Lately I’ve been noticing just how much people talk about bodies, health, weight and food. It’s everywhere. It saturates main stream and social media. Food and diet reality shows are proliferating. More and more diet systems flood onto the market all the time and every other week a new study seems to be published discussing food, fat and health.
We’re obsessed with food.
Have you ever heard of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment? The experiment was the brainchild of Ancel Keys. Undertaken in 1944 – 1945 the diet took 36 healthy young men and put them on a starvation diet. They wanted to find out what effect a starvation diet would have on the human body.
All the participants in the study were men and all were screened heavily prior to the study for physical and mental health. They followed a diet where they ate 1560 calories per day. The goal was to lose 25% of their body weight in six months so, as individual metabolisms changed the diets were then adjusted according to each participants reaction.
The key finding following the diet: starvation increases depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis.
Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression.:161 There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe, though the subject was unsure if he had done so intentionally or accidentally). Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation.
Apparently being starved makes you really unhappy.
In addition the men also found themselves obsessed with food. They thought about and talked about food all the time. They collected and shared recipes. One man sneaked into town and gorged on candy and biscuits, then felt so ashamed of himself that he came back and confessed all.
One of the diets I undertook was SparkPeople.com and on that diet I was allowed 1720 calories a day. Just over what these people ate to lose 25% of their body weight. I’ve seen other diets that have a much lower calorie count than than including one that allowed 1,000 calories per day.
To compare: the inmates at Auschwitz death camp in Poland had a calorie intake between 600 – 1300 calories per day.
Of course our preoccupation with weight loss is so great that now there is such a thing as the Auschwitz diet.
To me it seems like western society is obsessed with food, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because so many people out there are so very, very hungry. Starving even.
Personally, I don’t think about food much at all. Except when I’m hungry, but even then I’m learning that I don’t so much get hungry as I get a huge headache. Then I stress about what exactly I’m going to eat.
I do get preoccupied with guilt when I eat. Like tonight, I had a home made pizza with lots of cheese. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now though I feel like I could have made a different choice. After all, everyone knows cheese is Bad. So is pizza. I’m ignoring the fact that the pizza was laden with vegetables because you know, cheese!
On the upside, I guess I’m not starving.