I’ve done the Whole30 several times now and each time not only do I learn so much more, but I understand the concepts in greater depth. And I even look back on my previous programs and go, “I so didn’t know that,” or, “How did I not know that!” So if this is your first time, try to give yourself a little wiggle room for learning. On the outside it seems fairly simple, but it’s actually pretty complicated because food producers and manufacturers make it real complicated.
In fact, I was at Costco today, and as I was skimming the food book/cookbook table for anything interesting, a lady leaned over to me and said, “Ugh. I don’t know what to buy. My sister is on this Keto thing and she’s lost all this weight but she’s grouchy and miserable even though she’s trying to get me to do it with her. It’s all so confusing.” I looked at her with my silver hair ablaze like Einstein’s and said, “I can help you.”
We talked for about 15 minutes and I explained some of the basic concepts I have been teaching you. She asked all kinds of questions, but her biggest concern was longevity. I was pretty candid about how I didn’t think the Keto diet was sustainable long-term, and that even though the weight might drop off faster, it would be harder to maintain versus a Whole30 reset followed by a Paleo-based lifestyle. But weight loss is so glamorizing for the average American. We want it all and we want it now. And most don’t even care how they get it, even if it means taking dangerous weight loss drugs, having invasive surgery and a host of other harmful methods. What is more alarming, is that people will do these things without any research or understanding about what and why.
For those of you who are wanting true, long-term results and practices, you make great efforts to understand processes. Two of the key concepts that explain the why of the Whole30 approach are satiety and satiation. The two words are often confused or thought to mean the same thing. Let’s look at them more closely. I really love how Dallas and Melissa Hartwig break down the concepts, I’ve pulled an outstanding excerpt from their book, It Starts With Food to explain.
“If we were hunting and foraging our food in nature, our bodies would need some way to signal to us that we’d found something useful. For example, bitter taste signified toxic foods, while sweet taste signifies safer choices. Thanks to nature and our biology, our brains have been hardwired to appreciate three basic tastes: sweet (a safe source of energy), fatty (a dense source of calories), and salty (a means of conserving fluid). When we came across these flavors, neurotransmitters in our brain would help us remember that these are good choices by sending us signals of pleasure and reward, reinforcing the experience in our memories. These important signals from nature helped us select the foods best suit to our health.
But there is one very important point to keep in mind with respect to these signals from nature. They weren’t designed to tell us which foods were delicious — they were designed to tell us which foods were nutritious.
In nature, pleasure and reward signals led us to vital nutrition.
The trouble is that in today’s world, the ancient signals persist — but the foods that relay them are anything but good sources of nutrition. And that creates a major disruption in our bodies and in our brains.
Over the Last 50 years, the make up of our foods has dramatically changed. Our grocery stores and health food markets are packed with shelves of processed, refined food-like products — which no longer look anything like the plant or animal from which they were derived.
Food scientists caught onto the fact that our brains respond strongly to specific flavors (such as the aforementioned sweet, fatty, and salty), and, armed with this knowledge, they began to modify our whole foods. They sucked out the water, the fiber, and the nutrients and replaced them with ingredients like corn syrup, MSG, seed oils and artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. All of this with specific intention of inducing cravings, overconsumption, and bigger profits for food manufacturers.
They’ve turned real food into Franken-food.
These foods light up pleasure and reward centers in the brain for a different reason than nature intended — not because they provide vital nutrition, but because they are scientifically designed to stimulate our taste buds. The effect is a total disconnection between pleasurable, rewarding tastes (sweet, fatty, and salty) and the nutrition that always accompanies them in nature.
In nature, sweet tastes usually come from seasonal raw fruit, rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Today, sweet flavors come from artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, and high-fructose corn syrup. In nature, fatty acids usually come from meats, especially nutrient-packed organ meats. In modern times, fats come from a deep fryer or a tub of “spread.” In nature, precious electrolytes like sodium came from sea life or from the animals we ate. In modern times, salt comes from a shaker.
Do you see the problem with this?
Modern technology has stripped the nutrition from these foods, replacing it with empty calories and synthetic chemicals that fool our bodies into giving us the same powerful biological signals to keep eating.
This means that we are eating more calories with less nutrition.
Persistent biological signals lead us to eat over eat sweet, fatty, salty foods while keeping us malnourished.
These Franken-foods are ridiculously cheap to produce.
They can unnaturally electrify our taste buds. They contain little, if any, nutrition.
