Who knew that the food industry was setting us up for failure? I did, back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, when I was a crunchy granola, but no one would believe me and I didn’t have the gumption to don garden gloves and dumpster dive in Chili’s garbage pails. Yet, I’m proud of David Kessler for doing just that. And for uncovering our brain’s hardwire that leaves us craving fat, sugar and salt. Foods that are processed, laden with fat and calories, packaged prettily, advertised, and then placed on every corner 24/7 – of course, we’re addicted.
“We’re eating to stimulate ourselves, not satisfy hunger” Kessler said. “And just what are we going to do about it?” Kessler, former FDA commissioner, who has yo-yo dieted for years, finally dug up the truth in fast-food restaurant dumpsters. Through research, he figured out that ‘highly palatable’ foods – those made with fat, sugar and salt – stimulate the brain to release dopamin. For those unsure of this hormone’s purpose, it’s the one that stimulates our pleasure center. Not only do the actual foods stimulate the pleasure response, in time, we are conditioned, like Pavlov’s dog, to respond to the mere thought of the particular food.
An example: I love the pumpkin bread at Starbucks but only allow myself a taste a couple of times a year. Yet, every time I go into Starbucks, I gaze at that treat – I even think about it when I see a Starbucks. This is the hardwire in our brain that leads some of us to overeat. Eating that food then tells the brain to release opiods, the emotional relief button. Hmmmmm, it’s starting to make sense – we eat the food, we feel yummy inside, we want more, we eat more, we feel yummy for a while but we gain weight, we feel guilty, but eat more for that yummy feeling inside.
Going forward, it’s possible we can ignore these foods, or eat less of them. We can tell ourselves that we really aren’t satisfied or on a high – that these foods are contributing to our early demise, muffin tops, and negative self-image. And like Kessler, we can deviate our pathways to avoid the foods that tempt us. If it leaves you feeling good about yourself at the end of the day, these aren’t bad options.