Good food isn’t a sacrifice.
One of the greatest public health crises in history has gone unnoticed for far too long. The Vigilante is about to blow the lid off this thing: We are getting fat, and it’s making us sick. Let that shock wear off for a second. In case of diabetic shock, have a cookie and read on.
Of all the factors contributing to our fatness – sedentary lifestyles, corn subsidies resulting in artificially cheap high-calorie/low-nutrient food, the fact that gay couples can now get married and “let themselves go” like straight couples – the one with the greatest impact is probably what we are putting into our mouth holes just because it tastes good. And we have created some mind-blowingly great tasting almost-food items to put in our mouths and store in our bellies.
Why is this unsatisfying and unnecessarily fattening food so universally attractive, and why do we make it?
Flavor is not a definite property of anything. There’s no part of a food you can point to and say: “This is the flavor.” It’s just the result of a series of electrical signals in your nervous system prompted by the presence of certain chemicals around some wet and stinky sensory orifices.1 Basically, your nose and mouth send signals to your brain about what’s near them, and your brain plugs them into some mysterious equation to decide: “Should I put more of that thing into that hole?”2 If the answer is yes, then the flavor is good, and you’ll want to put more of that thing inside yourself.
This equation has so many complex variables that it’s not yet possible to measure flavor. Plus, the variables can interact differently for Bill and Bob – and for Bill on Monday and Bill on Tuesday. Think about it: Our expectations can influence flavor. Priming can make either a positive or negative reaction more likely, like when hearing an onomatopoetic word such as “crispy” evokes the sense of eating that type of food. For example, remembering the positive feelings you had while eating chips and salsa before can make you more likely to enjoy chips and salsa now.3 Our prior diets can also influence flavor. The mere exposure effect can make us more likely to enjoy a thing than we did the last time we had it, only because we previously had it. And the effect grows each time we are exposed to that thing.
But perhaps the variable with the single greatest influence over us is evolutionary pressure. It’s a widely accepted theory that the reason we experience flavor at all is to encourage us to eat the right things to support our crazy energy use as an organism. I believe it – it is logically sound and is supported by volumes upon volumes of scientific research which claim that the greater the experience of flavor, the greater the drive to achieve it again, and the greater the experience of flavor again, in turn. But this feedback loop isn’t proven to be the origin and purpose of flavor, in the same sense that it’s not proven that The Bachelorette serves as a harbinger of the end of the world. But some things really are just self-evident.
This variable’s huge influence on flavor is why every time I drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on something that I’m about to eat, I ponder evolution. Now that’s two tonnes of pondering per day, since I put olive oil on everything – bacon arugula omelets, Swiss chard and lentil stew, zucchini casserole, potato/beet/kale chips…I’d put olive oil on my olive oil if I could. That’s right – there’s so much olive oil-inspired pondering that it makes a true American hero go metric. [Insert some space-time mumbo-jumbo to justify that theory.]
Ok, quite beating around the bush, Vigilante. Why is olive oil so goddamn good? And what does evolution have to do with it? And when can I have a bacon arugula omelet?
Simply put, we evolved to appreciate certain flavors. Take two cavemen, Broot and Croot, in the same tribe of hunter-gatherers. Broot loves olive oil; Croot, not so much. Broot devours the stuff. When eggs and pigs are plentiful, he makes a lot of bacon arugula omelets. Since Broot was my ancestor,4 he loves to add olive oil to his omelet. Croot has a drive to eat the eggs and pigs, but not the additional oil. Croot’s omelets are not only stuck to the pan, but they also contain less fat and fewer calories.
Broot and Croot have been born at a period in evolutionary history when humans have a pretty refined palate, so they have a drive to eat, generally, foods that are good for humans. Both have a pretty fair chance at survival – and making other use of orifices to make Baby Broots and Croots – while food is plentiful. But all other things equal, Broot has a slightly better chance at survival and making boom-boom.
Aside from the other benefits of olive oil, which certainly played a role in it becoming a staple in humanity’s collective diet, the stuff is literally and figuratively dripping with calories. Precious, elusive,5 life-giving calories. Broot didn’t need to know the science to experience the benefit of having the extra calories for his immune system function, his physical prowess,6 and his fat stores for when times weren’t so good. All of these benefits made the consumption of olive oil – and therefore the enjoyment of its flavor – a slight survival advantage.
Given millions of years of Broots and Croots choosing which foods to eat, and Broots always having the survival advantage, more humans who loved fat lived to adulthood and reproduced. And thus, the human race came to love fats, out of necessity.7
Therefore, we don’t like things because they taste good. Things taste good because we like them.
So we’re programmed by scarcity of food to love high calorie foods. But now there’s a drive-through offering fried chicken in a serving size called “bucket.” Uh oh.
Our DNA encourages us, through flavor, to take in those high calorie foods when we have the chance. We crave them. The positive reaction we have to flavor is one of our strongest and most universal drives. This was beneficial for nearly every single human generation that ever existed, as food scarcity has plagued humanity for its entire existence – until now.
Now, food is abundant for most of the world’s population, and could easily be abundant everywhere. Food scarcity is a myth; food distribution is a challenge due to some ignorant world leaders who fail to adopt free market, Vigilante-style economics. (Cautionary note: Pay no attention to the “addressing hunger” section at the end of that food scarcity page. It’s hippie-dippie nonsense straight from the have a heart fallacy.) The combination of abundance and Broot DNA has been making us eat like giant, hyperactive, genetically-mutated-to-have-multiple-stomachs pigs, causing obesity to rise way faster than could possibly be explained by further changes in our genes.
Luckily, we have a say in the matter. We decide what to eat!
