I just finished reading a great book on food and society.

Waistland: The (R)Evolutionary Crisis Behind Our Weight and Fitness Crisis
Waistland: The (R)Evolutionary Crisis Behind Our Weight and Fitness Crisis by Deirdre Barrett has a little bit of everything in it. It covers the state of health, some evolutionary history, food politics, exercise, nutritional education, and how the media covers it all. With all those topics, of course, I’m going to like the book.

One thing I learned in the book was the concept of Supernormal Stimuli, which Wikipedia refers to as a superstimulus.

…is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus that normally releases it.

The author explores how simple carbohydrates, refined fats, and television behave as superstimulus to our body. We already know the effect refined sugars and fat have on our bodies. Here is what she said about television.

We’re wired to pay close attention to fast movements, emotional outbursts, violence and sexually enticing behavior. Television hijacked all these potent cues for attention to get us to carefully watch a plastic box with a bunch of wires in it.

Prior to the agricultural age, humans were hunter-gather. In order to survive, early man needed to have sharp instincts to detect movement. Television exploits that and dishes up a commercial for a fatty meal. The fatty meal exploits our survival instincts that tell us food is scarce and we should eat that fatty piece of food because the next meal might be hours or days away.

This is a good book and the author did a great job researching it.


Add yours

  1. I just finished reading this a couple of hours ago. It was a great read. I found the information on BMI very enlightening.

  2. I am glad the author pointed out the errors on using BMI. I love to tell proponents of the BMI, which includes many doctors, that when Mike Tyson was the top boxer in the world, he was “obese” by BMI standards.

  3. I have never used the body fat calculations that she mentions, but it makes sense that body fat percentage is a more accurate number. What did you think of the information on Calorie Restriction? I was just reading about it in “Healthy at 100”, by John Robbins too.

  4. Calorie Restriction is a topic I have not looked at too deeply – at least as far as longevity goes. Robbins approaches nutrition from an ethical background, which is admirable, but not for me.

  5. In this book he does not go into ethical eating in this particular book it is more about what has been found to increase longevity. I was actually surprised, I expected him to be talk about veganism.

  6. Cool. Next time I’m at a book store, I’ll flip through it. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.