03 June, 2019

Our Deep-Fried Brains

As we know, one of the reasons we love fatty foods is that our brains haven’t yet evolved not to crave it. Fatty food was important for survival, and so we find hot chips or buttery toast or chocolate or ice-cream easy to love, and harder to resist. Even though our current situation may mean they are not good for us, and contribute to disease and obesity. And so resisting these foods goes against our nature.

It got me thinking. What else has my brain craved? And, apart from connection, which is still important in our societies and for our well-being, it was the desire to have a child. The world is over-populated, improved health care means children do not die as often in infancy or childhood, and so there is no need for us all – or even half of us - to have children to continue the survival of the human race. Yet we are still hard-wired – many of us – to want children. Our brains haven’t evolved not to crave children either. It was a shock to me to discover this in practice, to go through the desire, and then the grief I had never really anticipated. After all, as we often hear people say, I thought I knew what it was to live life without children. But it was a big difference living the rest of my life without children too.

So we not only don’t get what we wanted. It’s that we then need to deal with the brain’s craving, by reprogramming our brains (as I have always called it) to adjust to life without children. But as I learned how to do this, I realised I could apply it to other parts of my life too. We can adjust. It is possible. In fact, it is essential. It just requires some awareness, some courage, and some hard work.


  1. It's so hard to figure out which desires come from our inner selves and which from the culture we're growing in. And the inner can further be divided into unconscious desire and conscious desire. I love your idea of reprogramming the brain, and how you are using that ability in so many aspects of want.

  2. This is such a fascinating take on the subject and it makes a lot of sense. I also wonder how much newer developments like social media (that can definitely magnify cultural/brain stuff) affect the ability to adjust. Overall, though, I really like the framework you put out there that it does take work and awareness to reprogram our brains in many areas.

  3. This is an interesting point of view. which got me to think...i honestly don't remember a point in my life when i didn't want children. my mom tells me that by 4 my constant response to "what do you want to be when you grow up" my answer would more often than not be "to be a mom".

  4. Fascinating -- so true about the delicious bad-for-you food, that combination of salt-fat-sugar that fast food restaurants have perfected. And true that it's a biological drive to want children, which makes it hard for people to understand those who actively choose not to have them and to understand how you could end your journey to have one by whatever means. I do see a lot of younger people in their 20s and early 30s considering the state of the planet and actively deciding that they don't want to bring children into a world that's overpopulated and facing severe climate threat. So I wonder if that impulse is changing a bit? Reprogramming your brain is hard work, but yeah, can help you be a healthier, happier person. (And I totally agree with Inconceivable!'s social media thought, it's like the new fried food).