Even though most people want to eat a healthy diet, most also complain that they are eating inflammatory foods – aka pseudo-foods – far too frequently, much more often than their bodies and health can handle. If this issue resonates with you, you might want to read “The end of overeating” by David Kessler, an interesting book on why so many of us struggle maintaining a good diet.
This book is rich on the science of how foods that combine sugar, fat, and salt trigger strong positive sensations that for many rapidly lead to insatiable desires for more and more. While Kessler’s science is solid and interesting that is not what grabbed me most. Instead, it was a sense of squirmy discomfort as he detailed how the food industry knowingly takes advantage of the way our brains are wired to sell us food products we should not eat. And, worse yet, how willingly we have bought into their concept of food as a feel-good, well-deserved, emotional entitlement rather than food as a source of the nutrients our bodies need to function well.
This process began sometime back in the 50s as science proved that sweet-salt-fat combinations trigger pleasure centers in the brain. Sweet tastes trigger especially pleasurable reactions – a little sugar water can both quiet an unhappy baby and help opioid drugs tackle pain more effectively. Today, the industry has a truly refined understanding of how to add aroma, spices, contrasts of creaminess and crunchiness along with melt-in-your-mouth smoothness to the sugar, fat, and salt to then be sold as a happiness product. This product is inteded to offer a brief (and as a result frequently sought after) respite from a stress filled life.
In one chapter, Kessler describes in fine detail how a cinnamon crunch bagel is constructed, starting with the first bite where the sweet crunch of the topping contrasts with the soft, smooth inside of the bagel while the cinnamon aroma pleasantly blends with sporadic bursts of the interesting flavor from occasional vanilla chips. That bite has a texture that is easy to chew and is coated with just enough fat to dissolve quickly in the mouth. It will be easily swallowed after a chew or two, and its ability to dissolve and disappear causes us to eat faster. The whole package comes together to make people want to eat more bagels more often.
The Panini cinnamon crunch bagel Kessler describes may not one of your favorites but Kessler describes many popular foods and drinks in similar detail, and, even if he misses your favorite go-to-food, you will surely recognize how consciously the food industry (and almost all restaurants) – manipulates your/our food preferences. Much like Pavlov’s dogs, we quickly become habituated to tantalizing mixtures of flavors, textures, and aromas. Mixtures that we look forward to eating and do not tire of. The food industry knows how to rewire our brains in ways that keep us yearning for these food products. Many people actually become addicted and cannot help but overeat them. The simpler, real foods that are meant to please our palate, the foods we need for health, pale by comparison. Real foods take too long to prepare, require too much chewing, and are frankly bland and boring. We eat them only because “we must,” feeling completely deprived and out-of-sorts if we are told to replace these tantalizing pseudo-foods with real foods for any length of time.
Kessler explains quite convincingly how the addictive pattern that governs most of our diets can only be broken by a sufficiently long period of abstinence. He acknowledges the stress we experience when our desire for “happy foods” battles with our desire to eat properly. He knows that effort often intensifies our desire for the “wrong foods.” But fortunately, in the end he helps us see that these sugar-salt-fat products buried in bacon, cheese, and chemicals are unattractive. When Kessler himself really understood how he was being manipulated, these foods actually became undesirable to him. His gift is sharing that insight with us.
I recommend Kessler’s book with one caveat: His goal was weight loss as the road to health. However, while excess body weight is a big factor in ill health it is not the only cause. There are far too many thin people with cancer, heart issues, kidney problems, autoimmune conditions, and such. We all (thin, fat, or perfect) need to learn as much as we can about what the food industry is up to, and how not to get caught up in their marketing schemes.
NOTE: TQI Diet classes are highly effective at helping people avoid food industry manipulation. A new series is starting soon, click here for the schedule and more detailed information.
NOTE: You are welcome to use my blog’s content for non-commercial purposes but only if if you attribute the work to me (Kathy Abascal) and link back to the blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Cinnamon Crunch – YIIP39 by Kyle Sacks
Return of the Stuff by Jack Lawrence