Why We Love Fat

Every second of every day there is someone swearing of eating fat.

And every second of every day there is someone who breaks down and gives in to the call of fats siren.

Why is it so hard for us to give up eating unhealthy amounts of fat?

In an earlier article I mentioned that fat is one of the three nutrients that our bodies must have to function, and healthy portions of it is vital to functions of the brain, nerve cells, skin, and other body tissue, but for some reason -unlike other nutrients- we grave fats more than any other food.

America is a high-fat consumption nation. Unlike some countries (Japan, Korea, and parts of Europe) we get our young addicted to fat-laden foods at a very early age. Most dairy products have very high concentrates of fat: milk, butter, ice cream, etc.

At one time I believed that people who consumed an unhealthy amount of fat were unable to combat with our body’s anticipatory sensory build up. You know, when you walk into a room where someone is cooking a hamburger or steak and you smell the aroma of slightly charred meat cooked to a desired degree of tenderness, or you hear the Sizzle of barbecued red meat at a picnic.

Actually, Recent studies have shown that “Overeating may alter the brain as much as hard drugs” says a study in “Scientific America”. It goes on to say that rats given access to high-fat foods showed some of the same characteristics as animals hooked on cocaine or heroin- and found it hard to quit even when given electric shocks.

In the study, rats were given access to bacon, sausage, chocolate, and even cheesecake along with other types of foods. The fat laced foods quickly became their favorites – so much so that the animals came to depend on high quantities of it to feel good, like drug users who need to up their intake to get the same high.

Like many pleasurable behaviors, eating can trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. This internal chemical reward increases the likelihood that the associated action will eventually become habitual through positive reinforcement conditioning. (So states the article.)

And to exacerbate the issue another reason why our bodies crave fats is that fats make us feel fuller longer. Unlike carbohydrates, it is much more difficult for the body to break fats down.  Have you ever noticed how -almost immediately – after eating a salad you still feel hungry? That’s because your metabolism (your body’s furnace) can easily burn or break-up the calories.

When you eat a steak or a cheeseburger, on the other hand, the decomposition process can take hours, which leaves us feeling fuller longer. Additionally, fatty foods are known as comfort foods. This is not for no reason. When we eat a piece of red meat say a hotdog, hamburger or steak blood flow from other parts of or body (notably the brain) to help with the breakdown process. This lack of blood flood to the brain leaves us feeling woozy, sleepy and ready for a nap. The feelings of feeling fuller longer and ready to sleep are extremely gratifying and are easily turned into habits.

I have always been a firm believer that knowledge equals power. Now that you know why we are addicted to fats you can take steps to do something about it! Mainly “eat consciously”. The only way to break a bad habit is to replace it with an equally satisfying good habit. One of the best rewards from taking positive steps to correct a deficiency is knowing that you are in control of your destination, not having your destination under the control of something or someone else.  Knowing what to do and doing it are not the same thing. One of the main issues with people who have an addiction and want to quit is that good intentioned supporters of their decision tend to talk to them as though it is the changing a bad habit is the easiest thing in the world to do.

I’ll never forget how much flack Nancy Reagan came up against when she came up with the slogan “Just Do It”, as a mantra for combating bad habits. My take, though, is different! Instead of saying “Just Do it” I’m going to advise another course of action: Take a Martial Arts Class.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest benefits of taking martial arts is the acquisition of self-discipline. Discipline has been known as the tool to fight against unwanted behavior for years. Why, when I was a kid, a judge would offer stints in the Army over jail time to non-violent offenders. Nowadays it’s not unusual for a judge to recommend to a single parent that she enlist her wayward child in a karate class in an attempt to give him or her the tools to clean themselves up and stay out of the legal system. 

Did you know that there are Martial Arts Clubs that offer the opportunity to take lessons five and six days a week? If I had an eating disorder – or even if I were serious about losing weight - I would seriously consider signing up at one of those gyms and taking lessons as many days as I would need to infuse myself with enough discipline to overcome my impulse to indulge myself in destructive behavior. (Plus martial arts classes are second to swimming only in burning huge amounts of calories in a single workout.)

Think about it!