Manufactured Scrumptiousness: Why You Can't Stop Overeating
Manufactured Scrumptiousness: Why You Can't Stop Overeating
Greetings and salutations my friends.
It is Memorial Day weekend.
A time to be with friends, family and loved ones.
A time to also remember the fallen soldiers that have protected our great country.
This also the time to eat. Like hot dogs, french fries and lots of processed baked beans.
Oh and chips and cookies.
Have you ever overdoes on cookies?
You know the feeling: When one cookie becomes 10 and then becomes 20! And suddenly you snap out of your sugar high and wonder, "what happened and what the hell is wrong with me?"
This is actually a normal process in today's society. Today's hyper-palatable food is a modern day food crisis- one leaving us sick, out of control and constantly wanting more.
It’s happened to us all.
After a frenzy of lustful grabbing and furious crunching, we find ourselves at the bottom of a a huge bag of delicious Lay's potato chips.
“How did that happen?” we ask in a daze.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop?”
But, before going into full-fledged self-loathing mode, consider this.
Processed foods are scientifically engineered to be irresistible and easy to gobble up in large quantities. If you can’t stop, the chips are doing their job.
If you feel out of control around certain foods, you are not alone. Even healthy eaters fall down the black hold of scrumptiousness. I, myself, have issues with potato chips. At night, it isn't uncommon for me to open a bag of baked Lays and devour them. I too have issues with this scientifically engineered food. It feels like no one is safe from their wrath.
Certain foods are engineered to make us eat more. And here is the truth the entire food industry is dedicated to making our processed foods more hyper-palatable. In layman's terms that means we will want more of whatever it is. Potato chips in my case.
Our body and brain are responding exactly as they’re supposed to. It’s supposed to feel almost unnatural to stop eating these foods!
But we’re not talking about food like celery sticks, whole brown rice, or baked salmon filets.
(How often do you hear yourself say, “I ate so much steamed asparagus! I just couldn’t stop myself!” That’s right. You’ve never heard yourself say that.)
We’re talking about processed foods.
Processed foods are foods that have been modified from their original, whole-food form in order to change their flavor, texture, or shelf-life. Often, they’re altered so that they hit as many pleasure centers as possible- from our brains to our bellies.
How does the food industry do this?
Let's take a deeper look.
The food industry has a variety of different processing methods and ingredient additives that make our food irresistible.
Here are a few examples from Precision Nutrition:
Grains are processed into a slurry and pass through a machine called an extruder. With the help of high heat and pressure, whole, raw grains get transformed into airy, crispy, easy-to-digest shapes like cereals, crackers, and other crunchy foods with uniform shapes.
In addition to changing texture and digestibility, the extrusion process also destroys certain nutrients and enzymes, denatures proteins, and changes the starch composition of a grain. This lowers the nutrition and increases the glycemic index of the product.
Used to improve the “mouth feel” of a product, emulsifiers smooth out and thicken texture, creating a rich, luxurious feel. Although there are natural emulsifiers, like egg yolk, the food industry often uses chemical emulsifiers like Polysorbate-80, sodium phosphate, and carboxymethylcellulose.
Emulsifiers are often found in creamy treats like ice cream products and processed dairy foods like flavored yogurts or neon orange cheese spreads.
Flavor additives like artificial flavoring agents or monosodium glutamate (MSG) allow food manufacturers to amplify taste without adding whole-food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, or spices. This is useful because artificial flavoring agents are cheap and won’t change a product’s texture.
Color strongly affects how appealing we perceive a food to be. No one wants to eat gray crackers; add a toasty golden hue and suddenly that cracker is a lot more appealing. Coloring agents, like Yellow #5 (tartrazine) and Red #40 (allura red), are added purely for the look of food — they don’t add nutrition.
Recently, many large food corporations have been switching to natural foods dyes, like beet powder or turmeric, to color their food products after some correlations emerged linking artificial coloring agents to behavioral problems in children.
Natural fats eventually go rancid, changing their flavor and texture. In order to render fats more stable, hydrogen atoms are added to fats (usually vegetable oils) so they are less vulnerable to oxidation.
Food manufacturers use hydrogenated oils because it means their products can stay on the shelves for longer without changing flavor or texture. However, the consumption of hydrogenated fats, or trans fats, has been linked to increased rates of heart disease.
Now lets look at how processed foods "trick" us into eating more than we wanted too.
