The 5 Food instincts - how can they help us to keep a healthy weight?
A 17 years long survey by Dr. Roberts at a research lab at Tufts University in Boston showed that there are five main issues that affect our eating habits:
2. Availability of food
3. Variation in our food
4. Familiarity with our food
5. Calorie richness in our food
It is almost impossible to avoid these five instincts. But if we understand the signals that generate them, we can make those 5 instincts work for us. Below we will look at them one by one.
The solution is to accept that we must satisfy our hunger. Stop fighting it. We love to feel full! Research has shown that there is no magic formula for our macronutrient balance. High in carbohydrates, low in carbohydrates, fat or protein rich – when you are hungry, your body simply wants food and is not picky with the choices!
But, just eating anything in sight would not be very cleaver, so what is the answer?
Checking the signals our brain receives from our body is the key to let our instincts work for us, including the feeling of hunger. There are several ways in which our body can get a signal that we have eaten enough without overeating and to make sure we don’t get an excess of calories into our diet.
The following are four effective ways to deal with hunger:
EAT PLENTY OF FIBRE
INCLUDE ENOUGH PROTEIN IN OUR DIET
USE LOW GLYCEMIC FOOD CARBS
EAT SUFFICIENT QUANTITY / VOLUME
It is very important to understand that in order to satisfy our hunger we must make use of all these four ways, not just a selection of them.
It is well known that eating enough fibre will give a full feeling.
Fibre also helps regulate your bowel movement. Therefore, we should eat foods rich in fibre like whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit during most of our meals. Further, make sure that you have enough fluid intake, 6 / 8 glasses a day. This fluid is absorbed by the fibres and provides the feeling of a full stomach. It also helps against constipation. Fibres are not digested in your stomach and bowels but mainly help transport the rest of the food through your stomach intestinal system. Eventually they follow the natural way and end up in the toilet. The problem is that a steady diet of just low glycemic food will almost always challenge you to sin. Eaten by themselves, low glycemic foods are not so tasty, so because they are less satisfying, we need to teach out brains to like them. The good thing is that because of the lesser taste, they are not addictive. To make it easier and increase the flavour, you can combine them with slightly higher glycemic foods. We seems to instinctively long for (faster) carbohydrates,so any drastically disciplined plan that will leave no room for some quick carbs (in a healthy shape) will eventually feel fundamentally unsatisfactory and is bound to fail.
2. AVAILABILITY This is very clear: if there is food available we're programmed to eat! This instinct existed for thousands of years and was crucial to our survival. The most successful survivors were those who ate when food was available. But nowadays food is readily available at all times so it is up to us to avoid what seduces us. A second good habit is to make sure your home does no have unhealthy foods lying around so go out and only buy what is good for you. If you don’t have it in the house, you don’t eat it! Also, avoid doing shopping on an empty stomach, this way you avoid impulse purchases. If the one time you really crave a pizza, go and buy that pizza only, but don’t make it a habit.
4 FAMILIARITY AND HABIT:
We are also programmed to eat varied. Again, this was a way of survival in the past: because no single food has all the nutrients we need, it was essential for us to eat different foods to stay healthy and survive. So variation instinctively feels good.
The same is true for the type of food we eat. You can make it a habit to eat healthy but just as easily to drink Coke, and eat fries, hamburgers and candies.
People love food that is familiar to them. Instinctively, we are attracted by what we know. We humans always had this instinct that helped us survive: our ancestors prevented poisoning themselves by not eating foods they did not recognize or were familiar with. What a farmer doesn’t know, a farmer doesn’t eat – this old saying is simply true!
So habit is good, but nothing prevents us form changing habits: start eating healthy foods and at regular times. Soon you'll get used to eating that way and will prefer it because you’ll start feeling better. Learn to love what is good for you and make that your new habit and familiarity. You'll come to appreciate it.
The use of regular meals and snacks to satisfy our hunger and keep it under control is perfectly consistent with the fourth instinct. We could just as easily make a habit of skipping breakfast, snack all DAY and stuff ourselves in the evening, but that would not help to control what we eat.
3 CALORIE DENSITY
Stay away from concentrated foods! It is a proven fact that by eating only whole, unprocessed food, you eat less.
