How many times have you heard the message telling you to resist that snack? Or maybe just eat it in moderation? The message is clear, if you have strong enough will power, you can avoid overeating and live a healthy lifestyle. But what they fail to mention is the fact that the food manufacturers have designed processed foods to encourage overeating.
Food manufacturers are interested in one thing, making money. They do this by selling food, and the more food they sell, the more money they make. So they have designed processed foods in ways meant to make you eat more.
Are you just dying to have that bag of potato chips? That is because it was designed for maximum craveability, or the feeling that you need to eat that food. That taste of salt hits your tongue and feel good receptors in your brain respond and start telling your body you need more, so you do so.
Our brain does have an off-switch, called sensation-specific satiety, and eventually your brain no longer sends signals that it needs more salt. But food manufacturers have secret weapons to overcome this; they are fat and sugar. Both fat and sugar set off the same pleasure response in the brain and thus also drive the craving for more. So a snack that has dynamic contrast, meaning a combination of salt, sugar and fat, overcomes this satiety switch and encourages you to keep eating more and more.
Your brain wants calories; it is how you survive after all. So when you take a bite of food it begins anticipating these calories. However, certain foods seem to dissolve in your mouth (think cheese puffs and ice cream) so your stomach and brain never get the message that you already got those calories. As a result, your brain sends out an SOS calling for more calories, which you respond to by eating more cheese puffs. This phenomenon is called “vanishing calorie density” and is another weapon in food manufacturer’s arsenal.
For our ancestors, these drives made sense. Food was scarce so you needed to eat when you could, in order to survive. But our ancestors did not have food manufacturers designing unhealthy foods meant to prey upon these drives. For this reason, the best way to overcome overeating is to eat whole, unprocessed foods, including veggies, fruits, lean meats and dairy.
Use these whole foods to create the dynamic contrast your body craves; mix fruit with granola and yogurt or oatmeal with cinnamon and nuts.
Lastly, take a look at any emotional or psychological triggers driving you to overeat. Stress and boredom are two main culprits so come up with ways to overcome this such as taking a walk or completing a hobby.
Knowing how psychology and science intersect in the food manufacturing process can help you overcome the overeating trap being laid for you.