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The Power of Junk Food

The Power of Junk Food

Last week, I went to dinner with my dad at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We sat down, and almost immediately I felt my mouth fill with saliva as I stared at my favorite item on the menu: chicken chimichanga smothered in green chili. Did I just drool? I could hardly wait for the fiery deliciousness of their famous green chili. Before I knew it, I’d wolfed down two baskets of chips and my smothered chicken chimichanga. Poor Dad didn’t even see what was coming.

Now, I like to think I can control myself when it comes to food. But with certain things, like greasy, deep-fried Mexican food, I can barely stop myself from eating the entire plate–even long after I’m full. But a new book that came across my desk might explain why I can’t bring myself to put down the chimichanga.

David A. Kessler, PhD, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (Rodale, 2009) describes some of the ways that the American food industry and scientists have tricked us into overeating. They create what he calls “hyper-palatable” foods, loaded with high fat, sugar, and sodium. It’s the foods we love–chicken wings, milk shakes, even a Snickers bar–with ingredients designed to hit “the bliss point,” where we obtain the greatest amount of pleasure from the food. The combination of sugars and fats in the food stimulate the endorphins in our bodies, which make us feel good while eating the food, and dopamine, so that we continue to crave it long after we’ve licked the plate clean. Our brains get so over-stimulated and aroused by the food that it’s much like a drug, with the same addictive powers. In short, these foods are like the bad boyfriend you can’t seem to let go. You know he’s bad news for you, but you just can’t stop taking him back and wanting more.

Now that I know green chili is a hyper-palatable food with its high fat and sodium content, I’m ready to fight back. What really hit home for me is that Kessler isn’t blaming my chimichanga binges on lack of will power, but on a society that has conditioned us to “hyper-eat.” Kessler doesn’t say we have to cut back completely on the foods we crave and love, but learn to manage our cravings. One tip he gives is to change how we look at a meal. Instead of looking at my huge plate of chimichangas and feeling excited, I’m learning to cut my portion in half (still a lot of food), realizing that glutting myself will only make me feel terrible tomorrow.

So what’s the one food you all crave? Any tips on how to satisfy your cravings without overeating?

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Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health

By Marcy Franklin, Natural Solutions

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Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living.

25 comments

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9:45AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

In my 20(s) this sugar dependency addiction problem hit my metabolism with a vengeance. If we could get our economic system to promote and make affordable healthy foods, most of our population wouldn't have to wean themselves 'off' of all these chemically induced dependencies that are now seeminly permanent food staples across most of our globe. There is big big money to be cashed in on selling these toxic formulas of poor health. Those who profit fight finding a solution. Only those who discipline themselves OFF find a better life style. What's really a dirty shame is that healthy foods are more expensive, therefore, those with a greater income have a greater chance to purchase the good tasting healthy diet. Those on a strict budget have to spend carefully to keep good foods at hand to achieve a well balanced and satisfying regular diet. This is where temptation can rule the pocketbook, because the cheap treat, that's fun to eat, is an easy purchase. - and those who market these 'bad foods' know this all too too well -

9:16AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

Yeah, as with the article on fructose/sucrose/white sugar levels, etc., it really takes some work to get it out of the system once it's eaten. But on the holidays, for example? It's worth the work, though very difficult.

8:47AM PDT on Aug 9, 2009

Somehow I've gotten myself into craving relatively or really healthy snacks...bio corn and rice cakes, maybe with a little olive paste slathered on, just a couple of peanuts and chips to add taste variety, and a bit of cruditè - I much prefer this array to anything deep fried or really bad for me, though technically that stuff probably tastes better. Also I just don't keep anything too terrible in the house, nor go out to eat fast food. If feeling (and looking) good starts taking precedence over zinging your taste buds, I think anyone can first make the shift to healthy snacks, and then gradually reduce them to fit one's metabolism.

