Why you can’t stop overeating junk food. Plus 7 ways to get control. [Infographic]

Can’t resist the chips… the cookies… the ice cream? Actually, it’s normal to feel like you can’t stop overeating certain types of foods. Processed foods, in particular, are explicitly designed to be hyperpalatable and irresistible. Here’s how it works — and what to do about it.


In the car… at your desk… with friends at a party… waiting for your partner at a bar… standing over the kitchen sink.

In our modern lives, it seems like there’s no context that’s not right for crunching on cheap, delicious junk food.

And how often do we keep the indulgence to one handful… a couple bites… just a taste? Once that package is open, most people end up eating more than they meant to. Much more.

There’s a reason this experience of losing control with processed food is so universal. The food industry has expertly created cheap, easily accessible products that our taste buds — and our brains — cannot resist.

By pairing perfectly-engineered, lab-created flavors with emotionally appealing marketing campaigns, food manufacturers devise products that make us feel powerless

in the face of their tastiness.

They even take advantage of our evolutionary preferences for certain types of textures and flavors. Yup, our brains are actually hardwired to want more of these artificial concoctions.

And while this junk food might be delicious and fun to eat, there’s a big problem: It’s creating a vicious circle of cravings, guilt, and feeling out-of-control — not to mention poor health.

But here’s the good news: It is possible to beat the system.

In this infographic, we’ll explain exactly how manufacturers make junk food so irresistible, plus why we’re incredibly likely to overeat when faced with it. Then, we’ll outline 7 strategies to help you explore your relationship with processed food and take back control of your grocery cart, pantry, and eating habits.

Download this infographic for your tablet or printer and use the step-by-step process to stop junk food overeating in its tracks.

Don’t forget to download the tablet or printer version of this infographic and use its practical tips for understanding — and changing — your behavior around processed food.

(And coaches: Pass these strategies along to your patients/clients for effective steps toward habit change.)

For an even more in-depth look at junk food and how it leads to overeating, check out our accompanying article, “Manufactured Deliciousness: Why you can’t stop overeating (plus 3 strategies to get control).

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Avena, N.M, Gold, M.S. (2011). Variety and hyperpalatability: are they promoting addictive overeating? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(2), 367-368. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.020164.

Drewnowski, A., Shrager, E., Lipsky, C., Stellar, E., Greenwood, M.R. (1989). Sugar and fat: Sensory and hedonic evaluation of liquid and solid foods. Physiology & Behavior, 45 (1), 177-183. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(89)90182-0.

Kessler, David A. Your food is fooling you: How your brain is hijacked by sugar, fat, and salt. Roaring Book Press, 2012.

Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC (2006). Trans Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 354 (15): 1601–1613. doi:10.1056/NEJMra054035.

Provencher, V., Polivy, J., Herman, C.P. (2009). Perceived healthiness of food. If it’s healthy, you can eat more! Appetite, 52(2), 340-344. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.005.

Rolls, B.J., Drewnowski, A., Ledikwe, J.H. (2005). Changing the energy density of the diet as a strategy for weight management. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 105(5S), 98-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.02.033.

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