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The Complexities Surrounding the Simple Task of Eating

The problem with choice

Humans have been eating for over 2 million years, so you would think that we have got the hang of it by now, wouldn’t you?

Evidently not.

We no longer have to hunt our food down or go foraging in the wilderness for it.
The hardest thing we have to do for food now, is to run the gauntlet of the
supermarket aisles, battling it out with the other shopping trolleys in the wild west of Woolworths.
But, as a race we are fatter, slower and more diseased than ever.

We are overweight, snotty, scabby, gouty, crabby, gassy, creaky, over-tired, stressed, demented and diabetic with hormones which are all over the place and arteries that are all clogged up with crap.

In our fast paced world of convenience, modern advances in agriculture and commercial food production have meant that we now have a greater variety of “food” to choose from than ever before.  Our grandparent’s grandparents would not actually recognise many of the food products that we consume nowadays.

“Dr, I think we need to cut out the NADS!”

The reality is that we are not well adapted to digesting these newer foods, they can create all kinds of havoc in our bodies and increase our risk of developing one or more ‘diseases of modern civilisation’.

Dr Kurt Harris, an MD with an interest in nutrition and evolutionary biology, refers to these foods as “Neolithic agents of disease” or NADS.

The foods or NADS that cause us the most issues include:


  • Cereal grains: Particularly wheat but also corn, oats, rice, millet and barley especially when refined and manufactured into products like bread, crackers, cakes, pizza and pasta.
    Consumption of wheat and products created from refined grains have been linked to many modern diseases including obesity, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and mental illnesses.
  • Sugar: Sucrose is one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule but it is specifically the fructose that causes us the issues. Fructose can be found in products containing sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, fruit juice and maple syrup.
    Excess fructose has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, gout, high blood pressure and abnormal bacterial growth in the gut leading to inflammation.
  • Vegetable oils: Industrialised seed oils like canola, sunflower and soybean oil are high in omega 6.
    Excess omega-6 promotes inflammation in the body and has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and impaired leptin signalling.

All of these NADS are man-modified, highly refined and found in abundance in processed foods.  All promote systemic inflammation in our bodies and contribute to increasing our risk of various diseases.

…most of the dietary damage is due to industrial processing
amplifying the effect of things that have always been around and were never good for us in the first place…” – Dr Kurt Harris

The problem with conflicting information

The problem is that there is so much conflicting information about what to eat.
A large proportion of the Food Pyramid or My Plate is built on ‘healthy whole grains’ and food products derived from these like bread, pasta, cereals and rice.
Common nutritional advice includes statements like “everything in moderation” and “enjoy a variety of foods everyday” and the one that just keeps popping up “you should never cut out a whole food group.”
Eggs are good for us one minute then bad the next…no wait, hang on, they are good for us, but not too many and best to choose the free-range, pasteurised ones.
We need to reduce our fat, cholesterol and meat consumption. We should eat like the French because they are skinnier and have fewer heart attacks.
But, hang on! …Isn’t the French diet high in saturated fat?
How “paradoxical” or perhaps it is only our theory that saturated fats contribute to cardiovascular disease that is causing the perceived paradox.
So, we are left unsure as to whether we should be eating a diet that is low fat or low carb.
No wonder there is so much confusion!

There seems to be a million different diets about…

Paleo, Primal, vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, slow carb, low fat, candida, CSIRO, Mediterranean, low GI, Atkins, Raw Diet, Zone Diet, Detox Diet, Dukan diet, cabbage/soup/lemon/stand-on-your-head diet…
And that is before we consider the large multinational organisations that are trying to extract money from us with for their supplements, “super foods”, shakes, specialised foods, weigh-ins and nutritional advice (you know who I am talking about!)

The emotional and social aspect of eating

We eat when we are distracted, we eat to distract ourselves.  We eat because others are eating, we may accept food to be polite.
We eat out of habit, in terms of what we eat and when we eat it. We eat popcorn & junk food when we are watching movies and we eat chippies & souvlakis if we are having a few drinks.
We eat in front of the TV or while we are working at our desks in the office. I scoff my lunch in the car between calls on GP’s and if I am being honest, what I throw in the car in the morning does not even look like lunch. It is just a jumble of snacks that are easy to eat when I get the chance like tuna, nuts, carrots and jerky.

Food has become politicised, emotionalised, socialised and made into reality TV shows like ‘Biggest Loser’ and ‘Masterchef’.
It used as a reward for ourselves and small children for good behaviour or as a crutch when are tired or stressed and especially when we have had a bad day.
We are all very individual with the types of foods we find rewarding.
Eating certain foods can make us feel good, bad, happy or downright guilty. So much so, that some people can feel like they are held hostage to their food cravings and others can develop eating disorders.

French women think about good things to eat; American women typically worry about bad things to eat.” – Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don’t Get Fat

Food brings us together and it can also divide us. It defines us culturally and often cultural awareness can start with simply trying out a new type of food.

How many notable events are defined by eating?
As social beings we love to celebrate with food – birthdays, weddings, family reunions, Christmas, Easter, a BBQ on Australia Day, going out for dinner and drinks when you get that promotion at work or when catching up with friends.
It is important to us as well-balanced, happy beings that we have and maintain strong social networks and getting together for a meal is often a part of that.

In fact, it seems that we eat for almost every reason except function.

We might be confused about what to eat or be driven by cravings, circumstance and enjoyment or even just reduced to working a miracle with the limited contents of our fridge on the day before payday.

The influence that every single one of the above factors have on our choice of what we eat, cannot be understated.

But, no matter who we are, the language we speak or the religion we identify with, we all have to eat.
We all have to eat multiple times a day…every…single…day.

It makes sense that we should be mindful of what we are eating and the effect it can have on us, in both the short and the long term.

So, from a functional perspective, what should we be eating to fuel our bodies?
What should we be eating to stave off disease and optimise our health, performance and longevity?

Look out for my next blog post Duckie #2: Cut out the Crap for an explanation on why we should bother to cut out the NAD’s and processed foods that litter our homes, supermarkets, and urban environments and the benefits of doing so.
Then, Duckie #2: Eat Real Food for a run-down on what to replace those foods with in order to feel awesome and to maximise your health, performance and longevity.

What influences your eating habits from day to day?
Do you eat for function or for fun?

Feel free to leave any comments below and check out the Eat. Sleep. Move Facebook page and twitter for more regular updates.
And if you are wondering what duckies have to do with anything, check out my previous post on getting your weight loss ducks in a row.


References and Further Reading


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2 Responses to The Complexities Surrounding the Simple Task of Eating

  1. Kathy Monday 28 November, 2011 at 5:24 PM #

    Very interesting thought provoking post Crystal.
    When we eat out socially we eat with our eyes first -- we are tempted with all sorts of wonderful choices and it’s in our mouth before we even know it. Most all are refined or modified with hidden ingredients, over salted and sweetened.
    I have to admit when under stress I fall into the category of an emotional eater at times, eating when I’m not even hungry.
    Look forward to your next blog post!

    • Crystal Tuesday 29 November, 2011 at 9:52 PM #


      I totally agree about eating with our eyes…you might remember telling me when I was younger that “my eyes were bigger than my belly” when I complained about feeling sick after overeating!

      I think a lot of us (me included) fall back on edible treats to make ourselves feel better when we are tired and stressed.

      It does actually work, temporarily, to lift our dopamine levels and make us feel better. On the flip side though, it also puts us on a slippery slope and reduces our ability to cope with stress in the long term.
      And, because we tend to go for the highly rewarding, refined treats we then suffer the “hangover” and feel crappier than before!

      Definitely a vicious circle!