Even if you don’t have the slightest idea how many calories a food has, something inside you does. And works against you.
“Dude, you don’t want the salad, you want the burger! Eat the salad and we will starve, I tell ya!”
“Oh, shut up, I’m 30 lbs overweight already, you fool!”
“No, it won’t be enough! My great-great-great (x1124) grandfather told me when they had nothing. Nothing at all! It will happen. For real. Mark my words!”
Although not quite as vocalized, this is the basic dialogue between you and deep regions of your brain when you try to eat less or the “healthier option,” Canadian researchers found.
Your Brain Is A Calorie Detector
The Canadians recruited 29 teenagers and asked them to guess how many calories specific foods had, at the same recording how their brains reacted to seeing them.
Most of the teens didn’t have the slightest idea how many were in any of the dishes, but their brains knew better.
Even when the teens judged calorie content of a caloric mothership as low, their brains reacted to it, urging their owners that that was what they really wanted. This reaction was the stronger the more calories the food represented.
Conversely, the brain fireworks when seeing low-cal foods were more of a firecracker that plunges into a rain puddle. Your subconcious sees a tomato and thinks, oh well, nice, a tomato. You know, it’s mostly water. Now about that pizza…
In the study’s second part the teenagers got to bid on their most favored food. And again their brains worked against them. No matter how they had judged nutritional value and calorie content before, they bid most on the food representing the highest calorie count.
It’s An Ancient Mechanism
Back when we had to hope that the odd mammoth would come along to fill the dinner table in our cozily decorated caves, all this made sense. The urge to go for foods that presented the highest energy value was what allowed us to survive.
The problem is that our civilization developed much faster than our brains. To them it’s still Stone Age and the likelihood of getting something to eat dim at best.
The only way to counteract this is by conscious effort and learning how many calories a food has. In other words, going against the heartfelt moans of your brain: “The more calories, the better, or we’ll starve to death, honest!”
Picture courtesy of “pointnshoot.”