Well, I’m being unfair with this. U.S. dietary guidelines have had extreme negative utility in the past 70 years. (I might explain this at a later time.) But we shouldn’t have to doubt the government’s recommendations just to not be fat.
What I mean, though, is that the purpose of food isn’t to ‘feel good’. (But this isn’t to say, however, that an actually-healthy diet is unenjoyable—quite the opposite.)
71% of American adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese (2015-2016).
Hundreds of thousands years of evolution. Hunting and gathering, eating real food.
The taste buds that best led their human to valuable nutrients reproduced superiorly, and thus these taste buds became the most prevalent.
Highly nutritious food is what’s supposed to taste good.
And so it went, hundreds of thousands of years.
Then, all of the sudden, agriculture and civilization. All in a blink, just a few thousand years.
But evolution is slow, and our genes are still suited for the old environment.
Modern civilization. The ability to create new stuff that can be eaten.
(I’m not calling anything ‘food’ if it can’t nourish to a high margin. Junk food is just junk, not food.)
Soon, we developed the ability to hack our taste buds into believing that this new stuff-that-can-be-eaten tastes good, despite it providing little—and often negative—nutritional value.
The food we’ve created may taste good, but it’s not supposed to. Clearly the junk we eat isn’t supposed to taste good, because it’s not helping us.
Taste is evolutionarily meant to be a compass towards nutrition. We need to protect it. We can’t trust our senses when it comes to food that has been created.
Old genes. New food. Human stupidity. Who’s going to win if we’re neglectful?
For example, we have quite the taste for sugar, but it’s completely toxic.
Why do we like sugar then? Well we probably like sugar at all because plants that taste sweet are generally trying to signal that they’re not poisonous.
However, in the environment our genes evolved, concentrated sugar basically did not exist. So there was no pressure for our genes to develop defenses against too much sugar, as it’s only been possible in the last blink of evolutionary history!
We can’t trust our taste buds when they lead us to artificial foods. Our taste for sugar and other ‘artificial things-that-can-be-eaten’ is an accident, and it’s killing us: 71%! of American adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese (2015-2016).
Don’t let yourself be manipulated by fake food and false happiness.
In 2017 I found myself questioning the purpose of everything I could think of. Eventually I came to food, and I realized that my diet of oreos and salami sandwiches wasn’t at all optimized. After some prodding, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of food was to make oneself as strong, energetic, and capable as possible. To nourish.
The reasoning I’ve outlined in this article is what, from one day to the next, turned me off sugar and onto researching nutrition. Soon, partly based on evolutionary logic, I rejected grains and carbohydrates, and focused on eating meat, fish, leafy greens, nuts, and extra virgin avocado oil/olive oil.
With grains, at the very least, they provide no nutrients that can’t be provided by meat, fish, and greens. And they provide no nutrients in higher quantities (and with the absense of anti-nutrients [yes, these exist, almost exclusively in grains]) than these foods. So the opportunity cost of eating grains and not something else is negative. Also, gluten is generally inflammatory to all humans, and “wheat belly inflammation” is a real thing.
And then once you eliminate sugar and grains, there really aren’t many other sources of carbs anyway. (Maybe tubers like potatoes, but I’m not sure they have positive opportunity cost value either when compared to greens or meat.)
There are other arguments against carbs but this is just the simplest one. And from an evolutionary standpoint, daily sources of carbohydrates mostly didn’t exist for all tribes until only 10,000 years ago.
Something else that motivated me to change my diet was that changing then, as a 15-year old, would be far easier for me because it would be easier to change and develop the necessary habits sooner rather than later. Habits only get harder to change.
Secondly, if you expect to change your diet in the future anyway—to heal a disease, to prevent disease (ex Alzheimer’s), to live longer, to lose weight, to have more energy, to gain muscle without exercising any more, to stop the headaches, to sleep better, to feel better in every moment …—then you might as well start now, it makes no difference.
Let me reiterate too, I believe pleasure from sugar is false happiness.
Relates to ‘Fulfillment ≠ Pleasure’.
It took about a year, despite perhaps an hour a day of research, to find good sources of nutritional information. I think at least 95% of sources about nutrition are complete nonsense. This often includes governments too. It’s bad.
Ex: any source that considers any of the following seriously is a generally incoherent: calories, cholesterol, low-fat, plant-based diets for health (especially without extremely technical interventions). But I’ll write about why I believe these are nonsense another time.
Curiously, the best source on nutrition I’ve found to recommend is Joseph Everett. He may not be writing papers, but he is solidly the only source on health that I’ve ever found to be actively looking to make things simple and very accessible. And I think that matters a lot more than necessarily rigor (though his arguments usually are very rigorous), especially when it comes to changing your own behavior. So in terms of optimal reward per unit effort, he’s definitely the best place to go.
I’m also currently experimenting with an all-meat-and-seafood diet, and it seems to have mitigated much of my long-standing acne (something my dermatologist couldn’t fix in 3 years), but I’ll write about that in the future.
Posted 2020 October 24, last updated 2020 November 23.