12:52PM PDT on Aug 7, 2009

I am all about the chips and salsa. What I do, and recommend to my clients as well, is never go to a "problem" restaurant hungry. If you show up to your favorite Mexican restaurant starving, you are guaranteed to over eat. Another good tip is to make sure you are properly hydrated before your meal. Many times we think we are hungry when in reality our body is saying, "Pardon me but I'm thirsty!" Try it and see what happens :)

7:40AM PDT on Jul 28, 2009

Not all food that is classed a "junk" is truly such. Much depends upon the preparation. I am fortunate in living upon an island where the locals pride themselves upon their catering, using only organic produce and shunning "genetically-modified" trash. In Town there were only three junk-food dispensaries, used chiefly by tourists, and one of those has closed recently through lack of business. Even the youngsters, brought up on traditional home-cooking, mainly avoid such places. It is all a matter of good training from an early age. Life expectancy here is very high. At eighy-two I am by no means the oldest in the village! Incidentally red meat appears on our widely-varied menus. There are very few things that are really harmful if eaten in moderation and wisely prepared.

5:53PM PDT on Jul 27, 2009

To avoid those food I stop going to those restaurants or sometimes I prevent myself from passing by and change my route, because whenever I see them I just can't help but crave for their food.

7:13AM PDT on Jul 25, 2009

all junk food is not good for our body bec it is not the healthiest it is a "toxic food".

9:11AM PDT on Jul 24, 2009

I crave salty snacks and can whip up nachos in minutes. That with a glass of wine is where it is at!!! Now I have been drinking Lipton citrus green tea and lots of Canadian ginger ale and that is satisfying my craving with a small glass compared to a few cans of Dr.Pepper or a whole bottle of wine with triscuits and jalapeno jack cheese, olives, and sweet and dill pickles. Talk about salt overload.

2:36AM PDT on Jul 24, 2009

There is only one way to STOP cravings and get away from junk food: re-educate your palate. Speaking from experience, I was a marzipan addict. Marzipan wrapped in German black chocolate! Guaranteed to mess with your gums and teeth; every Xmas, lasting well into the New Year, with an endless supply from generous relatives! I stopped. My taste began to change. I cannot bear most sweet things now because of their artificiality. It's exactly like a recovering alcoholic, mostly they stay off completely rather than indulge even a small amount. They know where it led. I don't think any of us, without some over-riding imperative, can willingly stay off the stuff we have grown accustomed to and say 'we like'. How can you like rat poison? I always marvel at smokers WHO carry on smoking despite packets with huge black letters:
'SMOKING KILLS'. Bless Sir Walter Raleigh,
'he was such a stupid git'(quote John Lennon about smoking). Got his head chopped off later. Probably a good thing, considering...
I'm not sure what my state of health is these days. I'm tired a lot. It's the other
addiction, coffee. Wakes you up and drops you down; very down, so you have to prop yourself up again. Coffee was originally used as an ENEMA by American Indians. Drinking it rots your liver, gums up your kidneys and messes with your teeth and gums. But we 'love it', don't we? And the process of extraction? You want to know? It's my last serious 'foods' problem . . . I hope.

3:48PM PDT on Jul 23, 2009

Oh goowy! It's not what you eat but how much one eats, if you overeat you are like a pig in a truft. I know so I am 40/50LBS overweight, I told myself I did not care at the time; if you indulge once in a while, it's OK but all the time? One will end up at 300LBS easy. Rich pople are thin-they have social reason to stay thin(like movie stars) If one like myself always over indulge then something is wrong/could be. Myself I said I don't care. Yaw well wrong! I do because at the finality we all care how we look...If someone is talking about a pound or two then forget it idiot; a binge(s) is a lot more significant for a binging person.Not talking about pimentos here but mass consumption of food..Get real...I went to Europe, the portion compare to US are really small and they have a variety of food in a meal not just fried chicken and mash and onions rings and fries and 2 super cokes. Ii have seen an add on tv where 2 person go to a swanky restaurant and not having been satisfied they go to a fast food chain for another meal=very, very bad add if you ask me....

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