Why You Can’t Resist A Doughnut

I recently listened to a fascinating book on Audible called The Story Of The Human Body by Daniel E. Lieberman (here it is on Amazon if you’re interested). Here’s a short passage from the book which caught my attention:

“We sometimes get sick because natural selection generally favours fertility over health. Meaning we didn’t necessarily evolve to be healthy. For example, because paleolithic hunter-gatherers faced periodic shortages of food, and they had to be very physically active, they were selected to crave energy-rich foods and rest whenever possible, helping them to store fat and devote more energy to reproduction. An evolutionary perspective predicts that most diets and fitness programmes will fail – as they do – because we still don’t know how to counter once adaptive, primal instincts to eat doughnuts and take the elevator. Further, because the body is a complex jumble of adaptations, all of which have costs and benefits, and some of which conflict with one another, there is no such thing as a perfect, optimal diet or fitness programme.”

I agree wholeheartedly with that last sentence – there is no perfect diet which is why meal plans are generally useless; why a diet which worked for a friend may not work for you; and why finding the right solution for you demands a fair bit of trial and error.

You can take the bit about the doughnuts one of two ways: either we’re doomed to failure and there’s no point trying to lose weight because it’s in our genes to eat high energy foods or, the approach I prefer, set up your environment to make it very hard to get things wrong and fall back into old habits.

Precision Nutrition co-founder John Berardi has a principle he calls “Berardi’s First Law”:

“If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it.”

Most of us can’t resist temptation in the form of doughnuts, chocolate and other energy-dense foods. If there are foods which you consider unhealthy or move you further from your goals, simply don’t buy them. If you do, you’re guaranteed to eat them at some point…unless someone else in the house gets there first!

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