Why human beings crave junk

  • By Team TDO

It is called ‘temptation’ or ‘craving’ or ‘desire’. Whatever be the word for it, nothing can truly describe its power. All will power, all determination, all prescriptions and advice, fail. Temptation wins!

We all have had those days where we decide to go healthy. No junk, no fast food, no street food, no packed snacks and no soda drinks. Only nutritious well-balanced diet. How long has it lasted? The foodies give up in a few hours. The wise pull on for a day or two. The patient ones may last a week. And the determined ones go on for weeks, may be even a month.

But, slowly, slyly, unknowingly, something gradually creeps in. It is called ‘temptation’ or ‘craving’ or ‘desire’. Whatever be the word for it, nothing can truly describe its power. All will power, all determination, all prescriptions and advice, fail. Temptation wins!

Then we enter the cycle, indulgence-guilt-diet-indulgence. This continues. We join support groups, read diet books, and follow celebrities who have lost oodles of weight eating the right way. But temptation can never be resisted long enough.

Rashmi’s story is exactly similar to this. She is a self-proclaimed chocolate-addict. Rashmi decided to go the wise way and overcome her weakness for chocolate. No matter how hard she tried, all she could see, think and crave for, was chocolate. She felt disappointed and angry with herself. Is Rashmi the only weakling? Doesn’t this happen to you as well?

Ever wondered why the cola drinks seem to be a more attractive option when you have been out in the sun?

Yes, it does. Let us explore why.


Our science teachers taught us that we have become humans from ape through the process of evolution. It was a long time taking journey and the poor soul has traveled through many stages. We have apparently developed a lot. Emotions, cognitive thinking, rationality, logic, and many such qualities which make us believe we are superior. Really, are we?

Time for some reality check. Brain and emotions are fine, but instincts control our ultimate behavior. Instincts have largely remained historic. Animals search for food when they are hungry. Their hunt is targeted at energy-rich meal, because they have a sudden urge to fill up the stomach. Cavemen also had similar instincts, which have continued. Slightest need for food or drink evokes a response of craving for high calorie items.

Great! Not our fault, we try our best. Self-control, will-power and all. Ancestors take the blame here.


Instincts are strong, not in our control. How about something that sounds similar and is equally forceful? Impulse.

Impulse is a strong sudden desire for something. Every Sunday, Vikas goes to buy the week’s grocery and comes back munching on a pack of chips. In response to his wife’s raised eyebrows, all he is able to say to save himself is, “It was right at the billing counter, staring at me and screaming out to me, ‘Pick me! Pick me’. I couldn’t help it.”

The junk food companies are actually in the market with a hidden purpose. It is to test our will power. They check if our actions are controlled by the tongue or the brain. Junk food from all varieties of cuisines is everywhere. There is no escape. If the local market is full of carts, the malls are full of international brands. Go to a grocery store in the neighborhood, you are lost in a maze of local snacks. Go to a superstore, there are towering shelves laden with a hundred types of fried items. They are all packaged in attractive colors and pictures. They tell you it has no cholesterol, no preservatives, and no added flavours.

This much is enough to create a strong impulse, a trap for us to fall in. We are ‘human’ after all.

No Means Yes

We all know what a child does. He does everything he is told not to. There is a child in each of us. And like children are, he is naughty, stubborn and sometimes irrational. Remember Rashmi, our chocolate champ? Why did she keep thinking of chocolate when she decided not to have it?

Because that’s how we are. When something is prohibited, we want it even more.


Everyone complains of stress these days. Modern life, modern troubles and modern therapies. One of the therapies is bad choice in food. I have a friend, Dipika. She works hard and has a strict boss, like most of us. Her solution to a bad day at work? Order a pizza and mousse to go with it. This perks her up.

We get carried away in the worries and sadness. Our defenses are weak and this is the best time for the impulses to attack. We are looking for some feel-good factor, which is easily available in the form of such foods. Instant satisfaction is what we experience.

Act, but not on the impulse!

We like shirking responsibility and pinning our weakness on situations. Get up, act and find other ways to beat stress. Keep a mental check on how often you give into impulses. Please realize what we are actually doing is digging a grave for ourselves. And a big one! Because with all this junk how do you plan to fit in a small one?