Processed foods laced with copious amounts of taste-boosters like salt and sugar and artificial flavoring actually create what is tantamount to an addiction inside the human brain, and the companies who sell these items know the science better than anyone and have been perfectly content to exploit it for their own financial benefit.
People generally use processed foods because they are fast and convenient and taste delicious, and when these foods have been purposely engineered to produce physiological cravings that will keep consumers coming back again and again, junk food preferences can turn very quickly into powerful compulsions where addiction treatment can be a must-have.
The steady expansion of the American waistline is a testament to how effective the product optimization strategies of the food companies have been, and given the fact that the dangers of eating junk food have been widely publicized for decades with no apparent effect on our collective eating habits, it is hard to draw the conclusion that a lack of willpower is the only reason for our obesity epidemic. In addition to their massively-funded advertising campaigns, the processed food industry spends billions on research and development each and every year, and its food scientists carry out extensive consumer testing to find the perfect combination of ingredients that will make its various offerings delicious and irresistible.
The intentional fostering of addiction is the stock and trade of the processed food industry, who under the banner of “giving the public what they want,” are doing everything they can to create an insatiable desire for the products they sell. It is unfortunate that the human body can so easily become addicted to unhealthy substances that give it an immediate boost of energy or satisfaction—equivalent to the “hit” that drug users refer to—but as long as the processed food companies can continue to reap insane profits from the human tendency to crave what is bad for them, un-nutritious foods will continue to predominate on the shelves of grocery stores everywhere.
Advertising focuses on attracting customers to these products at an early age. Cartoon characters are designed to get children excited about these sugar-laden products, and if you watch Saturday morning cartoons, you will understand why mother’s often feel pressured to fill the grocery cart with these unhealthy foods. Some even believe it’s time to treat food companies the way we treat big tobacco. The public grew tired of Joe Camel marketing cigarettes to children.
We can argue about whether or not addictions to processed junk foods are as strong or as firmly entrenched as addictions to drugs or alcohol. But even in the latter case, taking personal responsibility will always be the decisive factor—no matter what unhealthy product or substance a person has become dependent upon or addicted to, he or she must take the initiative to break that addiction, and he or she must be willing to see that commitment through to the end regardless of how difficult things become.
The convenience and addictive deliciousness of processed foods have helped the industry that manufactures them become one of the world’s most profitable. Nevertheless, a return to a healthier diet for the American people could be in the cards if we all make a firm decision to begin taking better care of our bodies, even if it means giving up foods we have come to love and desire. The cravings that these foods create when we consume them may be hard to resist, but if our determination to take control of our diets and our health is strong and immovable, we are undoubtedly capable of beating our junk food addiction. Just like any other kind of addict, junk food junkies can recover from their compulsions if their will is strong enough to make it happen.