This week we’re conquering our addiction to processed foods with help from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Michael Moss. Michael is the author of the New York Times bestselling Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and his latest book is called Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions.
Tune in to hear Michael explain some of the psychological and biological reasons for how and why we get hooked on junk food, and some of the science-backed tips and tricks we can use to start fighting these bad habits and get on a healthier track.
On how he came to the conclusion that junk food can become an addiction:
[A]fter kind of crawling through the underbelly of this, this cartel we call the processed food industry and meeting scientists who study drug addiction and then switch to food addiction, I actually became totally convinced that in some ways these products, food products, are even more trouble for us than cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. And one of the fundamental ways is that they’re tapping into our own basic instincts, our biology, that we evolved for millennia. And it worked for us until the last 50 years when the food companies changed the nature of our food so dramatically in a way that made overeating an everyday thing. So it’s a combination of the additives that they use, like the salt, sugar, fat, and then these other things that aren’t on the label that they’re using to exploit that biology of ours.
On learning to cook in a way that competes with the convenience of processed, pre-made meals:
The other thing I sort of argue that [the big food companies] stole from us was convenience. This kind of goes back to the 60s when more women began working outside of the house, men didn’t take up the slack when it came to cooking. And so the processed food industry stepped in and said, “Hey, we’ll solve that problem for you.” Right. You get home from work, tired, we’ll provide dinner for you. Well, it’s not that hard to begin kind of making certain foods for dinner, doing your own cooking that don’t take a lot of time. I have a recipe for spaghetti sauce down to 93 seconds now...The point is cooking, if you think of being complicated, doesn’t have to be that complicated. And it has kind of these miracle benefits. It gets you to it gets you to pay attention to the food when you do just a little bit of cooking, which is a great way of turning the tables on these food companies because these products are meant to be eaten by us mindlessly.
On the first steps to take when trying to quit your junk food addictions:
I think the first thing is avoid crazy dieting...because they work until they don’t work, and then you’re up to kind of blame yourself, right? I mean, the second thing is, don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. These companies are designed in a way that, like I mentioned, destroys free will. But the third thing is, I would say just start with one thing, because these foods...cause trouble for different people at sort of different times. And maybe it’s just trying to figure out, like, what’s your most problem food? And then just pay attention to that for a while. Try to avoid that food, substitute in something else. But don’t try to do too much and spend some time with it because it could take a few weeks. Right. Remember, we’ve had a lifetime of having these companies dictate to us what we value in food. And so changing that and thinking of these foods in a different way can take time.
To hear more of Michael’s tips on how to beat your junk food addiction, we highly recommend listening to the full episode.
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