From TV to computer screens, sexy food images are everywhere. That’s why we have to be careful; food porn stimulates poor choices and overeating. Find out how and why in today’s update. Also, learn what you can do to apprecia...
From TV to computer screens, sexy food images are everywhere. That’s why we have to be careful; food porn stimulates poor choices and overeating. Find out how and why in today’s update. Also, learn what you can do to appreciate food and choose wisely at the same time.
I just watched Silver Linings Playbook. In the film, the main character goes to a diner and orders a bowl of Raisin Bran.
After that scene, all I wanted to do was eat Raisin Bran.
If this subtle cue can make me crave Raisin Bran – a food that isn’t even part of my normal diet – what happens when I watch the Food Network or scroll through recipe blogs?
If you’re trying to lose fat or maintain a healthy weight, this is something to consider.
Indeed, we’re looking at, talking about, and — as a result — thinking about food a lot these days.
Bruce Horovitz of USA Today explains:
“Social-media chatter about food — which is where we do much of it — is up more than 13% over the past year… Food Network, which had 50,000 viewers per night in the mid-’90s, now averages more than 1.1 million.”
And as my Raisin Bran experience shows, pictures and discussions of food can tempt us to eat… and even to overeat.
What’s “food porn”?
Why do we call it “food porn” and not, say, “food pictures”? For that matter, why does the word “porn” appear on PN at all?
Sure, originally the word “pornography” referred specifically to images of sex. But now, it’s used more broadly to refer to the commodification, simplification, and simulation of an experience, person, or thing.
Porn presents a world where everything is better than reality. Porn packages up a part of life into a shiny, visually appealing, easily consumed fantasy package.
So you can have “lifestyle porn” (think Martha Stewart), “house porn” (think Architectural Digest), or heck, even “knitting porn“.
And porn creates desire. It taps in to our primal “me want that” brain.
Thus, food porn isn’t just pictures of food. After all, images of food from previous eras were somewhat unsophisticated.
You probably don’t want to dig in to this dinner party special from the 1960s.
But nowadays, food is an industry — an industry that includes skilled photographers and designers, food stylists, product developers, celebrity chefs, social media, and reality TV as well as thousands of websites and amateur food bloggers.
Food looks a heckuva lot better than it used to. Images of appealing food are everywhere now. And these images can and do affect our food choices.
Why we eat
Eating patterns are influenced by many factors, including:
Gut/brain cues (e.g., low blood sugar, growling stomach)
Learned behaviors (e.g., it’s lunchtime at noon)
Thoughts (e.g., I’m on a low carb diet; I haven’t eaten for 3 hours)
Habits (e.g., cookies every night before bed)
Social context (e.g., it’s a party with food, so I’ll eat)
Food availability (e.g., I’m out of vegetables, so I won’t eat them)
External / environmental cues (e.g., images of food, cooking shows, food blogs).
And it turns out that looking at food, or even pictures of highly palatable food, can chronically activate our desire to eat – even in the absence of true physiological hunger.
That’s because we don’t just eat to satisfy our nutritional requirements. We also eat for pleasure.
Pleasure & palatability
Highly palatable foods (in other words, foods that taste extra-good) are highly pleasurable foods. And when we get highly palatable foods, we — and other mammals — will eat more of those foods than our bodies need.
Highly palatable foods also look good to us. Whether it’s a juicy burger or a shiny jellybean, highly palatable foods are specifically constructed — yes, constructed — to appeal to all our inherent preferences.