Why can’t I stop eating?

We have all muttered the words ‘I’ll just have one’ and perhaps, maybe, have woken up half an hour later face down in a pile of foil and melted chocolate wandering what just happened… Why is it that some foods have this addictive effect where broccoli just doesn’t? On closer inspection, it is clear that foods that are high in sugars and salt, namely processed foods, are the ones that cause this binge eating sensation, where only huge amounts of will power and large distances can help.

Sugar is coming under more and more scrutiny and scientists are seeing that, in an indirect way, sugar has a similar effect on the brain as do illicit drugs, acting on the reward centres of the brain. It gives us the warm fuzzies and then leaves us in a lethargic slump, wanting more, trying to regain that initial kick. It has been observed that over time, more sugar is needed to achieve the same levels of pleasure that you got the first time you had that sugary treat.

 Salt acts in a similar way, making it hard to put the chip n dip down. Processed foods are packed with hidden salt and sugar. A tin a flavoured tuna has around 3 times the amount of sodium and 1 tsp of sugar, compared to the natural tinned tuna, which has no sugar and a fraction on the sodium. 

I have a trick if I feel the need to eat crap. Firstly I don’t keep it in the house- if I want it; I have to go and get it, which gives me a window of time to assess whether this is the best option, or to come up with a healthier choice. Fail that, I only buy a single serve of whatever my poison may be to avoid the sugar coma situation I earlier described- knowing that the mind is weak and the tastebuds are willing! 

Keep and eye out for excess sugar and salt in packaged foods and perhaps think again to avoid the guilt later. For the record 1 tsp = 5g sugar and anything with less than 120mg sodium is considered low salt.

Harriet WalkerComment