Why you Can’t Resist the Food That’s in Front of You

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Can't Resist Food in Front of You Why is it so hard to resist food that’s in front of you?

You know the feeling I’m talking about…

The irresistible, un-suppressable feeling. The half-guilty half just-this-one-time feeling we get when we’re trying to decide whether the food in front of us will end up in our stomach or not.

The truth is it’s simply hard to say no.

And it’s not all your fault.

Resisting the food that’s in front of you is actually going against millions of years of human evolution and design.

From a biological perspective, you are designed to eat the food that’s in front of you.

Here’s why…

Back in our primal, hunter-gatherer days, things were a little bit different…

Food was scarce. It wasn’t so easy to come by.

It wasn’t the same readily available and ridiculously abundant commodity that it is today.

And when our primal ancestors happened to run down some game or stumble upon some wild berries, they didn’t dare say no.

Their choice was simple: eat or die of hunger.

They weren’t thinking in terms of longevity or ‘good health’. They were thinking in terms of survival.

Everything was about survival.

And it still is. The survival mode gene has been passed down through generations and has become an intricate component of who we are.

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Fast forward millions of years later where food is abundant and readily available.

It is simply always there.

Quick fact: the average person (in North America and Europe) wastes about 209 to 253 pounds of food per person every year [source]. (Just imagine if this food was distributed to the starving populations around the world…but that’s another topic).

Here’s the issue…

Although our biological design hasn’t changed much, our environment has.

Big time!

The environment we have created four ourselves is toxic. It is ill-suited for the design of our bodies.

And it creates a very disturbing and self-perpetuating problem:

We are creating and promoting an environment that is slowly killing us.

But let’s back up a second.

What exactly happens when there is food placed in front of us?

As you can guess, we have the exact same psychological make up when presented with food that we had millions of years ago.

Only now food is available all the time. It’s insanely abundant. And, worst of all, it’s insanely low on quality.

Our bodies are simply not designed to use them as fuel. And definitely not in the quantities that are provided to us.

The foods (if you want to even call them that) we come by today are not the same foods we came by in our hunter-gatherer days.

Not even close.

Today, we are constantly presented with highly processed, highly engineered, sugar-and-carb-loaded, nutritionally depleted foods that are wreaking havoc on our metabolic systems and making it extremely difficult for us to achieve optimal weight and optimal health.

Yet we still find it extremely difficult to say no to this food! Even when we know that it’s not doing us any good, we can’t resist it.

We are still eating as much of it as we want (or as much of it that is presented to us). Not because we necessarily want to, but because we’re biologically driven to.

You can see where the problem lies.

Everything is still about survival for us.

And when food is presented to us, we don’t dare say no to our natural instinct of wanting to eat it. Saying no to food is essentially your body and mind rebelling against the powers of mother nature.

Our bodies are still under the impression that a famine could hit at any point in time and this food we see can mean the difference between surviving through the famine or not.

So where does will-power fit into all of this?

That’s a good question and one that’s difficult to answer.

However, from my experience, I have found that it takes some serious work and practice to turn down the wrong foods (especially in scenarios where options are limited).

I have put in some serious dedication to be able to create very strong, negative images of certain foods in my head to be able to readily avoid them, even when no other options present themselves.

We all have our ways of developing our will power, but there’s actually an easier way.

I’ve found a light at the end of this tunnel (sort of).

We can use this biological principal to our advantage.

How?

We change our environment.

Completely re-vamp it.

If we simply change our environment (or at least our immediate surroundings – that of which we can control), we give ourselves a huge opportunity to make much better food choices.

The thing is (for the most part), it doesn’t really matter what foods you put in front of yourself, you will biologically be driven to eat them (there are always exceptions of course).

And you have the power to choose what to put in front of yourself and your family.

Your (Simple) Task:

Remove all carb-heavy, highly-processed, highly-sugar-induced, junk-loaded, and nutritionally depleted foods from your immediate surroundings.

You’ll find that, with time, you will not be tempted to eat them.

Surround yourself with healthier food choices and make use of the biological factors that subconsciously drive so many of your decisions.

To build a better body, we first need to change our environment.

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Do you find yourself always driven to eat what’s in front of you, even when you’re trying to ‘eat healthy’? Is your willpower strong enough to overpower biological drivers? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

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Comments

  1. Srdjan, I give in to my inner Hunter/Gather at least once a week with a cheat day. It keeps the cravings at bay. But you’ve hit the topic right on the nail…today, we have an abundant amount of food, yet it’s low in quality. Not a good situation at all. So, now while we’re faced with the ability to eat more we aren’t getting quality nutrients. And it’s such a widespread problem. We’re a smart species. Too bad we put ourselves in this predicament.

    Mitch

    • Hey Mitch – I find value in cheat days as well, only I structure them a little differently. I try to follow the 80/20 rule and give myself some room for error throughout the week instead of batching it all off on one day. I find it works best for me.

      It really is unfortunate that we put ourselves in this predicament, but it’s ironically the same thing that has helped bring the population to what it is today. There’s more of us, but we’re the most unhealthy we’ve ever been because of it.

  2. Srdjan,

    In an attempt to “revamp” my surroundings, I’ve removed pretty much all breads, cereals, grains, and sweets from my house. I’ve been doing this for a while now and this helps a lot when I’m eating at home. Eating out is still a constant challenge, though.

