Just the one. The promise we all tell ourselves when presented with a tray of biscuits, a packet of chips, a box of chocolates.
Of course, it’s never just the one. Even if you’re keenly aware of the potential damage of eating too much junk food, once you pop you just can’t stop (Pringles were right).
But it’s not just a matter of self-discipline. Lots of scientific research goes into making junk food as palatable as possible – something experts refer to as your “bliss point”.
The point of no return.
The term “bliss point” was coined by Howard Moskowitz, a market researcher and psychophysicist. He was originally hired by the U.S. Army to get soldiers to eat more rations to boost their stamina.
It wasn’t long before Cadbury, Schweppes, Kraft and PepsiCo were knocking on his door. Moskowitz developed precise formulas (with thousands of taste testers) to pinpoint which junk food recipe was most irresistible.
Unsurprisingly, his research has inspired massive labs all across the world trying to work out the same thing.
The unholy trinity.
Moskowitz’ biggest finding was the obesity-fuelling formula: “salt, sugar, fat”. Combined, these three cheap ingredients reach the ultimate level of palatability.
When you eat foods stuffed with salt, sugar and fat, the brain’s reward system kicks in, flooding your system with happy hormones like dopamine. It feels great… until it runs out, and you need another hit.
Research also shows that sugar could be particularly addictive. Unlike fat, sugar is empty calories and may even make you hungrier. Not to mention the emotional reasons why we find treats hard to resist.
Finding your bliss.
While an occasional ice-cream or packet of crisps is good for balance, eating junk food on a regular basis is only going to leave you dissatisfied. So, how do you break the cycle?
Be mindful of your bliss point “triggers”, especially if you’re emotional (we’ve all demolished a block of chocolate after a bad day, right?). It’s also a good idea to seek help if you find your eating habits controlling you.
And find a new bliss point! Experiment with healthy foods and cooking with flavourful ingredients like herbs and spices. You’d be surprised, after a few months eating healthy, how much sweet potato or haloumi can make you blissed out!