Junk Food is Tempting Us
I was good. I walked into the pharmacy for a prescription I needed. And I walked past six separate displays of Easter candy, one after another. I love chocolate, but I resolved to walk past it and not buy any. And I didn’t.
The next morning at work, I was not feeling great. One of my coworkers was in a bad mood and let me know it. Eventually, I walked over to the vending machine and bought a candy bar.
What drives our choices to buy junk food? Two culprits are availability and relentless marketing. There were some healthier options in the vending machine, so I couldn’t completely blame it. But I’m sure the Easter candy displays were fresh in my mind.
I’ve been striving to be more fit, and a big part of that is proper nutrition. Yet I was never really taught about what to eat in school. Only in a college nutrition class did I learn about carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins. What about people who never had that education?
And nutrition advice is confusing. Every so often there’s a new headline: Eat eggs. Don’t eat eggs, they’ll kill you. Kale is a superfood. Eh, kale is just okay.
People say, “Well, just have self control.” But it’s not that simple. I don’t always make the healthiest choices, but when my local grocery store closes at 8 p.m. and fast food drive-throughs are open until 2 a.m., there’s a disconnect. Fast food companies mail me coupons. I never get a free coupon for, say, apples. Have you ever seen an advertisement for apples?
Companies make money by getting us addicted to junk food. That’s why they advertise soda right before movies and during the Olympics. (No, soda does not improve your athletic performance.) Up until recently, there was a billboard advertising doughnuts on my way to work. But despite all that temptation, I need to be the one who makes better choices? That doesn’t stack up.
The evidence is there, too. A study showed that kids who see ads for junk food eat more of it.
I’m not saying we should ban junk food advertising entirely, but maybe there should be a little more oversight. When I was a kid, it was totally normal for companies to advertise toys with junk food. As a result, I begged my parents to buy me the food so I could get the toy. When you’re five, you don’t understand that a company is trying to take advantage of you.
And as an adult who works in healthcare, I want to be a role model. I believe in moderation — some candy now and then. But I don’t want to be eating chocolate bars at my desk all the time. I bet if I hadn’t seen the Easter display at the store, I wouldn’t have done it.
Yes, I went down to the vending machine. But how many nudges to eat junk food did I turn down before I finally said yes?