinese in the study were office workers. They may have walked or ridden bicycles a bit more than Americans, but not enough to account for a daily 650-calorie difference. That is like running 6 1/2 miles every day!

The Chinese ate many whole plant foods and few animal foods. They were not overweight. They took in 33 grams of fiber a day, compared to a U.S. average of 12 grams. 

How could they eat so much?

  • The Chinese diet contained only 14.5% of its calories from fat, compared to the American diet average of 34 - 38%. It is easy for our bodies to store dietary fat, and the process doesn't burn many calories.

  • They ate a lot of rice. When we eat complex carbohydrates, we burn off some of the calories in the form of heat. They are like free calories. Great for weight loss!

  • The fiber they ate blocked the absorption of some of their calories. And they were eating low-fiber white rice. We can do even better. Read this to learn how to find the best high fiber foods in a vegan diet. 

The Pleasure Trap

The Pleasure Trap

The best book we have ever read on the subject of overeating is The Pleasure Trap by Lisle and Goldhamer. When we read it we understood for the first time why so many people fail at losing weight.

The problem we call overeating is really a case of eating the wrong foods for our species.

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