What happens when you really savour junk food?
Some foods are super-moreish
There’s something about certain foods that alters the way we eat them, and makes it harder to stop.
Some brands even use irresistibility as a selling point. “Once you pop you can’t stop” is the claim made by Pringles!
And for many of us, they are right – we’ve got to the end of the tube well before our appetite for them dries up.
Why is this?
Dr David Kessler, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration, explains in his book* that creating the “bliss point” comes from careful engineering and extensive consumer testing.
It’s no accident that you eat the second bar in the Snickers Duo that you had intended to leave for tomorrow. Whatever is going on in your brain in each bite, there’s a compulsive and maybe out-of-control feel to how you’re eating.
You’re focusing on the next mouthful while you are eating this one. Anticipating the pleasure of the next bite. The cascade of flavours and textures the Food Technologists created in Snickers means you eat faster, chasing the bliss point.
These foods stimulate rather than satisfy our appetite
David Kessler’s book had a big impact on me. I even remember exactly where I was – at a particular table in a café in Caerleon in South Wales – when I read about layering of texture, flavour and melting-ness. I was shocked and, like the clients I’ve talked with about this, angry.
I felt I was being manipulated for considerable profit.
If you’re trying to lose weight, what do you normally do about your favourite treats?
Handling these super-tempting snacks is particularly tricky if you have them in the cupboard and you are trying to reduce your intake. Not only are they easy to eat quickly, but they’re also highly calorific.
A tactic many people use is to cut them out altogether and stop having them at home at all.
An alternative to cutting them out of your diet
Things are a bit more tricky if these calorific treats are in the cupboard for other members of the household.
I wanted to share with you something you might find useful, either for yourself or for a client.
A fascinating discovery
Maya had a thing about savoury evening snacks. She enjoyed them with her evening TV, but felt out of control as the amounts had crept up relentlessly over recent years. As part of working with me using Appetite Retraining, Maya wanted to change this specific eating habit. It was getting her down and made her feel weak.
Maya was enraged when she heard about David Kessler’s writing – she felt she was being manipulated by Big Food corporations, and she didn’t like it.
Maya wanted to try something new to regain control of her eating.
She used the approach that had already helped her dramatically reduce the amount of takeaways she ate. She slowed down and savoured each Pringle. Instead of bolting the tube, she held just one in her mouth at a time and let it melt. She focused on the flavours and sensations in her mouth and she was astonished at what she experienced….
When she slowed down and really focused on each Pringle, the taste lingered and the texture changed. But not how she imagined.
Crispy meltingness became claggy chemicals!
What a shock!
Maya had assumed that slowing down with her favourite salty snacks would do what it did with her favourite meals – help her to get much more enjoyment from each mouthful so she could eat less for the same amount of pleasure.
So it came as a real surprise that far from intensifying the pleasure, what she got was cloying texture and chemical tastes. She decided to ditch them altogether – the pleasure had gone so they no longer felt like a treat.
Courtney’s similar discovery, in the same week
Imagine my surprise when I heard a very similar story from Courtney later the same week.
Courtney had a love-hate relationship with choc chip cookies. She would daydream about them and long for her next fix. She’d leave her flat at all times of day or night to buy them so she could curl up on the sofa and enjoy taste after heavenly taste.
When she slowed right down, switched off the tv and put all her attention on to savouring the cookie, she said “I might as well have just put spoonfuls of sugar in my mouth. That’s all I could really taste. I don’t know what happened, but cookies have lost their allure for me.”
Maybe you could try this yourself, using this simple exercise…
The slowly savouring exercise
- Make a bit of time for this exercise – you don’t want to rush it
- Turn off all distractions – you’ll need all your attention for this experiment
- Have the snack ready
- Take a bite
- Hold it in your mouth and really notice the flavours you can taste, and the textures you get
- Try to chew slowly so that you are really sensing everything this mouthful has to offer
- Notice how much pleasure you’ve experienced from this one, slow mouthful
Were you disappointed or delighted?
The great thing about this experiment is that either result could really help you –
- If you really loved that mouthful
Finding that savouring the mouthful was indeed blissful after all means that maybe this could be your particular treat of choice. The thing you make time for, and make an occasion of. I wrote about how your favourite snack can help you lose weight in a blog which talks you through how to create your own “treat-o’clock”
- If you were as disappointed as Maya and Courtney were
When you savoured what you thought you loved, but found it lacking, you’re likely to find it easier to walk by in the supermarket. This is your opportunity to discover what treat or snack might be truly delicious and life-enhancing. I’d suggest doing the same slow savouring exercise for any other treat food until you find one that really hits the spot.
Where does this leave you and junk food?
I hope you can see from what we’ve talked about, that perhaps you can cut down on junk food because you discover you don’t want it, rather than trying to force yourself to restrict your intake.
If you try slowly savouring your favourite ‘junk food’, do let me know how you get on, either commenting on this article, or by posting on social media.
* Kessler, D. The End of Overeating
photo by Jeff Siepman for Unsplash