My friend doesn’t like nor eat junk food and fried foods. It does not beckon her. However, there’s a theory which states that you ought to eat moderate portions of somewhat shitty food or else you will deprive yourself and end up bingeing.
So should my friend reintroduce junk and fried foods into her life in order to have small portions of junk in her diet and not binge, as the theory suggests?
The Appetite and The Average Western Diet
Researchers believe that if you feel a craving for a certain food, it is because you eat that food regularly. Your gut environment — or your gut microbiota — actually develops as a result of what you eat. You create an ecosystem for that bacteria with your diet, and in doing so, you become driven to continue eating the way that accommodates it the best.
If researchers are right, this is both good and bad news. Chronic junk food eaters will continue craving junk as long as they’re eating it, and it may even take some time for them to rid their guts of the microbes that keep them wanting it.
But the good news is, if you’re like my friend, and you pack your diet with nutrition, you’ll crave more of that instead.
Aside from the gut-microbe research, you don’t even have to see a study to know how acquired taste works. In psychology there’s a thing called the “mere exposure effect” which states that the more you’re exposed to something, the more familiar it becomes, and the more you like it. Exposure leads to affinity.
My friend’s favorite foods don’t sound appetizing to most people who eat a westernized diet. They don’t expose themselves to her favorite meals. But she still craves them. When she visits other people who don’t eat the same things, she actually misses and thinks about her usual food.
Health Food Junkie Problems
She looks forward to the type of things she eats on a daily basis, but since those things aren’t what the average American craves she’s somewhat alienated. She can’t tell her friends about delicious salads, chicken, or the fish she bakes on weekends. And they make fun of her when she talks about protein powder being one of her favorite snacks, and crudités being go-to at parties.
My friend gets a lot of crap from people because she doesn’t have a desire for candy, chips, or any of the sort. But she does treat herself almost daily to nuts, nut butters, and very dark chocolate. She feels completely satisfied with these things, and contrary to the way most people think, they don’t leave her feeling deprived.
When people offer her Halloween candy or breakfast pastries, she says no without feeling like a martyr because there’s nothing inside of her that would make her want it.
It’s not that my friend has loads of self discipline. (She doesn’t think she does.) It’s just that she’s gone so long without high sugar treats that they no longer make her feel compelled to want it. And if she knows that a food doesn’t do her any favors, she simply doesn’t seek it out or pay money for it.
Remembering the Past Without Repeating it
Years ago, my friend experienced what it was like to go overboard on that stuff and it took her a while, but she weaned herself away from it, and eventually lost a taste for it. (Ironically she binged on exactly what people tell you to eat moderate amounts of in order to avoid a binge.)
Part of the reason she’d rather not indulge in those things is because it disgusts her. She’d prefer to steer clear of her former body and the addictive feelings she used to have when consuming those things.
So back to the original question: What should my friend do about that theory intended to guilt her into eating junk she doesn’t even care for? In essence, it states that she has an eating disorder because her thinking is “black and white” and that she’s setting herself up for a binge.
She and I discussed it for a while, and I asked her for a one-sentence reaction to that theory. Her response? “That was probably made up by a 35-year old who felt guilty for eating like a 5-year old.”
My friend is not a liar and I know how she eats. Sometimes she has big meals, sometimes she has small meals, but she never feels out of control, nor does she feel like the way she eats is burdensome or hyper-restrictive. So the theory is flawed. Avoiding junk food doesn’t make her binge.
And I’m betting there are a lot of people like my friend. I’m one of them. So is my husband. She’s not an anomaly.
Do What Works
We’re not saying it’s not possible for you to do really well having moderate amounts of shit food. Weight Watchers takes that approach, it has a massive following, it’s been around for decades, and there are a bazillion other diets like it. So if that approach works for you, knock yourself out. But before you disparage anyone opting out of it, ask yourself this:
Is it really better to have moderate portions of sugary, high fat foods that lack any semblance of nutrition if you can achieve the same satisfaction with something that has more health benefits?
I don’t know about you, but I like health benefits. So I’m with my friend. Her eating is nutritious. Her energy is up. She looks fantastic. She exercises as hard as she wants. And she doesn’t feel deprived.
She has acquired a taste for higher quality food, things which help her achieve the body she wants (while maintaining the food preferences she wants to hold on to).
You can call that an eating disorder if you like. But I call it common sense.