Remember awareness equals power.
The Marketing convinces us it is "healthy"
Every processed box or package I can think of comes in something bright, come with a celebrity endorsement or with a super hero on it. They are eye catching and enamoring. They trigger lots of good feelings about the product.
Take, for example, “health halo” foods.
“Health halo” foods are processed foods that contain health buzzwords like organic, vegan, and gluten-free on their label to create an illusion, or halo, of health around them.
Companies come out with organic versions of their boxed macaroni and cheese, gluten-free versions of their glazed pastries, and vegan versions of their icing-filled cookies.
You’ll see chips “prepared with avocado oil,” sugary cereal “made with flaxseeds,” or creamy chip dip with “real spinach.”
The nutrient content of those foods isn’t particularly impressive, but the addition of nutrition buzzwords and trendy ingredients make us perceive them as healthier.
Marketers also choose words that relate more broadly to self-care.
Ever notice how many processed food slogans sound like this?
“Have a break.”
“Take some time for yourself.”
“You deserve it.”
Words like “break” and “deserve” distract us from our physical sensations and tap into our feelings — a place where we just want to be understood, supported, soothed, and perhaps just escape for a moment.
Health buzzwords and emotional appeals can make us perceive a food as “good for me”; it seems like a wise and caring choice to put them in our shopping carts, then in our mouths.
And if a food is “healthy” or “we deserve it,” we don’t feel so bad eating as much as we want.
Variety excites us
I am a rare creature (duh). I can eat the same foods everyday, like clockwork, for my entire life.
I keep my pool of foods to a minimum.
This keeps me from straying.
I understand I am in the vast majority.
However when given a vast array of choices, we tend to want it all.
Like a buffet.
We have to try everything.
And then 4,000 calories later.
We feel like shit.
When we have lots of variety, we have lots of appetite.
It’s hard to overeat tons of one thing, with one flavor, like apples.
How many apples can you eat before, frankly, you get bored?
Reduce the variety and you also reduce distraction from your body’s built-in self-regulating signals. When we’re not so giddy with choice and stimuli, we’re more likely to slow down, eat mindfully, and eat less.
Multiple flavors at once-a recipe for disaster
If there is a party going on in your mouth, you can guarantee there two of the following:
1. Salt 2. Sugar 3. Fat
When you combine these flavors, they become ultra delicious and hard-to-resist. This is called stimuli stacking, combining two or more flavors to create a hyper-palatable food.
Food manufacturers know to make people overeat, they must have two if not all three.
A food scientist at a prominent processed food manufacturer, she revealed the specific “stimuli stacking” formula that the food industry uses to create hyper-palatable food.
They call it “The Big 5.”
Foods that fulfill “The Big 5” are:
Calorie dense, usually high in sugar and/or fat.Intensely flavored — the food must deliver strong flavor hits.Immediately delicious, with a love-at-first taste experience.Easy to eat — no effortful chewing needed!“Melted” down easily — the food almost dissolves in your mouth, thus easy to eat quickly and overconsume.
When these five factors exist in one food, you get a product that’s practically irresistible.
In fact, foods developed by this company have to hit the big 5, or they’re not allowed to go to market.
When processed food manufacturers evaluate a prospective food product, the “irresistibility” (the extent to which a person can’t stop eating a food) is more important even than taste!
Just think about the ease of eating whole foods versus processed foods:
Whole foods require about 25 chews per mouthful, which means that you have to slow down. When you slow down, your satiety signals keep pace with your eating and have a chance to tell you when you’ve had enough. Which is probably why you’ve never overeaten Brussel sprouts (also because, farting).
Processed food manufacturers, on the other hand, aim for food products to be broken down in 10 chews or less per mouthful. That means the intense, flavorful, crazy-delicious experience is over quickly, and you’re left wanting more — ASAP.
Now can you see why its not the best idea to eat anything boxed or packaged?
Can you also see why you overeat on processed foods?
At the end of the day, what you put in your body matters. If you viewed your body as a machine and only a machine. would you treat it differently? You could't feed a car a donut and expect it to get you to work, would you?
Answer is you wouldn't.
So you can't expect your complicated bags of meat, bones an fluid to function either.
And you sure as hell can't expect to eat just one.
That isn't what they want.
They want you to overeat and be fat.
Plain and simple.
Fight the urge and limit your processed foods intake.
Yours in fitness,