“How salad can make us fat”

Interesting read about how seeing “virtuous” food, like salad, can influence us to make less healthy choices – even if we don’t actually eat the salad:

NYT: How Salad Can Make Us Fat

It’s an example of a common human mistake – thinking that doing something good makes us “deserve” a treat that’s bad for us. This easily results in falling off the wagon.

To improve your willpower and reach your goals you can instead adopt another perspective: viewing your good actions as evidence that you are committed to your goal, that you care about it so much that you want to do even more to reach it. That perspective can take you all the way*.

More weight loss tips

*/ If you find this interesting check out the great book The Willpower Instinct.


  1. Apicius
    Very intriguing theme being discussed here. Excellent post - thank you! The studies that showed how people who consumed more vitamins or ate more kale were more compelled to exercise less or smoke more cigarettes was fascinating...as if you can balance out evil with good.

    Could this be the framework behind the calories in calories out formula? I have had people argue with me, on how my being overweight was because I ate too much and exercised too little. But, when I pointed out the coca cola in their hand (which I never drank) and let them know I went to the gym many more times than them, they would dismiss my words as if I was not telling them the truth (as if surely, when they weren't watching, I was a couch potato and ate loads of junk food). The same people who argued with me got even angrier when I started LCHF and losing weight. They tried to convince me I was putting my health in danger, doing irreversible damage to my body, and some even got so angry, they would stomp out of the room abandoning the conversation we were having.

    If humans have a deeply implanted concept of the balance between evil and good, then I can see how this would create the poorly formulated dietary advice. With this way of thinking, if someone is fat, eating the same food that would result in another person not being fat, would then lead to the immediate conclusion that the fat person is doing more "bad" than "good". Regardless of the different biochemical reactions that happen in humans which lead to differences in metabolism.

    There's the concept of "good karma" and "bad karma", in that good things happen when you do good things, and vice versa. It imposes all the blame on the person, regardless of the wholesale circumstance. For me, LCHF and fasting has helped me overcome the wrong "expert" advice that constantly told me that I deserved being fat, because surely, I wasn't working hard enough to meet the calories in calories out balance. Surely, I was lazy and a glutton...and therefore deserved being fat.

    Reply: #3
  2. Nancy
    I like the idea of focusing on the process instead of a targeted goal. When we have a goal in mind so many of us test to see how much we can "get away with" and still meet our goal. I like that idea of living a healthy lifestyle instead of meeting an arbitrary goal.
  3. Murray
    Apicius, you are on a roll today.

    There are two interesting phenomena you raise. One is moral licensing. I see people all the time who feel they are righteous in one respect and that this entitles them to pooh-pooh acting immorally in another context. Call it karmatic balance hypothesis: karma balance = good deeds in minus bad deeds out.

    The other is exemplified by the tainted blood scandal in Canada when blood contaminated by HIV and hepatitis C virus were widely distributed, killing many people. Canada failed to deploy screening that was implemented in the US. A friend did a Ph.D. thesis on it (his field is anthropology of science). He observed that the Canadian authorities implicitly reasoned that because under the Canadian system people donate blood, they are good people so they provide good blood. Thus the self-perceived moral superiority of a donation-based system caused them not to use up budget to implement more rigorous safeguards. Tragic moral hubris.

  4. chris c
    Then there are the people who drive to the gym and spend five minutes driving round the car park to find a space near the door. On the way home they "treat" themselves to a fast food "meal" because they "deserve" it . . .

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