Even the most disciplined consumers are not fully in control of what they eat. Studies show that decisions such as when, what and how much to consume are often designed by subtle forces outside of our consciousness or direct control. These environmental pushes can cause us to overeat by firmly taking advantage of biological, psychological, and social and economic vulnerabilities. This helps describe why two billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, and just why no country has had the opportunity to reverse their weight problems epidemic yet. There’s hope. Research has reveal the major causes that encourage overeating, including natural, psychological, interpersonal, and financial.
Now that people know more about them, we are in a better position to intervene. Why do humans have a tendency to crave items like delicious chocolate over salad? Taste preferences such as a “sweet tooth” are innate to individual biology, and they can change over the course of our lives. Children, for example, have a stronger preference for sugary foods than adults do. The modern food environment has launched an influx of processed food items filled with sugars, fat, salt, flavor enhancers, food chemicals, caffeine and so on. These substances are manipulated to attempt to maximize our natural enjoyment of these and satisfy those innate taste preferences.
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But processed foods are also frequently stripped of components such as drinking water, fiber and protein that cause us to feel full, making it problematic for our bodies to modify food intake and maintain weight. In addition to your natural pleasure of ready-made foods, there’s too much to love about them psychologically. From McDonald’s Happy Meals playthings to Coca-Cola’s global “Open Happiness” advertising campaign, illustrations abound of the hyperlink between food and pleasure. Companies spend vast amounts of dollars marketing foods to produce strong, positive associations using their products. One study discovered that children actually think the same food tastes better when it’s adorned with a childrens favourite like Dora the Explorer or Shrek.
There are also plenty of small ways the environment can promote overeating. People eat more when served bigger portions, of how starving these are irrespective. Processed foods are also very noticeable and desired because they’re everywhere – in schools, restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets and vending machines. They’ve even infiltrated stores selling office items and home goods. The places where we make quite a few food decisions can be frustrating for occupied consumers (there are 40,000 different products in an average supermarket), and most psychological cues inside our environment signal us to eat more, not less.
For example, large food portion sizes, food prices, the placement of food items in stores and promotional strategies to market foods all affect our eating decisions on a regular basis. Consider portion size by itself: Drinking Coca-Cola in the 1950s intended consuming a 6.5-ounce glass; today the 7-Eleven Double Gulp is 10 times that size and contains nearly 800 calories roughly. But also for food, out of view means out of brain. Google provides free snacks for employees, and found that employees were eating too many M&Ms. So they placed the M&Ms in opaque containers and made healthier snacks more visible.
Simply placing M&Ms out of sight from the 2 2,000 employees in the brand new York office designed they consumed 3.1 million fewer calorie consumption in just seven weeks. Processed foods are inexpensive often, making them especially appealing to those on a tight budget. But fast food and ready-to-eat convenience store items are also widely available and quicker and easier to prepare than home-cooked meals, which makes busy consumers susceptible to overeating them.
Food companies also engage in targeted efforts to advertise to certain organizations. For instance, recent reports have shown that soda pop companies are increasing their spending in america on targeting black and Hispanic youngsters, a concerning strategy as these groups have better rates of weight problems. Fortunately that public discourse about obesity and policy-making is beginning to reflect science. The general public and policymakers are realizing that medical issues like obesity and its related chronic diseases are not simply about people’s individual food decisions.