Why Are We Addicted To Bad Foods?
Today, everyone wants to eat healthy and do their very best to stay in shape but some people find that this can be incredibly difficult to achieve.
Whenever you have a goal in mind, there will always be obstacles in your path, and to get past these obstacles you need to ask yourself: what are these obstacles? If you know why something is causing you an issue it becomes a lot easier to overcome.
For a very basic example think of when you are traveling somewhere and you find you can go no further. Why can’t you go further? It may be that the way is blocked.
Now we know why we can’t do this we can ask how we can reach our destination. We can either remove the blockage or simply find another way.
With that in mind, let us ask, why can’t we stay away from the foods that are so bad for us?
Sugar is a key ingredient of many of the foods we love to gorge ourselves on; it is also an incredibly addictive substance.
Experiments have shown that sugar offers the signs of addiction including bingeing, withdrawal, and craving.
Rats were kept from eating for 12 hours, then given unlimited access to food and sugar water for a brief period, then the food and sugar was taken away again. This was repeated for a few weeks and the rats began bingeing when given access to sugar, and, over time, increased their intake to twice the amount from when they started. When sugar was no longer given or the rats were given an opioid blocker, which prevents the high by blocking some of the pleasurable effects in the brain, the rats showed signs of withdrawal, such as teeth-chattering and body tremors.
The reason that sugar is so addictive is because of the dopamine that is released when it is consumed. Dopamine is released with any food but over time the dopamine levels decrease, this is why we get bored of some foods. With sugar however this is not the case and the dopamine levels remain high whenever it is eaten.
That pleasurable feeling is what we get addicted to.
We as a people are generally quite lazy and this encourages us to look for short cuts in anything we do. Marketers are very aware of this and will do anything they can to help us have an easier life.
Think about a day in your own life. You have been busy all day, whether it be at work or looking after your family, the last thing you want to do is start carefully preparing a healthy meal that will take you time and energy. Luckily you went to the store and you have a nice quick meal you can enjoy and then relax. How convenient.
Part of the reason that convenience sways us so much is that we have a limited amount of impulse control. Some of us are better at resisting temptation, while others are more likely to give in. Dopamine activity in the brain’s reward center can disrupt your brain’s decision-making ability by interfering with the brain’s impulse control region.
Our Brains Are Against Us
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in our mission to eat healthier is our own brain, it’s one of our biggest enemies. It will cause us problems in a number of ways when trying to eat what is good for us in a couple of ways.
- The brain is wired to be cheap
Decisions become difficult when two opposing forces try to sway you; in this case, spending money versus eating. The brain weighs the costs and benefits of a decision in a region called the orbitofrontal cortex. Brain-imaging has shown that losing money can cause your brain to experience the same pattern of activity as when you stub your toe.
Simply the cheaper the meal, the happier the brain.
- Our brain prefers higher calories
Our brains evolved during a time when food was scarce, so we became adept at choosing foods that are packed with calories.
Scientists analyzed mice brains during an experiment to see whether the mice would notice a high calorie content, they found that the mice released dopamine in response to sugar water, even though they couldn’t taste it, but not in response to regular water or sucralose. Our brains can tell the difference between high calorie foods and diet foods even if they taste the same.
What Can You Do?
With everything against you in your quest in healthy eating, what can you do to overcome all these obstacles?
The answer is simpler than you may imagine.
Remove the temptation.
If you get rid of all the bad food in your house, the temptation will no longer be an issue. If there’s a bag of chips in the cupboard, you’re going to end up eating them. If they aren’t there you can’t eat them.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up all the treats that you enjoy, simply have them on special occasions and if you are out in public. This will give you an incredible advantage in the war on junk food.