If you’ve been wondering where the usual insensitive/politically incorrect/deal-with-it mentality has been, The Vigilante’s about to make it worth the wait.
There are two kinds of fat people: the angry and the jolly.8 Yes, we will refer to our overweight counterparts as “fat” today, because we aren’t concerned with feelings here as much as we are with education. Education requires attention, and nothing gets attention like shunning the political correctness fallacy just to generate anger.
The angry are bitter about their fatness. The jolly feel no bitterness: They know they can change, but they choose not to and have no qualms about it. I completely disagree with the cost/benefit analysis of the jolly fat people, but hey, if you truly value simulated flavor over extra years, better health, and more satisfying natural flavors, you do you, brother. This post is for the angry fat people.
Angry fat people often resent thinner people. This is because angry fat people believe “it” is someone else’s fault. What is someone else’s fault depends on who you ask: “It” could be how they got fat, why they can’t not be fat, why they are treated so unfairly, why it’s too late for them, or any number of other things. Angry fat people might read about evolution and assume it’s a justification for being fat- they can’t help but eat all the great tasting almost-food. But angry fat people have been willfully ignorant of one fact, until now: That obesity is almost never caused by anything but the person who is obese.9
Obesity won’t be beaten by pandering to angry fat people any more than hunger will be beaten by asking African warlords nicely to adopt Vigilante economics and stop stealing profits from the poor and downtrodden who are suffering under their rule. Ending obesity requires education. Education that we can use evolutionary preferences to our advantage, even when food is abundant and bad food is cheap.
What should we eat?
We can eat in accordance with our evolutionary desires without getting fat or poor. Consuming natural food satisfies us more than blindly chasing calories, if we don’t bother becoming addicted to the high of the near-foods in the first place. And it is an addiction, via hedonic adaptation.10 If you’re already addicted, the hardest part is the start. Eating healthy becomes the same kind of positive feedback loop that eating poorly was before.
Without addiction, we actually feel better after consuming healthy greens, fruits, oils, and nuts than we do after consuming a bucket of fried chicken. Also, the flavor of olive oil becomes highly preferable to the flavor of KFC. I speak from experience on that one. Anecdotal evidence at best, but if I want to “win” an argument about it with an angry fat person, all I have to do is wait ’em out. Statistically, they’re basically dead already.
Preparing these foods at home turns out to be cheaper than buying fast food and other “cheap” high-calorie options, as well. You can buy a Big Mac, fries, and deathwater for $5.69 a pop, taking time out of your day to drive to the nearest fast food joint just to satisfy your hunger for an hour before addiction kicks in. Or you can by $5.69 worth of tomatoes and pasta, and mix them with the negligible cost of water from your faucet, electricity/gas to power a burner on your stove, thyme and oregano grown on your windowsill, and 5 minutes of preparation in the comfort of your own home, and you can eat for days.
As a guideline to help you, The Vigilante has prepared a nice little list of things to consider before you fill your orifices:
- Shop on the outside of the supermarket, not the middle isles. Most of the good stuff is subject to pests precisely because it is good stuff, so the supermarket has to protect it with the cool temperatures of the fresh food isle.
- Eat things that existed before the companies that fill the middle isles with junk. You want things that humans evolved on, not near-food items formulated to take advantage of the addictive cycle of some minor ingredient in the natural foods we evolved on.
- Don’t eat anything with a sweetener listed in the top three ingredients. Hell, try to eat things that don’t have three ingredients.
- Don’t drink anything that you could eat. This is how you avoid fruit and vegetable juices with added sugars. If you want them, juice them at home, or else do some research to find those rare products that don’t contain additives to encourage you to buy more.
- Stop eating before you feel full. Your brain needs time to fully recognize how much food you’ve downed.11
- Cook your own food. Prepare it in advance. Pack a lunch to work, leave leftovers in the fridge for the week. But always cook it yourself.
Normies think that eating healthy means “giving up” the good flavors we’ve evolved to enjoy. But Normies and their “dieting” culture have it wrong. By shunning things we weren’t built to eat, we actually gain better flavors and more satisfying meals. We get longer, healthier lives, to boot. As with most good decisions in life, eating healthy is not a sacrifice, so don’t treat it like one. You evolved a rational brain, too – use it.
- There’s going to be a little bit of subtle sexual innuendo throughout this post, and I apologize. It’s unintentional. And probably unavoidable when using the word “orifice” repeatedly.
- See what I mean?
- Priming is also the reason that now, every time I say “orifice” or mention putting things in other things, you think it’s dirty. Proof of concept: Complete.
- I might be confusing cause and effect here.
- I’m assuming…I mean, he was my ancestor.
- This is not entirely accurate. Our ancestors probably loved healthy fats long before they were actual homo sapiens. But the idea applies uniformly across species, and a story about rodents eating omelets didn’t make a lot of sense.
- There’s also a “big is beautiful” type, but really it can be either of these two categories. Some are angry and hiding it in a mask of “I’m fine just the way I am,” but some are genuinely fine with the risks and have a healthy self-worth. I’m pretending they don’t exist for the moment, because our choice to change or not is irrelevant to whether we have the ability to change or not.
- I say “almost never” to make allowance for those who have rare glandular disorders that cause their bodies to store unusual amounts of the calories they take in. Also for those who are force-fed after being sewn ass-to-mouth with perfect strangers in a disgusting movie I regret wasting my time with.
- Also via literal addiction patterns, although these videos tend to be a little alarmist for my taste at times.
- I’ll admit, I am terrible with this one. My parents raised me to clear my plate, and my middle school gave me a grand total of 20 minutes to wait in line, buy food, find a seat, eat, and clean up, so I’m used to eating lot of food fast. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m getting there.