Sometimes there's nothing better than sinking into the couch to watch a good movie armed with a cold drink and a giant bag of chips. Of course, there's only one way for such a scenario to end: Before long, your chips are all gone, even though you swear you never meant to eat them all. The entire potato chip industry is based on this "mindlessly eat until your hand punches through the bottom of the bag" behavior.
Thankfully, researchers have found a way to bring your accidental snack-binging under control ... with food coloring. And it's not what you think -- we're not talking about dyeing food some disgusting color so you don't want it anymore, although that also works (that's why your "dye all of the food green for St. Patrick's Day" party failed). No, it turns out that mixing up the colors of the food makes it easier to keep track of how much we eat.
Chip math is so much easier when you can count them, versus weighing their liquid volume in the toilet.
For the experiment, scientists took tubes of Pringles and sneaked red-dyed chips into them at regular intervals. The test subjects were then told to eat however much they liked, upon which everyone unsurprisingly went all "Whoa, free food!"
Yet, as the dust settled, the people who'd had red chips in their tubes ate 50 percent less than the ones with just regular chips. The placement of the red chips didn't matter, either -- as long as these "divider" chips were present, people just ate less.
The colorblind, however, are still fucked.
Researchers then asked both groups to estimate how much they'd eaten, and again, those who'd had their chips segmented with the red ones were much more successful than those with unaltered snacks.
The thing is, we all know that it's best not to eat too much. Sometimes our brains just have a hard time determining when we've overeaten, because food has few tangible markers beyond "Yeah, there's still some" and "Fuck, all gone now." So the brain just sort of gives up and lets you go on with the automated eating sequence until the food is gone or you collapse. However, introduce the red chips into the equation as markers, and your brain is suddenly able to monitor exactly how much crap you're shoving into your face -- and send a stop signal when appropriate.
Everyone knows that alcohol and memory enjoy an inverse relationship: When your head is full of one, the other is notably absent. That's kind of the point of the whole "drinking to forget" thing.
There's a truth to it, of course -- everyone knows that your pub quiz performance deteriorates to hell after a few beers, and a sufficiently thick vodka haze makes your home keys literally impossible to find. However, memory is a notoriously fickle bastard that operates on many levels. On the lowest of them all, we find none other but our subconscious. And according to scientists, alcohol and subconscious memory like to hook up and go to town.
Not a metaphor. This photo was taken in 1988.
It goes back to the basic chemistry that makes drinking enjoyable. The happy buzz you receive from drinking is achieved when the booze cheats your brain into releasing dopamine, the body's very own "Fuck yeah!" hormone. The thing is, it doesn't stop there. Although perfectly capable of giving you a sense of happiness, dopamine is at its core not a pleasure hormone -- it's a learning hormone. The more dopamine you have in your body, the more receptive you become to learning and remembering everything around you ... at a subconscious level.
Your subconscious memory views the feel-good fix that dopamine delivers as a reward it gets from learning as much shit as it can. And boy, it can learn. When your conscious thoughts are drunkenly slurring obscenities at the dude who objected to your tabletop performance of the "Gangnam Style" dance, your subconscious memory is busy being acutely aware of its surroundings, forming all sorts of memory tricks and repeatable habits like no tomorrow.
"Hold my calls. I'm studying for that sales presentation."
The various components of this process are still being explored, but researchers have already gone so far as to suggest that alcoholics may actually not be addicted to alcohol itself, but rather to the memory of the tuned-in state that booze gives to their subconscious. You're forming memories at a faster rate than ever, but instead of anything useful, all you're retaining is the memory that drinking made you feel awesome. Once again, the biggest enabler of your bad habits is that big squishy asshole between your ears.
For more reasons we should be certified doctors, check out 6 Medication Side Effects Straight Out of a Horror Movie and The 5 Most Terrifying Side Effects of Exercise.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 4 Least Anticipated Movies of January 2013.
And stop by LinkSTORM because it's Friday and it's naked time.
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