Have you ever found yourself at the end of the chip bag or pint of ice cream wondering how you just ate the entire thing? Overeating happens for a variety of reasons. Today we’re talking about one of those reasons in particular, known as “the bliss point.” Did you know that many of the ultra-processed foods in the grocery store are engineered to be eaten this way? These are the same foods that have been linked to obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome.
So how did we get here?
Market researcher and psychoanalyst, Howard Moskowitz, coined the term “the bliss point” while he was conducting studies for the food industry. He realized that just the right combination of sugar, salt, and fat in food triggers our brain’s reward system disrupting our body’s natural “hey, you’re full” mechanism and keeping us going back for more. And it makes a lot of sense on the business side of things.
The Food Industry is, well, an industry, and they want to make money. The more you eat, the more they profit. However, this can be incredibly detrimental to our health—we need to be armed with the knowledge that our tastebuds and our brains alike are susceptible to being taken advantage off. Even the foods branded as healthy can be engineered this way.
So what can you do to avoid falling into the Bliss Point trap? Here are a few quick tricks to set yourself up for a win against a billion dollar industry that doesn’t care if you end up with heart disease as long as you keep buying the family size bag of chips:
1. Minimize the amount of ultra-processed foods you eat
- How you ask?
- Avoid spending a lot of time in the aisles of the grocery store—this is where the processed foods can be found and you better believe they are packaged in just the right way to make you go “ooooh, what’s that?”—and shop on the outskirts of the store where all of the fresh produce, meat, dairy and non-dairy products, fresh bread are located. The more whole the food is when you buy it, the less processing it went through
- When you’re purchasing packaged foods aim for the ones with short ingredient lists and, maybe more importantly, with ingredients that are all easy to pronounce (looking at you, butylated hydroxyanisole)
2. Check out the Nutrition Facts Label
- When you flip over the package of cookies you’re considering buying, check out the Nutrition Facts Label. Key things to be mindful of—saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium. For reference, we want to aim for:
- <10% of our calories to come from saturated fat each day
- <25 g of added sugar per day
- <2300 mg of sodium per day
- Don’t forget to consider the serving size. If there are 2 g of saturated fat, 14 g of added sugar, and 135 mg of sodium in 3 cookies (the serving size) and you eat 6 cookies, you’ve already consumed more than the recommend daily amount of added sugar
3. Set yourself up for portion control success
- If you’re buying the big bag of chips or the pint of ice cream, measure out one serving. Warning – the serving is usually way smaller than you’d expect. I also recommend to avoid eating whatever it may be solo—have your chips on the side of a fiber and protein packed whole wheat wrap stuffed with veggies and chicken. Have the ice cream for dessert after a nice meal. This will reduce your urge to overeat
- Even better…When you’re in the mood for ice cream or chips, go to the local ice cream shop and get 1 scoop or buy the individual bags at the corner store for no-brainer portion control and minimal temptation to go for multiple servings
4. Practice mindful eating
- What does this even mean? Ever notice how quickly you can eat a tub of ice cream or a full package of candy when you’re watching tv? Our brains tend to autopilot. When you’re having ice cream or candy, focus on that. Savor the flavor