My friend Kathy invited me over to her house once again on Dewey Lake for a great dinner with her family and friends. Dinner at Dewey Lake with the Browns and assorted characters has become a ritual that Ashok and I both anticipate. Last night we even took the boat out for the first time after the winter. The Browns took it out once before this spring, but Ashok and I had our first round about the lake yesterday evening. Even though it had been several months since we last had a Dewey Lake boat ride, when I asked Ashok if she wanted to go on a boat ride, she looked at me and then ran down the hill to the boat dock.
After dinner, we watched political comedy on YouTube as most liberals do these days. Amid the laughter at the chaos in Washington, Bill Maher had a disturbing segment that was based on a recent 60 Minutes. I was shocked to hear a Silicon Valley veteran say that tech companies actually engineer the software and code for social media in order to addict us. He likened it to the way the food industry hires scientists who formulate the exact formula of salt, sugar and fat to addict us to their food.
If you read my blog, you know that for the past year or so, I’ve been on and off Facebook and on and off sugar. I’m now moderately trying to use both, but I’m finding that neither of these things are easy to moderate. In fact, I get so frustrated at times with the way I feel after eating sugar and the anxiety I get from using social media that I continue my yo-yo exercise of quitting and restarting over and over again.
When I saw that segment last night, the pieces of the puzzle fell together, and I realized that these are addictions as well. And I know how difficult it is to release an addiction. And it’s even more difficult to moderate the use of an addictive substance. That’s why I always think that recovering alcoholics have it easier than a food addict who still has to eat everyday. It’s easier to just quit (although it’s not very easy to do that either).
When I got off Facebook entirely, I felt so much better. I started reading again. I started texting old friends and communicating with them personally rather than stalking them on Facebook. My life was more full, and I didn’t feel like I was wasting so much time. In fact, I even got to experience boredom again. I used Instagram, but I realized pretty immediately that I didn’t feel the urgency to post or scroll the feed with Instagram that I had with Facebook. I rather liked it. Social media became more of a choice and, frankly, less interesting. I’ve never fully gotten back engaged with Facebook but when I am bored, I do tend to scroll the newsfeed. I curse myself every time I catch myself doing it!
I’ve noticed that when I eat a homemade dessert or something made with quality ingredients, I enjoy it but I don’t feel compelled to eat more an hour later. When I eat cake or cookies or junk that is store-bought or made with cheap ingredients, I feel a sugar high that is super intense, AND I have to have more almost immediately. The cravings are intense, and they literally go on for days.
The brain is complex, but it’s also very simple. Our brain seeks pleasure. Our dopamine receptors and other feel-good hormones give us immense pleasure, and when they crash, our brain literally NEEDS more. It’s not a matter of wanting it. It NEEDS to have more because its crashed below the level of normal. As I’ve been eating a lot better for the past year or more, I realize that in order to eat healthy without having to fight cravings all the time, I have to stay away from processed food. Even in moderation, it makes it so hard to stay on track. Besides, lately I’ve noticed that all of that stuff tastes like chemicals instead of food. Yuk! I can’t even eat artificial sweeteners anymore.
So, I watched the full segment about the software engineers, and then I watched one from 2013 about how the food companies secretly engineer food to addict us. No wonder I think processed food tastes like chemicals. In this segment, they explain why. They use chemicals to mess with our brain instead of real food. I also know why I get panicked if I can’t find my phone or if I get a text, and I can’t check it right away. They program your phone to work like a slot machine with intermittent rewards. He said Instagram or Facebook will withhold your “likes” so that they can blow your mind later. It makes you more interested in continuing to scroll… and advertisers have your attention longer.
Today I ate healthfully. I stayed away from sugary foods, and I went on a hike. I did post a few pics on Instagram, but I’m trying to post to Facebook through Instagram. I’m liking a reduced social media footprint. I’ve fallen in love with avocado toast with a fried egg on top. I like getting out in the woods, putting my phone on Airplane mode and enjoying the sunshine. I’m going to experiment with disentangling myself from my phone this week.
You can look at the segments below on why that’s important if you want to know more. I don’t like being a puppet. It seems invasive for some company to be studying my brain and developing things that make me react the way they want – especially if it’s not in my own best interest.
Here are some tips on how to eat good food without getting manipulated!