Human Hunger: It’s Trying To Kill You

It’s quite interesting when I get a comment on an old post (root post). Usually, and especially if someone has a disagreement, I’ll just deal with it in comments. But this commenter is a family doc and he raises an interesting quibble.

First off, let me say bravo for a pretty good health info website. Let me contextualize: I am a family doc who often feels like a “sheep in wolf’s clothing” for my preventative health apostasy, most of which is addressed by your site.

I will quibble with the following quote, though:

“human hunger adversely motivates the human organism to harm itself (which is prima facie absurd)”

From an adaptive/evolutionary standpoint, it isn’t necessarily absurd. If the majority of mankind adapted to a diet high in raw plant matter, potassium would have been in abundance, sodium often scarce. This is consistent with normal kidney function: potassium is sacrificed (excreted) in favor of retaining sodium. Most people I know like high-salt foods, and one only has to look at nutrition labels to see what sells.

Back in paleolithic, high-K days, a constitutive salt craving would have made adaptive sense. Now in the time of Con-Agra and supermarkets, it works against us unless we make informed, conscious choices. People of African descent, especially, do well to follow a lower-salt diet, as their blood pressure is typically more responsive to it than the general population.

Still, overall I think you’re spot on. Glad there’s someone else taking ownership of health to this degree. I’m bookmarking your site!

Basically, the post was about my changing appetites which I attributed to fasting and I got a bit exuberant — as noticed by the doc — over the power of it. Essentially, I was mistaken in trying to make the point that it would be counterintuitive that we would naturally hunger for things harmful to us.

Well, that would be one post, but I always appreciate valid correction, as this is. I was still carrying a good amount of body fat (probably weighed around 210 or so at the time, now 175). I was likely being fooled by the satiation of my own body fat release so sincerely didn’t hunger for crappy food. A couple of popular & linked to posts on this issue:

Now that I’m many pounds lighter, things are a bit different. Now, I absolutely have to exercise more discipline — whereas, less than you’d have thought, before — and I’ve yet to sort out whether it’s because I’m pretty close to an ideal weight and body comp, allowing myself to back off, or it’s a real hunger for things that are bad for me.

So it seems obvious to me now that indeed the root problem is that our sense of taste and hunger drives are stone age living in a modern world and that food companies (in cahoots with their whores at all levels of government) have successfully pitted our tongues against our brains.

It is all about who owns the tongues of these youngsters, not who reaches their brains, mused Obesity. Ownership, Obesity knew, belonged to his most faithful allies—the vast fast food and food processing industry and their clever advertisers. For decades these companies have transformed millions of young tongues into fast food first responders.

The tongue has been turned against the brain for so long that the kids’ parents and even some grandparents accept this conditioned response. Look what they head for in the movies, what they choose in the supermarkets, what they order in the chain restaurants and takeouts. It’s all about the pipeline full of enlarged amounts of sugar, fat and salt, dude! Hour after hour, day after day, these pipelines are flowing to the delight of their video-addicted young customers.

That’s a Ralph Nader quote, of all damn irritating nanny-state people. But he’s pretty right on, here. Of course, fat always gets a bad wrap when the focus ought to be what the fat delivery device is. But hell, I’ll just be uncharacteristically generous and give the guy a pass, this time.

In the end, it’s always going to be about hunger and its perverse modern manipulation. That post suffers from some of the same errors the doc pointed out in the comment above. And now I know. It’s probably always going to be a battle.

The best defense for me is to keep decent food around and to cook for myself most of the time. I’m also embarking with new resolve to get rid of the last bits of fat, here & there. I have a plan of intense execution, but I’ll save that for a later post.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Kyle Bennett on February 19, 2010 at 14:48

    A quick thought about fruit. The thing that always jumped out at me about paleo is that so much of it is about patterns. Mostly, not establishing any, or not letting them persist. Grok’s access to fruit was probably very opportunistic, and very seasonal. This helped assure variety in kinds of fruits and their micronutrients, and it also prevented a regular pattern of what was, even then, a relatively high carb snack.

    “An apple a day” might just be too much of a pattern, especially modern apples. When it becomes habit, a conveneint way to feed that incessant legacy appetite, it could become an unacknowledged source of possibly empty carbs. Empty in that you’re getting plenty of the micronutrients it has to offer, maybe more than you can use, while missing out on others. If your metabolism adapts to it, it might have unwanted effects.

    Just a thought, I have absolutely no evidence or even experience to back it up.

    Good job on recognizing a valid criticism, Rich. It’ll help keep us all on our toes.

  2. David McCracken on February 19, 2010 at 13:37

    Hi Richard,
    as you know I have an interest in BP reduction and have had great results with focusing on potassium. I find that MDs comments about relative abundance of K versus Na in the past, and how that has led to preferential kidney function and craving for salt. very interesting indeed. I personally think that the K:Na ratio is at least as screwed up in modern diets as Omega 3 to 6 and 9.

  3. Dave C. on February 19, 2010 at 13:44

    How much fruit do you eat? I noticed that I lost about 6-7 pounds after I stopped eating fruit all the time.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 19, 2010 at 13:59

      Currently I’m eating very little fruit, mostly berries. Ultimately I might go to a regime where I eat berries and a bit of other fruits during the warm / hot months and none during the cold.

  4. Organic Gabe on February 19, 2010 at 14:25

    Berries are great indeed, but I lso eat an apple, or a pear per day – although I am wondering whether to stop the apples and pears for a 2-3 weeks and see how it goes …

  5. silverbenz on February 19, 2010 at 14:57

    ‘Now, I absolutely have to exercise more discipline — whereas less than you’d have though, before — and I’ve yet to sort out whether it’s because I’m pretty close to an ideal weight and body comp, allowing myself to back off, or it’s a real hunger for things that are bad for me.’

    Interesting. I’m glad you mentioned that because I’ve found the same thing. At the beginning, I didn’t hunger for the old unhealthy stuff at all, yet now I find it cropping up in my thoughts here and there. It IS often part of a temptation to be ‘naughty’ – when you might naturally allow yourself some latitude: ‘Man, I’m really stressed…,’ or ‘It’s been a really long day…’ or well, you probably get the gist. It’s rare that I’ll think of a pizza or McD…. in positive terms when I’m feelin’ good 🙂

    I’m probably close to my ideal body composition too, though I want to add more muscle because I’m pretty skinny.


  6. Aaron M Fraser on February 19, 2010 at 16:49

    I, too, have noticed that I am way more responsive to dietary indiscretions. The longer I stick to a Real Food diet, the more sensitive and like-shit I feel when I go out with my friends and get a less-than-Kosher meal made of factory farmed meat and full of preservatives.

    It sometimes makes me wonder, but then I realize that is how I used to feel all the time – is it increased sensitivity or acclimation to a new ‘norm’? Are these the same thing?

  7. Michael on February 20, 2010 at 01:24

    Now, I absolutely have to exercise more discipline — whereas less than you’d have though, before — and I’ve yet to sort out whether it’s because I’m pretty close to an ideal weight and body comp, allowing myself to back off, or it’s a real hunger for things that are bad for me.

    That is interesting as I have found the exact opposite. I wonder if there are some hormonal issues still at play? I wonder where a longer fast might fit into this, or a brief course of the Milk Cure? Hmmmm…

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