Why It Can Be Hard To Give Up Junk Food
Most of us go through life on autopilot, and when we are functioning like this we are stressed, rushed, and we aren’t really thinking for ourselves. This makes us less likely to make good decisions and more likely to fall for the lures of advertising and addictive, fast, low-nutrient food choices
A few years ago I read a book about the fine-tuning that went in to the sales of junk food. EVERYTHING is planned, and I mean everything! Addictive ingredients, macronutrient balance, advertising, emotional targeting, social stigma, and supermarket placement all play a part in getting you hooked
Basically, it’s you against the world when it comes to junk food. Awareness of these things plays a large role in making these kinds of changes in your life
ADVERTISING: Advertising is an art-form in itself, and the point of advertising is to make you buy something. They use product placement, colours, quotes, font, imagery (often sexual), and subliminal tactics to lure you in to buy a product. For memory, there is something like 100 employees who specialize in psychology that work for Coca-Cola, and they are certainly not employed there to make it taste good.
Why do they need to go this far to sell these products? Because they’re not good for you. If they were good for you, we would buy them naturally without having to be pulled in
ADDICTIVE INGREDIENTS: Sugar is addictive, additives can be addictive, artificial sweeteners are addictive. In most people, they fire off the same part of the brain as illicit-drug do. Most of us have addictive personalities, so this one is a big one. They even use macronutrient balance to throw off your body’s natural hunger hormones so that you eat more than you need to.
One study on this macronutrient balance exposed rats to either unlimited fatty foods, or unlimited sugary foods. In both groups, the rats ate until they were full and then stopped. They didn’t gain weight. Then, they applied a macronutrient ratio where carbs and fats were combined, and all of a sudden the rats couldn’t stop eating. It was like this balance completely over-rode their internal mechanisms, and the rats became obese.
After learning that, being the nerd that I am, I went to the supermarket and checked the biscuits, ice-cream and chocolate and sure enough, all of these processed foods contained this ratio!
TARGETING YOUR EMOTIONS: We are all emotional beings, and many of us are way to busy to deal with them properly. I would say that being a workaholic, drinking alcohol, and over-eating are probably the most socially acceptable coping mechanisms we have to squash these emotions down. The food companies know this, and they use the tactics mentioned above to evoke an emotional response from you
Additionally when you eat, your salivary glands release a type of ‘feel good’ hormone, which is why you feel so great when you ‘eat’ your emotions. We then remember this experience next time we are feeling emotional, and repeat the process. Clever, huh?
SUPERMARKET PLACEMENT: Last but not least, the supermarkets want to sell food, so where do they put it? At the front of all the isles and throughout the middle of the supermarket with all the foods we ‘need’ it milk, bread etc, toward the back. This is predatory marketing, and most of the foods are on sale. When you’re caught up in this cycle, it’s hard to resist a massive block of chocolate that is on sale for $2.
Another one I could chuck in there (though it’s more based on life experience) is social stigma. You are less likely to be judged for eating rubbish than you are for eating a chicken salad. I say forget the stigma, do your research, and give your body the best chance it has at being healthy!
The more informed you are, the easier it is to avoid falling into the trap. If you eat whole foods, you can’t eat nearly as much, and when you aren’t nutrient deprived, your appetite wont be as crazy.
Our bodies are designed with physiological mechanisms to control eating, so we can stay healthy. Many of these foods will over-ride those mechanisms. Eat things that aren’t advertised, but are whole, nutritious, and non-addictive.
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