And they mess with our brains in a major way.
You may be thinking, “If these foods taste so good that I can’t stop eating them, maybe I should just stop eating foods that taste good.” But that sounds miserable to us — and flavor restriction would probably be just as unsuccessful long-term as caloric restriction. Thankfully this strategy is wholly unnecessary. The problem isn’t that these are delicious.
The problem is that these foods are super normally stimulating in the absence of nutrition and satiety.
They are the essence of empty calories — food with no brakes.
The idea of food brakes can be explained by satiety and satiation. They sound the same but biologically speaking, they are two separate and distinct concepts.
Satiety occurs in your digestive tract specifically, and you’re intestines. When you’ve digested and absorbed enough calories and nutrients to satisfy your body’s needs, hormones signal your brain that “I am well nourished now,” which decreases your desire for more food. Satiety can’t be fooled or faked, it is as dependent on the actual nutrition in your food. But since digestion is slow, the signals may take several hours to be transmitted, which means they can’t do a very good job all by themselves to keep you from over eating.
That’s where satiation comes in.
Satiation is regulated in the brain and provides more timely motivation to stop eating. It’s based on the taste, smell, and texture of food, perception of “fullness,” even your knowledge of how many calories are in a meal. As you eat, you perceive various sensations (“This is delicious,” “I shouldn’t eat the whole bag” or “I’m getting pretty full”), all of which send your brain status updates to help you determine whether you still want more. But unlike satiety, satiation is an estimate dependent on your perceptions, not an absolute measurement.
Ideally, the brain would signal us to stop eating when our bodies have sensed that we digested and absorbed enough nutrition to support our health. In this case, satiation and satiety would be one and the same. Let’s use the example of a prime rib dinner.
Prime rib contains complete protein, the most satiating of all of the macronutrients, and naturally occurring fat, which makes protein even more satiating. As you eat the prime rib, you’ll find yourself wanting prime rib less and less with every bite. The first bite was amazing, the second fantastic, but by your tenth bite, the texture, smell, and flavor are less appealing. And by the 20th bite, you’ve had enough, and you know longer desire the flavor or texture of the meat — so down goes your fork.
This is satiation.
Prime rib also takes longer to eat then processed food (as you actually have to chew and swallow) which gives your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach. As you eat and start to digest the meat, your body recognizes that the dense nutrition in that prime rib is adequate for your energy and caloric needs. This sends a “we’re getting nourishment” signal to your brain while you’re still working on your plate, which also reduces your “want” for more food.
This is satiety.
This scenario plays out differently for foods lacking the satiation factors of adequate nutrition — complete protein, natural fats, and essential nutrients. Let’s compare prime rib to a tray of Oreos.
Oreos are a highly processed food containing almost no protein, saturated with sugar and flavor enhancing chemicals, and filled with added fats. As we eat the Oreos (generally at a much faster rate than prime rib), they move through us quickly and don’t provide enough nutrition to induce satiation or satiety. So unlike prime rib, there are no “brakes” to decrease our want. We want the tenth Oreo just as much as the first. And we never stop wanting more because even though we’ve eaten plenty of calories, our bodies know that we are still seriously lacking nutrition. So we eat the whole darn package because satiety can’t be fooled.
In the case of Oreos, the only reason to stop eating is when our bellies are physically full, and we realize we are about to make ourselves sick from overconsumption. Chronic consumption of these foods don’t affect just our taste buds, our perceptions, and our waistlines. Over time, they literally rewire our brains.”
Whew. That’s a lot I know. But imperative that we understand. Or we don’t have a real why. And this is a scientifically proven, biological, anatomical why. Not just one someone made up to sell more diet books.
Read this a few times if you have to, but get this concept drilled in. It will absolutely, positively change the way you choose your food. My boys love to get me all riled up by putting Mountain Dew in the grocery basket because they know I will freak out and talk about how soda pop is poison, especially Mountain Dew. But y’all, I’m not kidding around. It is. As are so many other fake, processed junk foods that we all find (found!) delicious… like OREOS.
You are now learning to outsmart the little Franken-food-stein in your head. And at least, if you do choose the Oreo or the doughnut or the fast food, somewhere in the recesses of your thought bank, you will know the path of no return that fake food will take you down. And in that moment, pause, feel your feet, (that’s your yoga at work) and make a conscious choice. You can so do it!
Keep going and keep going strong. Only nine days left!