“Who ate all these crisps?!”
You look around and, alas, not even a dog to blame.
It’s not your fault.
If you’ve had this experience—robotically hand-to-mouthing some ultra-delicious, highly snackable food until the whole party-size portion is gone—you’ve probably felt frustrated or even ashamed.
But with ultra-processed foods, the odds are against you:
It’s you versus dozens of taste-testing focus groups, clever marketing, and an ambrosia of flavors, chemicals, and textures designed to send your brain into bliss.
From a food manufacturer’s perspective, this makes sense: the more you eat, the more you buy. Cha-ching!
Ultra-processed foods aren’t evil.
I'm not even a fan of calling them 'junk' food. Food isn't good, food isn't bad.
We can enjoy eating foods for all sorts of reasons, not just physical hunger, and eating for any one of those reasons is just as valid as physical hunger.
And so you’re not broken if you can’t 'control' yourself around certain foods.
But if these foods are making you feel sick or out of control, here are some strategies that might help:
1. Notice your chewing.
Processed foods are manipulated so they require less chewing and nearly “melt” in your mouth.
Next time you eat them, notice:
How many chews does it take to dissolve the food?
Do the flavors improve the longer you chew?
How satisfied do you feel after a few bites?
How does this compare to a whole food, like an apple or brown rice?
2. Limit your options.
Studies show people will eat more when they have a variety of flavors to choose from.
Some call this the “buffet effect”: You go from the noodle bar to the ribs station to the build-your-own-sundae, then back to the noodles.
With so many delicious options, it’s sometimes hard to stop.
3. Notice patterns.
We often use food for reasons other than physical nourishment.
For example, if we feel sad, we might eat a cookie for comfort. Sometimes this might hit exactly the right spot; and sometimes it doesn't, we only feel temporarily better or even worse afterwards.
🤔 What am I feeling?
🤔 What time is it?
🤔 Who am I with?
🤔 Where am I?
🤔 What thoughts am I having?
Keep a journal and look for patterns.
If you feel ready and able, you can try to replace eating with another behavior.
For example, if you typically turn to wine and ice cream when you feel lonely in the evening, maybe run yourself a bath and listen to a funny podcast.
Treats are a perk of modern living—they’re delicious and almost universally accessible. And you don’t need to eliminate them altogether.
But by paying attention to your own behaviors—along with some practice—you can foster a healthier relationship with these kinds of foods.
A kinder one.
A compassionate one.
Because guilt-tripping yourself every time is not fun.
And I do believe, coach and live a different way.
Needing some 1:1 support in this area; around your relationship to food and/or your body? Then check out my coaching application form here to start your journey, and be in a totally different place by 2024.