Its a radical idea but a recent article in the NY Times (How Food Makers Captured Our Brains) lends some credence to the idea that the food industry is behaving much like the tobacco industry was some years back (and probably still today). They engineer their food and the contents to make it as addictive as possible. This is done with no regard to health or health consequences. Their desire is to hook us to their product making us want more. Dr Kessler (Pediatrician that has served two presidents in his role at the FDA) has recently published a book: The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite)
My original supposition that I have shared with others was centered on sugar as the key ingredient akin to Nicotine – addicting and the reason why my kids have always preferred <INSERT: name of Fast Food Chain> Hamburger when compared to a home cooked Hamburger. But it is likely more about the combination of foods that is achieving this level of addiction:
food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt. The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily
The Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.
As he points out much of this is not about will power but the daily challenge we face in the over stimulated world of food. Knowing your own triggers (good and bad) is a great place to start. I know my own personal bad trigger is in the evening…I’ve been good all day and want to sit back and unwind and have big urge to head for anything sweet. My strategy is to deflect to an alternative in my case some type of herbal tea. This works well int he winter but is not as easy in the hot summer months when hot tea is less attractive. As with many things this is a journey not a destination. Who knows someone might have a good suggestion for an alternative that suits me – let me know I’ll share any that I receive.
There are no quick fixes and we and our children face this challenge on a daily basis but understanding what is affecting us and developing coping mechanisms can be a great start.
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