It sounds primitive, but our deepest instinct is to look for food and sex all day long. This happens subconsciously, of course, and is not an addiction. We have the desire to survive (food) and to reproduce (sex). In our ancestor’s environment, without much interference, this worked well. It only becomes an addiction when disruptive factors enter the playing field.
The new disruptors: media, unhealthy food, and alcohol
Our ancestors were not exposed to supernormal stimuli such as processed food, alcohol, and permissive media. They got their feelings of happiness (including dopamine and endorphin) from natural foods and ordinary sex. The disruptive factors release abnormally high levels of happiness, which can quickly lead to addiction. The problem with this, however, is that there is a tolerance threshold. Unhealthy food, alcohol, and a perceived overabundance of attractive people have become normal. It is socially acceptable.
Sex on every corner
A male ancestor was exposed to a dozen attractive women at most. Today, within one click, one is exposed to thousands of attractive people, especially women. This gives us the feeling of having a lot of choices. In a study conducted, men were shown pictures of very attractive women. They were then asked to rate the attractiveness of their wives. They were perceived and rated as less attractive after they were shown the pictures than before the pictures. It’s much the same with most of our food and alcohol these days.
Unhealthy food on every corner
It is a difficult endeavor these days to eat healthy in a society where drinking alcohol and celebrating joy with unhealthy food is considered good manners. Those who choose a healthy way of life will face a lot of headwinds. Especially from loving people. Why this is so, you will learn in the article “Why is eating healthy so difficult and what can you do about it?“.
What are addictive foods?
Anything that is highly processed and refined. This includes all flour products, sugar, oil, and alcohol. Whole food plant-based food like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and best for humans. These were the main food sources of our ancestors, with a small amount of lean meat.
What your personality has to do with a healthy life path
According to the Big Five personality model, if you don’t have a strong conscientiousness (describes the degree of self-control, accuracy, and purpose), it’s very hard to follow a healthy diet, not drink alcohol, and not fall into the Tinder pie in our modern environment. We are different and that is fine. However, one with a different personality finds it very difficult to eat healthy in our environment. Our personality is genetically determined and this determines how we react towards external stimuli (food, sex, and alcohol). It is not our environment that shapes our character. Also, the nervous system of some people, genetically determined, is much more sensitive to addictive foods.
You have to work harder on the environment than on yourself
Contrary to the current zeitgeist, in the case of unhealthy food, it means working harder on your environment than on yourself. Our brain is constantly doing a cost-benefit analysis. If you live across the street from a liquor store and are susceptible to alcohol, don’t try to consume alcohol in moderation, move! If you want to eat healthy or lose weight, then NONE of the processed foods should be in the house. After all, the question is not whether you eat the things you have in the house, but when. No discipline in this world will stop you. We try to moderate a problem (alcohol and junk food) or even get therapy for it, for something our primal brain was never designed for. Do you know anyone who locks themselves in their home for days on end and stuffs kilos of vegetables down their throat? It’s always processed food. Why have something at home that triggers you? You’re just making it harder on yourself than it already is. We are trying to heal something that is not “broken” or sick.
People suffer in vain. They think there is something wrong with them because they can’t resist unhealthy food or alcohol. It is a dilemma.
Keep the moderation
You can moderate in many areas of life, but you cannot moderate demonstrably addictive stimulants. No living thing in the world can do that, even animals can’t, and pets are the only overweight animals because of it. We are the only species that invented addictive foods and therefore the only one that can remove them from our immediate environment. This is the only sustainable and permanent solution if you are addicted to alcohol and want to eat healthy. No one is immune to it. Even if you are slim and drink alcohol only once in a while. Because if you were, you wouldn’t need the stuff only once in a while. So there is nothing wrong with you and the majority of us will always have a problem with alcohol and unhealthy food. But only as long as you don’t free your environment from it. You should readjust your “what-is-normal-parameter” for yourself. Your fellow men will not do it. Quite the opposite. Look around you. The supermarket is 90% filled with unhealthy stuff. It is normal to eat unhealthy and drink alcohol. It’s natural to normalize something because we’ve gotten used to it. We legitimize a latent addiction. This is not a personal accusation, because the majority of people are in this pleasure trap without knowing it. Because we are social creatures, the opinions of others are very important to us. It feels uncomfortable to be ridiculed or even ostracized when you choose a healthy way, without alcohol and processed foods. However, there are loving ways you can deal with those around you in this case. The bottom line on addiction: correct your environment, not yourself. This you can control, but not who you are, meaning your DNA.
If you need help with weight loss, binge eating, or healthy eating in general, feel free to schedule a consultation with me.
The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force That Undermines Health & Happiness
Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash