Are You Overeating By Accident?

snackingOvereating is defined as excessive food consumption. And individuals suffering from compulsive overeating can be obsessed with food and typically eat when they are not hungry. But is it possible to overeat by accident? Does it feel impossible to keep from overeating certain foods? Perhaps so and it may be no accident, says Stacey Cahn, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Ones will power is often no match for the technology behind those tasty treats, Cahn says. When it comes to processed food people often cant stop at just one. Its not a question of willpower. In fact, in a contest between processed foods and willpower, the good money is on Big Food. Thats because the game is rigged and processed foods have been deliberately engineered through extensive research and testing to maximize your cravings.

In fact, a former chief scientist for Frito-Lay went so far as to say that he felt sorry for the public during a discussion of why its good business to develop products people crave. Food companies may spend up to a half a billion dollars a year to develop products people crave and are phenomenally successful at unlocking the code of craveability. The way it is explained, mouthfeel stimulates the reward areas in the brain. This intensifies the hedonic experience to keep eating. This craveability includes:

  • The optimal color

  • The optimal crunch

  • The optimal ratio of wetness

  • The optimal ratio of fat


According to the research, we are much more likely to overeat processed foods than whole foods. Snack foods that have an airy, crispy texture like cheese puffs leave us particularly prone to overeating because of vanishing caloric density. As the snack somewhat dissolves on our tongues, our bodies dont register those fat calories, so we still feel hungry and keep eating.

A few other terms that come up during a discussion of deliberate engineering include sensation- specific satiety and the smorgasbord effect. Sensation-specific satiety is when our brains eventually tire of a specific flavor. The smorgasbord effect is when a multitude of different flavors keeps us from leaning toward just one which is why people overeat at buffets. Foods such as nacho chips are engineered to contain a complex spectrum of flavors to keep us eating.

And drinking artificially-flavored sodas wont help you avoid weight gain either. While they are supposed to be considered a diet soda and a weight-conscious alternative, they are really just the opposite. Research has shown that the consumption of artificially- sweetened beverages is associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity mainly abdominal fat. This may be because our hunger cues rebound in response to experiencing sweetness without the expected corresponding calories or because the artificial sweeteners negatively affect bacteria in the gut. Food additives common to processed foods also appear to disrupt our guts natural bacteria, further promoting obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Remember that soda and processed foods can be a gateway to overeating and when it comes to managing weight, sometimes the best advice is the simplest. To quote journalist and food activist Michael Pollan, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Stack the deck in your favor by eliminating all sodas from your diet and choosing actual foods, rather than edible food-like substances to nourish yourself.

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