J – Junk Food, Why Do We Love It So?


Your-brain-on-food impactlab.net

My husband’s birthday was the other day.  My son went out and bought him a really nice cheesecake for him.  He has eaten several slices since then, but the cake sits in our fridge, among the platters of baked chicken, bowls of brown rice and little buckets of berries and vegetables.  My sons won’t go near it because, it is everything a “gains” meal is not – full of fat, sugar and carbohydrates. I have not eaten any sugar in a while, but that cake sat in the fridge, taunting me.  So, I had a slice.  Actually, it was really more of a sliver.  And I would like to sit here and tell you, it was not scrumptious, and that I didn’t enjoy it, and each bite was pure misery, but that would be a HUGE lie.  It was delicious and creamy and sugary, with a little crunchy chocolate topping and went down a treat!!!!

Why I am confessing all of this to you?  You are probably thinking to yourselves – what’s the big deal, it’s one sliver of stinking cheesecake. So what?

Well, it is not the actual ingestion of the cheesecake (a sliver, not a slice) that I want to discuss, it is what happened AFTER I ate the cheesecake.  I ate the cheesecake, the whole time thinking to myself what a bad idea it was.  I cleaned up my plate, put it in the dishwasher, and then sat down on the sofa to watch a little TV before I started the process of preparing to go to bed.  Sitting on the sofa, I came to terms with that piece of cheesecake. 

But then a funny thing happened.  I started thinking about the cheese puffs in the pantry, and then the Double-Chocolate Milanos on the next shelf down.  I even went to the kitchen to see if they were still there…and they were.  A rather epic battle of the healthy me and the pre-dieting me ensued as I stood looking at the cheese puffs and the cookies, while hanging despondently on the doors of the pantry.  I really wanted more junk food. Of course, at this point, all my brilliant blogging friends are saying to themselves – why don’t you just throw that crap out, so you (me) are not tempted.  And I would say back to you, I can’t – there are some people in this house who are not making healthy lifestyle changes and enjoy eating all the unhealthy stuff.

I began thinking about why I was considering ingesting more crap, why I NEEDED to ingest more sweets and fat, when I haven’t had a craving in over 2 weeks. I decided to ask Siri on my I-phone “Why do I want more junk food, after eating a piece of cheesecake?”  Her response was – “I don’t know, frankly I have wondered that myself.”  Well, that wasn’t helpful at all.  Siri can be such a smart butt sometimes. Then I went to Google, and typed in the same question. And I found some most interesting answers.

It turns out, food companies spend gazillions of dollars researching how to make their snack foods more addictive.  That’s right!  They want us to eat, and eat, and eat.  It has something to do with sensation of biting into the food, the crunchiness, the creaminess and how it stimulates our taste centers.  They make food that is calorie dense but not nutrient dense, so the body feels it is not full, and so we eat more and more in an effort to become satiated.

Take the Cheese Puff – by Cheetos.  I read a quote from a scientist that said the Cheese Puff is the most brilliantly designed food on the planet.  It has something to do with the initial crunchiness, the way it deflates in your mouth, and the way it doesn’t in the least bit fill you up, and leaves you wanting more.  And before you know it, the entire bag is gone and you are in the pantry looking for more junk food.

cheese puffs walmart.com

Look at the Oreo – as you bite into it, you have the crunchiness, followed by the creaminess of the center. There was a small study done – using rats.  They were trained to go through a maze to find Oreos, cocaine or morphine.  It turns out the rats liked the Oreos as much as they did the cocaine and morphine.  Because of the high fat/sugar content, the Oreos stimulate the pleasure center of the brain, in very much the same way drugs do.  Interestingly, they discovered rats like to eat their Oreos just like we do, scraping out the creamy center first and then eating the chocolate cookie.  There is some question of the validity of this study, because the rat’s other option was rice cakes. Smart rats for choosing the Oreos I say.

Oreo - en.wikipedia.org

So why do we crave sugar and fats?  Some of the articles I read say it has something to do with stress, being fatigued and not getting enough sleep.  Some said it had to do with us being cavemen once upon a time and so we are driven to find caloric dense foods, because we don’t know from where our next meal would come (as cavemen).  Others say eating junk food, high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, leads to insulin spikes, and once the insulin has taken care of the sudden influx of sugar, it roams around in your body looking for more sugar (like Pacman), and we in turn comply by pumping more sugar into our systems and it is a never-ending cycle.  Another article said cravings for all food that is scrumptiously yummy, is a result of vitamins and minerals that are deficient in our bodies.  For instance, if one craves sweets, it might be because of a chromium deficiency.  This can be taken care of, by taking a chromium supplement.

Bottom line is – nobody seems to really know why I needed more junk food after eating a sliver of cheesecake. I suspect it was the rapid spike in insulin, which I had not experienced in several weeks, because I have been eating protein dense meals with no sugar, and minimal fats.  Lesson learned here, just stay away from the junk foods, because once you step on that mouse wheel, getting back off is hard to do. And for those of you that say moderation is the answer – your will and control must be much stronger than mine – and more power to you!!!

Here is an interesting video:



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