Do you:

– Find yourself glued to the screen watching the latest cooking show?
– Hang onto the drama of every word, every cook-off and every amazingly complicated reciepe?

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– Sit up late at night, scrolling through the amazing food pictures on Instagram?

You might be part of a group originally referred to as the ‘foodie movement’, that is fast-becoming referred to by some as the ‘food porn’ movement.

The food porn – obesity link

Some scientists and critics are saying that because of so-called food porn, obesity is set to rise.

A recent article in The Independent states that a study from Oxford University highlights appealing food pictures as a powerful cue to the brain – these cues may be linked with expanding waistlines.

Is this really true?

There are two parts to the claim, and therefore the answer:

– How does food porn affect your brain?
– Does the food porn and obesity link actually exist?

It’s all in your head

Let’s answer Part one.

Yes, your brain is definitely stimulated by visual cues, including food cues. There is research that supports the theory, that viewing images of high-calorie foods brings on high-calorie cravings.

And let’s face it, the cues are everywhere.

We’ve been bombarded with images of doughnuts, cakes, chocolates and biscuits by advertising in a range of different media for many years, including:

– Television commercials
– Movie commercials
– Sporting field billboards
– Roadside billboards
– Advertisements on bus shelters
– Advertising in shopping centres
– Advertisements on buses and taxis.

The fact that ‘food styling’ and ‘food photography’ are recognised occupations is testament to the fact that food photography and marketing is an established industry.

Where did food porn start?

There’s an addition to the mix with ‘reality cooking’ shows on television. By being emotionally dragged into the drama, you are exposed to the situations and the pressure….and of course, to more cakes, fancy dinners and rich desserts.

These shows create a deeper reach than just plain TV advertising.

This results in more food-based magazines, blogs, websites and social media posts. In other words, technology has added fuel to an already-blazing fire.

Food porn obesity_2Can you be immune to food porn?

Interestingly, a study released by the University of British Columbia (2013) says that in some situations, food porn actually holds no allure.

Stephanie Borgland says that when you’re satiated, enticing pictures of food affect you less.

That’s because insulin (released in response to the meal you just ate) dulls the synapses in your brain which decreases your interest in seeking food, and causes you to pay less attention to food-related cues.

So does the food porn obesity link actually exist?

Overweight and obesity are certainly more recent problems, but let’s face it – they were problems before food porn was ever a thing.

As we’ve discussed, marketing agencies have been hounding us with tantalizing food images for many years, in many different forms of media. Nowadays there is increased amounts of content, which is more dramatic, more enticing and more fancy.

Nevertheless, there is no factual evidence that our latest obsession with all things food is contributing to obesity. Studies will undoubtedly be commissioned to prove whether or not this is true.

Maybe right now the so-called ‘food porn’ is simply about marketing agencies ‘throwing another log’ on the fires of obesity – but there is no documented evidence of a food porn and obesity link.

How you can reduce the effects

The reality is, nobody can really stop the marketing juggernaut. But as an individual, you have choices, and exercising those choices can help you avoid triggering any unhealthy eating behaviours.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, some standard ‘good advice’ for the overweight person was to avoid going shopping when hungry, as you’re less likely to give in to the temptation of unhealthy foods.

The same sage advice could be relevant today. If you’re someone who is motivated to eat by watching cooking shows and Instagram feeds, then your best strategies are:

– Reduce your exposure to those shows, social media and magazines
– Focus on shows/magazines that promote healthy cooking instead of calorie-laden cooking
– Avoid engaging in food porn when you’re hungry
– Find other strategies to meet the needs that food porn currently fills for you

It’s definitely a controversial subject. What do you think about food porn obesity?

Connect with Expert Melanie White

References

(The Independent, 15-10-2015)

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