    Alykhan

    • Hey Alykhan, I think we’re on the same boat man. I’m getting better at it with time and practice, but making good choices outside of my household is always tough. Like I mentioned to Mitch above, for me it’s all about sticking to the 80/20 rule.

      I find that if I’m eating out, as long as I stay away from the major culprits – breads, pastas, potatoes, rice, fried foods – I’m safe!

  3. David Cano Riesgo says:

    Hi Srdjan,

    Really interesting post!

    I’ve been some time following your change of surrounding advice, so I always open my fridge looking for chocolate but I am lucky and… There isn’t.

    On the other hand, I find specially difficult (maybe due to my Spanish idiosyncrasy lol) to say no when in social events, meeting friends, going out, restaurants and picnics with other people, where the surrounding is not always under control (or under your control). At least I found my way to reduce alcohol-related social events and those depending on work (like having lunch in the office… taking my own food instead of eating out).

    I have a question that has come to my mind when reading Mitch’s comment about the “cheat day”. I am frequently coming across some posts describing the benefits of the opposite behavior, instead of a cheat day, a fast day (no food). What is your opinion about it? You always read that such thing is not good as may force your body to think of a famine and save fat but some opinions say that the fat consumption increases to the detriment of carbs (specially Paleo-diet related posts) … so I am puzzled 

    Wish you an awesome weekend :-)

    Cheers
    David.

    • Hey David, you bring up a great point about social events. It’s really important to find that balance between following social ideals and making healthy food choices (especially in countries where social ideals are important). I don’t think it’s necessary to sacrifice your social life for the sake of your health, but if it is, then I would do it. Your health should always be of primary concern and if those in your social circle can’t accept that then perhaps you need to find a more positive and supportive circle of friends. You seem like you’re doing a great job of controlling what you CAN control and that is really all you can ask for! Keep it up!

      As for the fasting question, I think regular (and sporadic) fasts can definitely be useful in today’s toxic environment. I use them for myself to balance out my fed and fasted states. Fasting has a boat load of benefits – which you can read about here – and actually improve your body’s ability to metabolize fat as fuel (instead of sugar). It’s great for stabilizing insulin and leptin hormones and boosts production of growth hormone as well (which are all great for fat loss). Really, it always comes down to hormone regulation and fasting is a great way to minimize the secretion of those two major hormones.

      Hope that makes sense. Feel free to throw any other question in.

  4. Great post. I definitely relate. I love to eat hence why I have weight to lose. I normally allow my self the foods that I shouldn’t eat on a cheat day (reward my self). I remember when I stopped eating the bad foods on a regular bases I had severe headaches that is not a good sign. So now I eat them very seldom but still allow my self to so I don’t go crazy.

    • Hey Harry, when you stop eating the bad foods (i.e. grains, sugars, starches), your body starts transitioning from a sugar-burning state to a fat-burning state which is exactly what you want. This transition, however, does take some time to adapt to and it comes with certain side effects like headaches. Usually these all go away within 30 days once you become fat-adapted and stop relying on sugar for fuel. But I know what you mean about going crazy – it takes some discipline for sure :)

  5. I’m with you! When I go to a party it is eat what I want or eat nothing. No in between. If I am staying on my program I usually choose the eat nothing option.

    It is like the Lays Potato Chip commercial. “Bet you cant eat just one!” That has always been true for me. So I choose not to eat any!

    • It’s very true Bob – commercials definitely play off of our psychological wiring. I bet the people working at Lays know that once the chips are in front of you (and especially after you taste one), there’s no way you can resist! That’s why they’re paid the big bucks lol

  6. Jeff Blackwell says:

    Thanks to you and your posts I know what foods/drinks to stay away from. What are some of the best foods/drinks to place in my environment? I think I know some of the obvious ones. I need to lose about 30 more pounds. It’s very difficult knowning what to eat & drink and how much. I’m trying.

    • Hey Jeff, that’s a good question (and one I’ll be answering over the next few posts hopefully). You want to surround yourself with foods that your body is designed to use as fuel – healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein are best (free-range, organic meats, varieties of fish – even canned sardines and tuna, lots of fresh, fibrous vegetables, nuts and seeds, organic cheeses, butters – even almond butter, etc.)

      The beautiful thing is that you can eat as much of these foods as you want (not restriction except for protein – it’s important to moderate that to keep insulin levels at bay) or as you need to feel satiated.

      Eating these kinds of foods and eliminating grains and sugars (and especially sugary drinks) turn your body to fat-burning mode.

      It’s all about finding what works best for your body Jeff. Keep working. Results WILL follow!

  7. This is precisely why I dont keep junk food in my house! It will be gone instantly…Keeping food in front of your face and in your house is dangerous.

    I make it hard for me to access unhealthy food. That way even when I am craving something I can’t get it easily!

  8. Kevin Ashe says:

    Hello Srdjan, I love prehistory stuff. Many times human groups did starve to death.
    Also a diet of animals does seem unhealthy to me but Western Siberian nomads survive on this today. Perhaps because they don’t live a sedentary lifestyle.
    Junk foods are always there if I choose. I have the emotional confusion that food will solve a problem. This never works. Instead I strive to find better ways to handle problems like exercise.

  9. Hey Kevin, there were definitely human groups that starved to death, but that was the nature of prehistoric times. Organic, free-range animal meats are crucial to getting all the essential nutrients your body needs.

    I know a lot of people use food as a tool to conquer emotional stress. I think you’re definitely right in that there are much better ways to do this – like exercise and stress-relieving activities like meditation.

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