Run into an untended plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, and even the strongest among us can feel our inner cookie monster roaring. When it comes to fat and sugar, our instincts simply don’t stand a chance.
SUGAR AND FAT ARE AN ADDICTIVE COMBINATION
What is it about sugary, fatty foods that causes us to continually overeat them, even when we are not hungry? According to a recent experiment, fatty processed treats stimulate the reward center of our brains in a way that more closely resembles drug addiction than hunger.
Participants were given $10 to bid on snack foods, some sugary, some fatty, and some a combination of the two. Researchers found that participants were generally more willing to pay more for the sugary-fatty foods.
Even more interesting, according to a press release, just looking at “the fat-carb combo lit up neural circuits in the reward center of the brain more than a favorite food, a potentially sweeter or more energy-dense food, or a larger portion size.”
This demonstrates that the brain overvalues fat and carbs together, oftentimes to a fault. This type of neural wiring may be precisely why so many Americans struggle with obesity and giving up processed junk foods.
Think about it. There is no natural equivalent to a fatty, carby processed treat like a doughnut, cookie, or slice of fast food pizza.
Naturally foraged foods with this type of overstimulating effect on the brain simply do not exist—especially without fiber to slow down absorption. That’s probably why they cause our brains to go bananas.
These processed foods, which have only been around for the last 150 years or so, are so unnaturally rich in energy, they cause our brains to go berserk and we helplessly stuff our faces. Our brains haven’t evolved to handle them.
While the only way to have a truly healthy relationship with these heavy, addictive foods is to avoid them almost religiously, no one is perfect. Here are some tips to help you get through those days of intense cravings and break room doughnuts without eating everything in sight.
AVOIDING SUPER PROCESSED FAT + CARB COMBOS.
Opening a package of Oreos, Chips Ahoy, pizza bites, powdered doughnuts, Cheez-Its, cupcakes, cheese balls, or even Combos is a slippery slope. Eating these foods is like throwing a grenade into your satiety and willpower.
You can’t blame yourself for downing a whole package of these foods in one sitting. They are designed to be irresistible to our palates. The best thing you can do is to avoid eating these unhealthy junk foods altogether.
HACK YOUR PORTIONS.
If you’re enjoying a pizza, brownie, or deep bowl of creamy white pasta, set your portion aside before even taking a bite. Put the rest in a to-go container, move away from the buffet table, or leave it in the kitchen.
Because these foods are so addictive, give yourself 10 minutes between servings. Sip some water and chat with your loved ones. Then, if you’re still hungry, help yourself to another small portion. Odds are, you’ll be full, and the incessant cravings will have diminished to the point where you can exert some self control.
FIND NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO SATISFY CRAVINGS.
For those foods you really love, it can be helpful to design your own healthier alternatives.
Keep some peanut butter cookie dough balls in the freezer. Great for satisfying those sweet and fatty needs, these PB cookies also contain fiber and protein to balance out the sugar spike and tamp growing cravings. Find a go-to combo that feels indulgent, but keeps you on the rational side of snacking.