Why can’t I stop at one potato chip?

It’s movie marathon night and you’ve bought the biggest bag of Lays Barbecue potato chips because you’ll “just eat half and leave the other half for next week”.
But before you know it, you’re crumpling up the empty chips bag and licking the remaining salt and crumbs off your grubby fingers even before the credits roll.

Well, Lays was not kidding when they came up with the tagline “betcha can’t eat just one!”

While a lack of self-control certainly does not help the situation, you’re not 100% to blame for your expanding waistline.

Here are three menacing factors about unassuming potato chips that wouldn’t let you “just have one chip”:

1. The Unholy Trifecta

If eating potato chips was a religion, we would be worshipping Salt, Sugar and Fat — the unholy trifecta of processed foods. These components, when mixed in a perfect ratio and tossed with freshly roasted potato slices will cause you to reach a Bliss Point. This reaction will then trigger an overwhelming release of dopamine and opioids, chemicals that produce great pleasure, in your brain.

They are made specially to leave an intense mind-blowingly delicious taste at the front of your mouth which will die off so quickly that by the time you finish each mouthful, your greasy hands are reaching for the next chip to relive that burst of flavour again.

These are common traits of hyperpalatable foods (aka Comfort food to the layman), which subconsciously urges us to eat more in order to seek more pleasure and relief… not unlike what people who abuse cocaine and nicotine seek.
Indeed, the Unholy Trifecta is powerful enough to get you addicted to chips the way drug addicts are hooked on hard drugs.

2. The Crunch

One of the best things about eating potato chips has got to be the sound of that heavenly morsel breaking between your teeth, that satisfying crunch as it’s delightful sweet-saltiness rolls across your tongue.

Well, a recent Oxford University Study has shown that the crunch actually a contributing factor to our addiction to chips. Imagine eating a stale chip, or as my grandma would say “lao hong” (which means no longer crunchy in Hokkien). It loses all of its appeal, no matter how well-flavoured the chip may be. We are all suckers for the crunch because we naturally associate it to freshness; even when it comes to healthy foods like apples and carrots.

3. The Melt

Cheetos and Twisties. They all have the melt. They are all guilty of the Vanishing Caloric Density.

Vanishing Caloric Density is a phenomenon where your brain (that traitor) gets fooled into thinking that you’re not eating much because the Cheetos or Twisties have melted so quickly in your mouth. So you’re likely to keep stuffing your face with Cheetos until you’re left with an empty bag and neon orange fingers.

With all these factors working against us, the blessed victims of the junk food industry, having “just one chip” seems like a battle already lost.

If you are a slave to potato chips like I am, you and I both know that cutting them entirely out of our diet is certainly out of question. But there are a few simple steps that we can take to curb our cravings and eat just a reasonable portion of chips in one sitting (aka not an entire Pringles can).

Portion control

Buy smaller packets of chips. Or if only the huge bags are available, pour just a portion into a bowl and put the remaining chips away. Ideally deep inside your cabinet.

Cut down on sugar

Sugar can be found in many of the foods we commonly consume (eg. Candy, breads, pasta). Cutting down on it might make us feel deprived and uncomfortable at first but your body would slowly find a new, better balance during your sugar detox and soon, sweet drinks that you used to find normal would taste sickly sweet, quenching your appetite for sugary beverages and foods. Along with these effects are a whole bunch of other boons such as better complexion and a toner tummy!

By Rachel Lim