Almost everyone loves a calorie-rich food, but does it mean that we are instinctively attracted to those crammed calories? You bet yes!
This can again be traced back to ancient times: during the development of mankind, the next time you could eat a proper meal was an unpredictable event so calories rich food was an asset! You found it, you ate it and you liked it!
Macronutrients do not matter, in fact the most favourite food sources are combinations of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Our strongest preference for food has protein and fat with white and easy to digest carbohydrates to finish it off!
To try to completely avoid these foods is not a good idea. That will not work over time. The key is to recognize the dangers and not exaggerate. A treat can be positive, because it tends to remove the feel sin from our system. It helps us to sit back and enjoy it and then return to healthy eating for most of the time. It works for us on holidays: we eat anything we like for a day and we go back to normal healthy eating the next day. Going back to healthy eating quickly is the key of course!
A very good habit would be to only put on the table the food that you want to eat each time. If you eventually want more, you will have to get up and get it as it is not readily available. That will make you think about it and often you will realise you had enough or you simply have to stop if you want to stick to your plan.
The fourth and final way to deal with hunger is VOLUME. This method of controlling our appetite relies on the fact that volume, and therewith the feeling of fullness, is stronger than just eating lots of calories. How this works exactly is not certain, but it probably has to do with the mechanism of stretch receptors in our stomach or just our sense of the correct amount of food. As long as our food is a considerable quantity, it does not matter where most of the calories come from. The belly simply should feel full.
Good volume features include: high fibre cereal with skimmed milk, soup with big chunks of meet or vegetables that will digest slower, large portion of salads with a toping of something of substance, such as chicken, fish, seeds or nuts. Also food that needs to be chewed on longer is good, chewing helps you feeling full and satisfied.
And remember! Do not use just one or two ways to fight the hunger instinct, use all four (fibre, protein, low GI and volume) to ensure that every meal or snack you eat leaves you feeling full and saturates. And this without an excessive amount of calories!
Handling our hunger instinct properly is very important as this is the basis of our eating habits and will help you dealing with the other 4 issues that influence eating habits, described below:
Foods rich in protein, like fish, meat and dairy products digest slowly in stomach and intestinal system. Therefore they give a prolonged feeling of satiation and ensure that your blood sugar levels are not very volatile - this in contrast to many easily digestible simple carbohydrate products in our food that quickly travel to our blood and highly interfere with our blood sugar levels. Protein digests in hours not in minutes! In addition, it costs relatively much energy to digest protein. Processing it takes our bodies roughly 30% of the energy delivered by the protein. This is a much higher percentage than is used for the digestion of carbohydrates or fats.
It is recommended to eat protein in combination with green vegetables or salads. The problem with high protein diets is that they become quickly boring. The temptation to go wrong will get bigger and bigger over time so, to stay ahead of that risk, eat protein together with other types of foods to create variation.
LOW GLYCEMIC FOOD (such as brown bread and vegetables) causes only slight changes in our blood sugar level and is also a good way to check our caloric intake. Low glycemic foods have proven to suppress our appetite in the long run. The more stable our blood sugar remains by getting a constant flow of glucose due to the digestion of food sources, the more our brain will get a signal that we don’t need to eat again yet. The problem is that the glycemic index of food can be difficult to interpret. What we would suggest is to eat unrefined, whole grain, not too finely ground, fresh un-boiled or acid food that is almost always low glycemic food.
Following all the above rules will make it work for you. You can believe us or simply try it for yourself in practice. Controlling your food instincts is more important than desperately counting calories or starting on extreme low fat or low-carb diets!
So to answer on both instincts is to replace unhealthy foods with healthy food. A wide variety of junk food makes you very likely fat but a house full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, seeds and nuts will help you to become or remain slim and fit.
As with the other instincts can we can make it work for us. Too much variation provides overeating. According to research, even fish and other wild animals eat more when offered a wide variation. Study after study shows that the amount of variation has a large effect on the amount we eat.
This instinct is closely related to the availability instinct. The difference is that availability is related to quantity and range of variation. The key is to understand that both instincts play a role.
Not surprisingly, the solutions are very similar. Variation may be good, if the correct variety. Eating large quantities of calorie rich food makes us heavier, but eating a variety of vegetables two or three times a day gives us enough volume, but also leads to a reduction in calories we get in.