In chapter 1 of Dr. A’s Habits of Health, I opened with a statement that surprised many readers at the time: It’s not your fault you’re struggling with your weight.
I understand why people turn the blame inward. They understand that their choices influence the direction of their health, but they don’t know the whole story. Yes, the decisions you make directly guide whether you move toward disease or toward optimal wellbeing, but the software and hardware of your 10,000-year-old-body stack the deck against you. When food was scarce and threats were high, our bodies were perfectly designed to maximize energy and respond to dangers.
Today, the same bodies that were an advantage in the wilderness crave calories, are quick to store energy as fat, and lacking real threats like sabretooth tigers treat even small incidents as causes for stress and alarm.
And that’s just your internal challenge.
The food industry sabotages your health
Externally, a global food industry sabotages your health with a deluge of unhealthy products and slick marketing campaigns, starting virtually from the day you’re born. Massive companies prey on your body’s innate programming to desire unhealthy food. They know that convenient, sugary food sells, and they prioritize their profits over your heath.
Here’s the latest example: The Obesity Health Alliance found that blueberry muffins can contain up to 8 teaspoons of sugar. To put that into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons a day and women 6.
In a single muffin, we can either be close to or over our recommended daily amount of sugar.
This issue becomes even more complicated when we consider that many blueberry muffins don’t come with nutrition labels, they are sometimes marketed as healthy (look, they contain fruit!), and these quick snacks are often given to children as well.
This is why I say it’s not your fault.
Even a century ago, our average consumption of sugar was only 5 pounds per year. In the old days, businesses made profits by offering high-quality food that earned customer loyalty. If the local butcher sold you a bad piece of meat, you stopped using him and let everyone in town know about it. If the green grocer sold you rotten vegetables, you shopped somewhere else. Back then, the food industry was run by professionals who were closer to their customers and their products.
The butcher knew his beef, lamb, and pork. The green grocer knew his fruits and vegetables as well as the farmers who supplied them. With local economies being the norm at the time, the butcher and the grocer likely knew their customers by name too.
Today, food companies know that sugar makes food taste good, and food companies want to produce food that sells. The fact that sugary, unhealthy foods are also often the cheapest to manufacture is an added profit bonus.
The first step in making healthier choices
Understanding the internal and external factors that influence your health is a big first step toward making healthier choices. When you can see how pieces fit together, you are better equipped to choose the foods and behaviors that move you closer to your goal of optimal wellbeing. At the same time, however, the choices aren’t always easy, so here are three things you can do to make your eating choices less challenging:
- Use our shopping charts to buy healthy foods that leave you feeling full and satisfied.
- If you need convenient meals, purchase food via an OPTAVIA health coach so that you can get properly portioned, healthy fuelings.
- Speaking of health coaches, working with a professional who understands the challenges you face and has the tools to move you toward optimal health is a major advantage in your journey.
It’s not your fault that you live in an obesigenic world, but you have the power to transform not only yourself but the world around you with your choices. Arm yourself with the right tools and start a new journey!