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Help! I can't stop eating crap!

How do you resist this?

Ever had a resolution of steel and assured yourself that no more junk food was going to pass by your lips? You’re done with it. You’ve had enough. You’ve got to get your weight under control. You’ve got to stop eating so much bad food. No more. Never again. Starting today.

Things go well for a few days. Or a day. Or a few hours. And then suddenly the “f*ck it” attitude kicks in. You’re going to have it. It’s been a rough day, or a great day, or you just “deserve it”, or whatever… and anyway, you know you’re hopeless at giving up things like this. You always fail. You’ve got no willpower. What’s the point in even trying to resist it.

But what if it wasn’t about your willpower or lack thereof? What if you were actually being manipulated?

What if, in actual fact, it wasn’t entirely your fault?

The food industry is all about making money. Yes the food they create and provide can nourish us, but more importantly for the company is their bottom line. Not your bottom…. line. This is the first thing which is critical to understand.

For instance labels… health claims on labels (or in menus) are not there because there is any interest in your health. They are there because they know it draws your attention. They know it will help sell their product. The claims in many instances are pretty dubious (or exploit a loophole in food labelling laws), but these companies also know that the vast majority of people will just take the claim on face value and make no attempt to look at the product further.

And then there is the “food” itself. Food science is not just the art of creating things you like to eat. It’s the art (science) of creating things you can’t stop eating. The right combination of sugar, salt and fat, along with mouth feel, how much work you have to do to eat it (eg 10 chews or 3 chews) and the marketing messages a food is sold with all contribute to making a food hyper-palatable. ie food that you just can’t stop eating. And believe me it is very much science. If you think companies just take a chance at releasing new products onto the market and hope you like it you are very much misguided.

Hyper-palatable food is now also available everywhere. There have been numerous studies which have shown that the less work we have to do to procure food, the more of it we eat. In a similar vein, we will always eat more from a larger serving than we will from a smaller one. So those Value meals that you think give great bang for your buck are again just a trick. If a company can get an extra $1 from you for providing you with an additional 10c (cost) of food, then it’s pretty good for their bottom line. The only real value gained is to their profits.

Eating hyper-palatable food makes us feel good, even if it is just momentarily. Thus marketing efforts for these types of food often sell this image. With work and life related stress at all time highs, food companies cleverly tap into this. They sell a “feeling”. An “escape”. A moment of “bliss”. So again you are seduced subconsciously into desiring something “special”. Something that will give you a lift when you are feeling a bit down, or over-run or stressed.

So next time you are beating yourself up about your lack of willpower, try considering it in a different light. Acknowledge that you are presently caught in a trap. Acknowledge that you’ve been sucked in. You are behaving in exactly the way the food industry wants you to behave and knows you will behave for as long as you continue to be their victim. Once you understand this you can start to think differently about what is going on and start to take back control of your eating habits.

For more reading on this try “The End of Overeating. Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” by David A. Kessler. The contents are equally as applicable for an Australian audience as they are for Americans.

If you need help, we offer a 12 month long nutrition coaching programme “Nourish to Flourish” which is aimed at establishing lifelong healthy habits around food and nutrition. No crash diets. No 6 week challenges. No special supplements or food-like substances to buy. No making you eat stuff you hate. Just you, with a real-live coach and daily lessons that slowly shape your eating habits painlessly and thoroughly over the course of a year so you can gain back control of your eating and your life.

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