Processed food companies design their products so that consumers will eat more of them. They spend billions of dollars testing different variations of fat, salt, and sugar levels to determine what consumers will like the best, irregardless, and in fact usually in conflict, with what is best for us. They look not just for what consumers will like best, but they aim for a sweet spot that will keep us coming back, wanting more, but not fully satisfied enough that we stop eating. This is referred to as the ‘bliss point’. The effect is that those who eat these processed foods continue to eat regardless of hunger levels or an intellectual desire to stop.
I think this should be a dirty little secret. Why would we as consumers possibly want to choose a food product that we know is designed to trick our bodies into over consuming said food item? Thus, I have been dumfounded when I walk by the sign that is the image in this post. Who does this advertising work for? Why would I want something that is ‘made to crave’?
Now, I actually think that cravings can be a good thing. Cravings can tell us what is missing from our diets. But only when we are fueling ourselves with good, wholesome foods, in the form that they are found naturally. If we are eating good, wholesome, real food, and we have taken care of the other aspects of our lives (and thus are not turning to food when what we really crave is human touch or belonging, for example) then we can and should listen to our intuition in terms of what, when, and how much to eat. However, when companies play with ingredients to manufacture our cravings, they hijack our natural ability to regulate our eating.
This Starbucks sign probably should not surprise me given the popularity of the Lay’s potato chip slogan – that you cannot eat just one. What is it about that notion that draws people in? Who has gotten to the end of a bag of potato chips and felt good about themselves, not to mention good in their bodies? Probably no one, ever. Is it that the slogan makes us feel justified that we cannot eat just one? Does it make us feel oddly better about ourselves, “phew, I’m not the only one that cannot stop when I want to!”?
I fully believe in treats. I think we should eat the foods that bring us great joy, and I think it is necessary for long-term health. If we are too strict with our food, then we do not stick with it and end up worse than where we started. But, I think that we must choose our treats wisely. And I think this means knowing ourselves. A good treat is something that we enjoy every minute of, and something we can moderate. This is different for every individual. One person might keep ice cream in the house to enjoy a half cup every so often. Whereas, another individual might try ice cream as a treat, but every time it is brought into the house they end up overeating it until it’s gone. This would be a bad treat for that individual. I, for instance, have had tortilla chips only once in the last year because I realized that it is a food that I eat mindlessly and do not feel good about (physically or mentally). But I recently made a vegan banana creme pie, with wonderful, whole food ingredients (but very rich and decadent). My husband and I were able to enjoy it in small servings and I enjoyed every bite.
How do you feel about manufactured cravings? Does the type of advertising in the photo with this post work for you or make you cringe?