Enjoy your food (but not too much)

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I shop for food quite regularly, and so does my girlfriend. We hardly ever shop together, though. When my girlfriend asks me what we need I may have a few ideas but almost always end with this refrain: “Please don’t buy much s**t, because I’ll eat it.” I don’t have a great deal of self-control, so it’s much easier for me to keep unhealthy food out of arm’s reach. This is particularly true for foods that I find quite ‘moreish’, which for me include things like milk chocolate and biscuits (cookies).

Back in the day I used to think that the reason I would find it virtually impossible to eat just one or two chocolate biscuits, say, was down to my lack of self control or weak will or something. These characteristics no doubt play some part, but reading the work of Stephan Guyenet over at his website Whole Health Source made me aware of the concept of ‘food reward’. The idea is that some foods can be so rewarding (like recreational drugs) that it drives us to consume more of them. Stephan believes that the eating of highly rewarding foods is a potent driver of obesity. He may be right, though as I explain here, I have some reservations about the relevance of this concept to many people seeking to lose weight and enhance their health. Nevertheless, the concept of food reward is valid, I think, and Stephan’s writing on this subject are well worth a read, I think. Click here for the first part of a multi-part series of posts on the subject.

I came across an interesting video (below) here on the Perfect Health Diet site. It features an episode of the US TV show 60 Minutes which focuses on the work of ‘flavorists’ – individuals who create flavours for processed foods. Quite early on in the video you will see at least one flavorist admit that their job is to create foods with tastes that keep people wanting more.

I’m into the idea that people should enjoy the food they eat, but I’m most certainly not thrilled by the prospect that certain foods may drive people to eat far more than they need. This is one of the good things, I think, about eating a diet based on natural, unprocessed foods. While some meat or fish with some veggies or salad can be enjoyable to eat, such meals tend not to have the moreishness of processed foods. In short, such fare allows people to enjoy their food, but not too much. The fact that many processed foods are created to be ‘hyperpalatable'(very tasty) and highly rewarding is one of several good reasons to avoid them.

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