Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Eat It, It's Good for You

Or not.

Dutch scientists have created a unique lab to study the way we choose the foods we eat. It's a canteen, filled with cameras, where they will watch and record not only the customer's food choices, but also how much they eat of what they choose, all in an effort to divine the reasoning, or unreasoning, behind their choices.

Why? Because they can. Because there's a ton of money to be made using subconscious triggers to make us buy or not buy things. Every major food manufacturer, grocery store and restaurant in the country is already spending millions on R&D to try to influence our choices. And as the article points out, 80% of our food choices are irrational and subconscious.

Think about it. What is something you never eat? For my wife, it's seafood. "Nothing from the sea," or the lake, pond, or river. No fish, no shellfish, nothing. Why? Because when she was a little girl, she watched her father gut a fish. Since she was about eight years old, she has refused to touch anything that formerly lived in water. She eats beef, chicken and pork, even though those are gutted, too. She doesn't even know if she likes fish, shrimp or lobster. Her irrational food choice stems back to a mildly traumatic experience in childhood. Because part of every person's self-identity is built upon what foods they will or will not eat, to eat something that you "don't eat" is often beyond our ability to challenge - "If I eat this, I will cease to be me, since I never eat this." The unconscious prohibitions are too great. For most people, their food prejudices can only be overcome by an even greater trauma - starvation.

How many food prejudices do you harbor? We all have them. I hate Brussel Sprouts, because they smell like little balls of fart, and but I will eat or at least try pretty much anything else. I've hated green beans my entire life, until this past summer, and now I love them. It wasn't so much that my tastes have changed, although they have, as I made a conscience decision to eliminate another food prejudice. I began making those conscious decisions when I was about eighteen, when I tried raw oysters for the first time. (Beer was involved.) Up until that time, I had numerous food prejudices, more than most people.

Anyway, the whole science experiment I mentioned above only confirms my earlier suspicions. I do all the grocery shopping for my house. I am not hypoglycemic, but almost every time I go to the grocery store, I get the shakes. When hypoglycemia hits, you kind of lose control of your higher brain functions. All you care about is finding something to eat, and quick - the more, the better.

This is a relatively new thing. It's been happening for less than a year. The conspiracy theorist in me suspects my local chain grocer is spraying something into air to induce hypoglycemia-like symptoms in their shoppers. It is subtle, but real, and it always seems to hit me as I get ready to leave - when you are most susceptible to impulse buying. That's why they have always put candy, magazines and knick-knacks around the cash registers.

I don't know if this is really happening, or not. The thing is, I wouldn't be all that surprised. As long as it isn't specifically illegal, you know they'll do it. Why wouldn't they? If they aren't gassing us to make us hungry now, they'll probably do it in the future.

1 comment:

Morgwyn said...

If it doesn't smell good I won't eat it... like cabbage and greens that have been heated/wilted in general. I just can't do get past the smell. If it looks good - like spinach dip, I'll eat it. Texture is also an issue. Watercress and celery are OUT. But pickles all day long, any kind. I am not allowed to go grocery shopping when I have the munchies, because I buy too much dried fruit.