“You want fries with that?”
How many times have you heard that question?
And how many times have you said, “No, thanks!”?
You probably ordered not just the double cheeseburger and the curly fries, but also a salted caramel milkshake. Calories-schmalories! Pfft!
Take me, for example. I went to my first ever Toastmasters evening on Monday – thanks for inviting me, Jennifer! When I got back home, I had a terrible case of the munchies.
Mind you, I had eaten dinner before I left for the event (Salmon with Pistachio Pesto, if you must know). So I wasn’t really hungry. I just needed something to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Those healthy Pear Chips I’d made just wouldn’t cut it. I was fixated on eating something delectable. Chocolate. Or ice-cream. Wait a minute, were there any leftover brownies? I could serve myself chocolate brownies with ice-cream. Score!
Turns out, there’s a term for what I’m describing: Hedonic hunger. Simply put, it’s when you eat purely for pleasure. You’re not starving; you’re not even peckish. Perhaps you’ve already had dinner. But you can’t control the cravings. You’re hankering for a slice of something nice – and by nice I don’t mean an apple.
So you scrounge around in the pantry for a square of chocolate telling yourself, ‘Dark chocolate is good, right?’ Failing that, you even raid your kids’ Halloween candy stash. Worst case scenario? Couverture cooking chocolate.
You know the old saying, ‘Man no longer eats to live but lives to eat’. It’s clichéd because it’s true. You can place the blame for your hedonic hunger squarely on the shoulders of your hunter/gatherer fore-fathers. They had no idea when or where their next meal was coming from. So they ate whatever they could, whenever they could, even if they weren’t hungry.
Fast forward to modern life and our ‘problem’ is the exact opposite: we have too much food. Today, more than ever, food is in your face (literally) 24×7. MasterChef on TV, food safaris to exotic lands, catchy food trends in gastro-pubs. Sustenance is just a phone-call-to-the-take-away-pizzeria away. There’s a constant buzz around Paleo-this and molecular-that at school pick-ups, in malls, and even on your Facebook feed. Every Tom, Dick and Hailey is Instagramming what s/he and Goliath the goldfish ate for brunch and lunch.
And then think about the words we associate with food: devilishly delicious, sinfully good, tempting your tastebuds. Why does a treat need to have a naughty/guilty connotation to it? There’s some food for thought…
Turns out, scientists concur our brains responds to high-fat, high-salt/sugar junk food pretty much the same way an addict’s brain reacts to nicotine/drugs/alcohol. High on dopamine, you feel rewarded. Until the inevitable slump. And the guilt trip that follows.
Does this mean we should not give in to hedonic hunger? Is it “bad” to eat for pleasure? I don’t think so. Life is meant to be savoured. So why not enjoy it one tasty morsel at a time? The trick is to know your limits and not cross the fine line between being a glutton and a gourmet.
I’ve got two tips to halt hedonic hunger in its tracks:
* Don’t buy the stuff in the first place. Sure, the Mars ice-cream bars are on Special in Woollies. Don’t buy. Just walk on by.
* Brush your teeth. Once your mouth is minty fresh, your cravings should subside.
Sweet or savoury – what foods do you crave? What’s your take on hedonic hunger? Any tips to beat it?