Deceiving ourselves so we can eat the foods we enjoy.
We love to eat crackers with cheese, peanut butter or just plain, but also know that they are basically equivalent to eating a classier version of chips. Made with white flour, oil, salt and sometimes sugar, they are in the category of junk food and contain no real nutrition.
So knowing this, we eat less of them. The cracker company’s sales drop and the marketers realize that if they just added a few healthy grains to the baked oil and salt square we eat, and then change the box so the word MULTIGRAIN is prominent next to a picture of some wheat, that we’ll start buying again.
These marketers realize that if they disguise their old product and make it look new and healthy, that we will be complicit in the deceit, fooling ourselves so that we can go back to eating what we love but feeling better about doing it.
It’s kind of like when your wife asks if that dress makes her look fat and you say, “of course it doesn’t!” She knows it does and she knows if she asks you that, that you will say no. And so she can go on thinking she’s slimmer than she is and therefore doesn’t have to address the problem. Both of you complicit in the deceit, so that you both can feel good.
Whether it’s a tight dress or fancy crackers, rationalizing is something we all do well. But it doesn’t help solve any of our problems, it just makes them worse.
What we need is to make ourselves more aware of what we’re doing.
SUBSTITUTE FOODS WE THINK ARE GOOD FOR US
Like the regular to multigrain crackers example above, here are some other foods we like to do this with:
- Sweet Potato Fries – Sweet potatoes have reached superfood status in recent years and so people are looking to replace the basic white potato with them. Although they may be somewhat healthier than white, it doesn’t carry over once they are turned into fries. Regular fries are a bit of potato with deep fried oil and salt. Sweet potato fries are a bit of sweet potatoes with deep fried oil and salt. Same difference. But hey, we get to eat fries and feel good about it.
- Whole Wheat Pasta – They say that because it’s “whole wheat” that it is much better than eating regular pasta but the glycemic index’s of the two are almost the same. That means they both spike insulin to about the same level. So if you really want to enjoy pasta as a treat, go all out with creamy sauce, garlic bread, and an Italian grandmother to make it for you.
- Vegetables in Desserts – Speaking of deceiving ourselves, remember that book written by Seinfeld’s wife Jessica called, “Deceptively Delicious?” It’s a recipe book full of desserts that have vegetables as some of the ingredients as a way to trick kids into eating vegetables. The problem is that kids had to shovel down like 6 cookies in order to get 1 whole serving of vegetables in them. Well, maybe one serving. Anyone see the problem with that (see the post on what healthy eating is)? Women ate this book up wanting to be good moms and you can’t blame them. We don’t generally have good conversations when it comes to diet and so how can they know?
WHY WE DO IT
– Knowledge is part of the reason. We are busy and not all of us have the time to think this stuff through so we turn to news and talk shows and either get wrong or incomplete information.
– Ideology is another part of the reason. To say that you are a Paleo King, or a Vegan or someone who never eats sugar means you belong to a large, broad community and that feels good. If our friends all have certain beliefs about food or eat a certain way may adopt them because we want to be accepted as part of that smaller and more intimate community.
– To eat food that is cheap. The cheapest foods are usually the junkiest and so it’s tempting to rationalize how healthy they are so you don’t have to stress about money. Completely understandable as money can be a constant source of stress.
– Convenience/Laziness. When we don’t have time to cook it’s easy to say that it’s fine to have pizza for dinner because it’s vegetarian and the crust is whole wheat. Or, if we’re too lazy to cook we do the same when we eat potato skins with cheese and bacon because the restaurant added 1/2 a teaspoon of organic kale powder to them.
COMFORT, PLEASURE AND ANXIETY – THE MAIN REASON
As mentioned, we rationalize our diet away so that we can eat foods we like. Foods that give us pleasure, relieve boredom and regulate our anxiety are all ways to make us feel better.
Behind almost all food choice problems and overeating lies an issue with your psychology.
Work on this (more to come in upcoming blog posts) and most of the other problems in your life either vanish or become much more manageable.
The dilemma here is that it can take years to change your psychology so until then your best bet is to manage your diet and that starts with AWARENESS of how you are deceiving yourself, controlling your insulin, educating yourself by reading this blog and making the whole process fun.
Remember, honesty and awareness in every situation… unless your wife asks you how she looks in that new dress. In that case, you’re on your own.