The picture: the honey-coloured bun, the juicy beef and that weird-but-delicious golden cheese melting all over it, and sitting right next to it is the box of cracking-hot, fresh out of the pan and lightly salted fries. De-lic-ious!
I hate junk food. No, seriously, I do. I’ve never liked fried food, not ever. It usually makes me feel a bit sick afterwards, and now, in my … well, we’ll say adult years, I find I can suffer occasional bouts of indigestion after a particularly fatty meal. And I also notice that I end up feeling a bit down after I’ve eaten a pile of greasy mess, like when a favourite TV show has just been cancelled.
But for some reason that has baffled me for years, I can’t seem to stop myself from eating it. I try, really I do, but man, some days it just gets the better of me and the next thing I know, I’ve done it again.
I thought it was just me. I thought I was just weak-willed and lilley-livered (okay, can anybody tell me what lilley-livered is without using Google?) and sucked at having enough will-power to blow out a dandelion. Only it turns out it’s not just me. And there’s a good reason behind it all.
An article in the journal, Psychology Today, talks about how the creators of these chain-store masticators use neuroscience to trap and addict ordinary human beings, like myself, to eating their foods. The article, Seven things McDonald’s Knows About Your Brain shows how the success of junk food can be chocked up to a lot of cleverly-used neuroscience – the science of the brain.
- Studies have shown how, under the right circumstances, sugar can become an addictive drug, behaving – and engendering the same behaviour – as though it were cocaine. Withdrawal creates the same symptoms as heroin withdrawal. Junk food outlets know this, and ensure that all their food has sugar in it, including the fries.
- Chemicals in the cheese are converted to serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a ‘feel good’ chemical that you can’t live without. The more you get, the better you feel.
- The reward centre in the brain can be extremely susceptible to constant reminders of the one thing you’re trying to avoid – which is why MacDonalds’ can be found everywhere. The convenience and ease of use overwhelms the reward centre and demands to be fed NOW because you can see the food everywhere.
- And the speed of access to the food means that the reward centre gets a hit within a few minutes of the craving. This process works, even if you’re not even hungry.
- Junk Food May Be as Addictive as Heroin (fitsugar.com)
- Ban on Junk Food in Schools (georgefebish.wordpress.com)
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