Why we need to go back to home cooking
Is there a conscious effort of food production and distribution companies to make us fat? You can bet on it. When we start looking into it, it is worse than we can imagine.
During the last 40 years, the number of people that are overweight has increased significantly. An estimated two-thirds of all U.S. adults over the age of 20 have a BMI index over 30. http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/publish/news/newsroom/6748 (The BMI is a measure of a person’s weight/height ratio that can be calculated at http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bminojs.htm). It is getting much worse: this percentage of people seriously overweight increased by 75% from 2000 to 2005.
Obviously it is not just a personal but a social problem. According to a major research by DA Cohen from the department of health, the most dramatic change in the last four decades is a greater accessibility of foods and a decline of the relative price of food. More important is the increase of money spent on food bought outside the home; from 24 % of food purchase in 1966 to 42% in 2006. People can control the amount of sugar and fat they use in their cooking, not in the snacks or restaurant dishes. Restaurant food is typically sweeter and more greasy. It is easier for the cook; oily food does stick to the pan. Sugar opens the appetite and it is therefore better for business, so there are a lot of hidden sugars: in salad dressings, in pizza tomato sauce, and to a lesser degree in any prepared dish. Worse are the non-perishable food sold in gas stations, convenience stores, office buildings and drugstores. This kind food is highly processed, high in sugar and has low nutritional value.
People are artificially stimulated to feel hungry by an unceasing flow of images of food, without being aware of it. The response of the brain to food images is the same as the response to images of drugs for drug addicts, with a lesser intensity. This response is automatic, not mediated by the consciousness. The variety of food offered has increased as well. Each year the food industry introduces more than 10 000 new products, offering minor changes in coloring and texture, but increasing the temptations to try something new. More than 65% of the items bought in the stores are unplanned purchases. Branding, a powerful marketing technique associates desirable qualities and characteristics to a specific product is more persuasive technique than we want to admit.
Unfortunately we have very little insight on how our environment influences our behavior. I became aware of it by chance. After I left my parent’s home, I spend two decades without TV. When I decided to buy one, I started watching a specific program, introduced by an add for a hot dog sold in a fast food outlet. I had never been fond of hot dogs, but after two weeks of TV commercials, I found out that I was craving to eat one. So, I bought one, just to be disappointed by the taste. Finally, when it comes to food many factors such as distraction, information overload, fatigue, stress, ambiance, play a more important role than rational decisions.
We cannot have sane reactions to food and eating, in this insane environment.
If we expect to resist temptations presented to us a hundred of times a week, we are deluding ourselves. There will always be a convenient store open when we are feeling low energy, a new kind of cookie to try, a new restaurant in town to sample …and more. The only place where we can regain some sanity is our own home, where we can espouse a philosophy of simple living and eating.
Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer conditions. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within as well as avoidance of exterior clutter… it means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. Richard Gregg
We have to set our intention to create our own food environment, reduce the clutter, make our own decisions about what we want to eat on a monthly basis. Imagine the time and energy we can save when we go to the store once a week, buy what we need, and stick with that. (We will look in future posts how we can select food for both pleasure and a slender figure. The French can do it, why not us?)
Reclaiming our kitchens
The first step is to look at our kitchen with new lenses, in a loving and critical way. The kitchen is where you will start your journey of getting thinner. Keep your receipts and look at how much you spent on food prepared outside your home. You may have a kitchen that has everything … except you and the rest of the family.
Can you prepare at home 80% of the food you are going to eat? It will require a reorganization of your schedule so you can cook, may be, two days a week, or even just one, and freeze your prepared meals for the week. Don’t underestimate the difficulty. Don’t give up either. You don’t have to change anything for now. You will be more successful if you take your time to make any change, even if it takes 8 weeks (see my post: A no-blame, no- shame approach)
If you have a kitchen which is cluttered, with cabinets and fridge overflowing with a variety of every kind of food, it is time to look at how you can simplify your life, have a kitchen easier to keep tidy and clean, and more hospitable.
Dr. Peeke, the author of Buried in Treasures, says she has instructed patients trying to lose weight to at least create one clean and uncluttered place in their home. She gives the example of one patient who cleaned up her home and also lost about 50 pounds.
You may not have a problem with clutter in any other rooms in your house, but if you have in your cupboards 5 kinds of cookies, instead of one, you have more chance to eat more when you are bored. Choose your favorite brand and think about not buying the others anymore. If you have a spouse, children and each one of you has a different one –worst case scenario- still look if you can eliminate some.
Do the same thing with each category of food. The next thing you will start looking at is the food you don’t use or love. Take a box and put the packages of non-perishable food in it and see if you are going to use it in the next weeks. Do the same with the food in the fridge. Put this food on a specific shelf. In a few weeks get this food out of your kitchen.
Have fun and most of all take your time! Rome was not built in a day.