The "Snack Wells Syndrome" or why we eat worse when we try to eat healthy things

The "Snack Wells Syndrome" or why we eat worse when we try to eat healthy things

In the year 1992, Snack Wells cookies sold a lot because the words "fat free" were written on the packaging. Always surrounded by a sinful feeling, suddenly those cookies gave consumers a certain moral license to sin .

The problem is that, far from restricting the consumption of cookies, knowing that they were fat-free made them eat more than ever. Finally, many consumers were ingesting more fats and sugars than before the advent of fat-free cookies. Medical researchers dubbed this phenomenon the "Snack Wells Syndrome."

Moral license

Although currently the words "fat-free" or "light" no longer have the same effects among consumers, the effects of the "Snack Wells Syndrome" continue to take place: the old words or expressions, which have ceased to have psychological effect because It has not really reduced the weight problems, they have been replaced by new magic words .

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Psychologist Kelly McGonigal provides some examples of this in her book Self-Control. How the will works, why it is so important and what we can do to control it :

Consumers believe that "organic" Oreos have fewer calories than regular Oreos and are more suitable for daily eating. By the way, speaking of green halos, eating organic food, in addition to being healthy, is good for the planet. Consumers’ environmental sympathy for Oreo cookies negated any nutritional sin. The more environmentally friendly a person was, the more they underestimated the calories in organic cookies and the more they approved of consuming them on a daily basis.

That is to say, if the connotations that surround a food not only detract from it sinful or unhealthy value, but also provide some type of moral value to the consumer, a certain license to make mistakes appears in their mind. That happens in all walks of life : if we are good people in one field, we are not so uncompromising when we make mistakes in others.

The more we care about a particular virtue, the more vulnerable we are to ignoring how a "virtuous" quirk can jeopardize our long-term goals.