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Only when our appetites are under our control can we begin to see the flaws in our perception of food, society and the cultural norms that reinforce these flaws. We also begin to see the many ways we chose to lie to ourselves and rationalize certain behaviors.

Like a drunk person watching a video of themselves and reacting with “Wow, was that really me? I don’t remember urinating in the kitchen sink!” — Here are some flaws in our thinking that are all too human.

The Fat Lion

For most of my life I ate Breakfast Lunch and Dinner as if there was no other choice. Eating on a schedule was a given, it was never questioned. For others it was the same. It was common to hear phrases like “Oh I was in such a hurry this morning I skipped breakfast, I need a big lunch to make up for it.” Or “It’s really late, I don’t want to miss dinner”.

The phrase “skip a meal” sounds unusual to me now. Should this phrase exist?

Note a subtlety in the way we are built: the cow and other herbivores are subjected to much less randomness than the lion in their food intake; they eat steadily but need to work extremely hard in order to metabolize all these nutrients, spending several hours a day just eating The lion, on the other hand, needs to rely on more luck; it succeeds in a small percentage of the kills, less than 20 percent, but when it eats, it gets in a quick and easy way all these nutrients produced thanks to very hard and boring work by the prey.

So take the following principles derived from the random structure of the environment: when we are herbivores, we eat steadily; but when we are predators we eat more randomly. Hence our proteins need to be consumed randomly for statistical reasons.

From the book "Antifragile"Nassim Taleb

You’re not in a zoo where your meals are scheduled. Lions, if fed regularly, get fat. When you deprive your body you introduce a stressor and stressors, when allowed for adequate recovery, are good for us. From Brain rejuvenation to your body consuming it’s own old cells (Autophagy) that Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi won a Nobel prize for showing that a single day of not eating helps the clean up it’s own waste.

We get stronger and healthier to /randomness/ in food delivery and consumption; Deprivation in this sense is a stressor which is good for us.

To understand how the *types* of foods you eat help determine your appetite check out Philip Marais’ great article: Appetite Misunderstood 

The Salad and the Cheesecake

“I’ll have a cheesecake, what do you want?” — After eating dinner with friends you’ll often find yourself with everyone turned to you asking you if you also want something sweet seeing that the rest of the table ordered. Maybe they need you to join in the debauchery so that they feel better about themselves. “If I get a cake will you have half?” /

It seems that we want to fit in with the people we’re dining with. It goes against the expectation that people will exhibit variety-seeking behavior; we don’t want to be that different from others. Various studies have shown that this is the case as well —

At this intersection of peer pressure and loss of appetite control it’s easy to give in and self justify it that somehow you were doing the right thing socially. So basically, you put something into your body to make someone else feel better about themselves or to feel like you fit in? And yet we would condemn a teenager for smoking in order to be part of the “in crowd” — Written that way it sounds pretty ludicrous to me.

Either choose healthier friends or come to peace with standing by the conviction of your own decisions.

“Do you know that kids like you are starving in Africa”

“Finish the food on your plate”. “Waste not, want not!”
Many of us have grown up in a society or family construct where wasting food is seeing as something really bad. IF you ordered or dished food for yourself you should finish it completely.

I’ve seen parents in restaurants chastise their children for ordering too large a meal and forcing them to eat it, thinking they are doing the right thing. The irony is I’ve seen parents do this to an evidently overweight child.

This is another instinct that I suspect might be quite ancient. Seeing food being thrown away still sends a shudder through me. Why? — Have you ever stopped to ask why you need to finish your food? — Let’s say you dish 20% more for yourself than you need next time you’ll dish less. If you, however, ate it then the next time you’ll still dish the same and eat more. (This is also known as the Power of Compounding)

This compounding ability to consume more and more food results in larger portions and of course is a contributing factor to obesity. This infographic shows how portion sizes in Paris are 1/4 that of Philadelphia.

My wife, is a strong advocate of only eating how much you need to eat. She would often say on this topic “You are not a garbage can”. Perhaps it’s a good idea to listen to her.

“They are genetically talented” / “That sounds unhealthy!”

Finishing an Iron man. Running an Ultra Marathon. Winning a Body Building Competition. Fasting without food for 7 days.
The usual comment to this is “That must be unhealthy” or “That person is a born natural!” Or even perhaps self defeating “I guess it’s easier for them genetically to follow that diet than it is me”

This is of course from people who don’t have a single clue about the actual genetics involved in that process. Genetics seems to be the biggest scapegoat for not actually processing the information you see in front of you.

On the rare occasions I’ve spoken to people about my dietary practices and that I’ve mentioned I sometimes do 3 or 5 day prolonged fasts I get a similar reaction. “Wow that must be unhealthy”, In many cases the people that tell me this have also then in another breath told me that they are struggling with their own weight. Maybe there is something to learn here?

This applies to every aspect of our lives. If you add psychological distance to something you do not understand you will never understand it or accomplish it, and you will only reinforce that which you already believe. By believing something is out of your grasp you externalize your locus of control and prevent yourself from taking any action that could actually help you accomplish it.

A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable, painful and unglorious tasks look like from far away. If you meet someone who you think exemplifies something that you want then open your mind to learning how they did it

Hell, you could probably judge where you are in the stage of your own journey by how deeply this article resonates with you or how much psychological distance you give it.

We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.

From the book "Mindset, the new psychology of success" Carol Dweck

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