The Thing About Cheetos

Did you know that Cheetos are designed to trick your brain and hypnotize your taste buds into a continuous state of craving? It’s a state that snack food industry insiders call the “bliss point.” They have scientifically designed foods, like Cheetos, around our brain’s reaction to sensory-specific satiety (the tendency for distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain), which reacts by lowering your desire to have more of that flavor. So, snack food companies avoid this by creating complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to make you want more, but don’t have a distinct enough single flavor that tells your brain you’ve had enough. To make it really simple: Cheetos are intentionally addictive. It’s not just you who can’t stop reaching in the bag after every “I swear this is the last one” declaration.  

The conversation around bliss point came up a couple of weeks ago when, to be totally honest, I was struggling through some deep discontentment. I spent a lot of time praying asking God to help me shift my attitude and was looking for him to answer by stepping in and turning my circumstances in my favor. In my head and in my conversations, I believed and claimed I trusted God, but deep down the uneasiness I felt in the midst of what I experienced as great failure and rejection, told a different story. A truer story. One I needed to pay attention to.

Discontentment is an uncomfortable and downright miserable state for my heart to be in. It’s accompanied by a restlessness that keeps me awake at night, desperate to solve all my problems and make plans for how I am going to secure the things I believe I need to be okay. When my circumstances swirl out of control, my mind races, my grip on the things dear to me tightens, and my prayers become less of the peace-filled, abiding type, and more of the controlling, “God I need this, will you please just give it to me?” type.

The enemy would love to trick our minds - similar to the science behind Cheetos - into thinking that reaching bliss will fulfill us. That getting answers will fill the void of that unsolved problem. That ridding ourselves of the unrelenting ache, answering the unfulfilled hope and unanswered prayer, or somehow stopping the unraveling rejection, will give us what we crave.

The funny thing about bliss is that we have to keep feeding it in order to stay in that state of mind. It isn’t deep. It’s cheap. It isn’t truly fulfilling. It creates an addiction to a feeling. And it definitely isn’t lasting.

When we fall out of that state, we feel just as empty as we did before. So we strive, we chase, we grasp and cling. Really, it’s the enemy’s perfectly designed scheme to keep us in a discontent place...to keep us from the satisfaction we were made for.  To keep us restless. To keep us from finding and knowing the true, full, nourishing and soul-quenching life found when we look to Christ to satisfy our deepest longings.

I've spent a lot of time digging and diving deep into my heart this month and have found that my discontentment is a product of trying to satisfy my appetite with “spiritual cheetos” - quick fixes. People. Relationships. Success in my job. Recognition. Healthy living. Rhythms that make me feel like I’m in control. Spending a lot of time in public places so I don’t have to come home and be alone. And guess what? It takes a lot of work to keep all of those things in a place that satisfies. 

I am bound to fail. And I have. And those addictive, imitation soul-quenchers I've turned to have only further fueled and aggravated that restlessness.  

I keep asking God to answer my cry and rescue me from my feelings of failure.  And I keep feeling gypped when He doesn’t. As good as the relationships, work and rhythms are in my life, when they become my source of life, or what I look to to find freedom and rest, I will never be truly filled.

God has so graciously been reminding me that He is the true source of vibrant, abundant and peace-filled life. As I’ve been studying Scripture, I hear Him say: “Hannah, come on. I have so much more for you than this. I’ve prepared a full-blown feast for you and you’re settling for this. Stop trying to make your own way out. Stop waiting for someone or something to rescue you. Lift your eyes, look to Me and let Me provide for you. Let Me deliver you. Let Me be your answer. Let Me fill those voids. Let Me be your anchor. Let Me be your grounding peace. I am the Living Water, the Bread of Life, and I will give you good things in abundance - so much better than what you're trying to secure for yourself. So, just stop. Rest. Abide.” And I'm listening. What he is describing is what I want.

As with any addiction, when you want to break it, you need to retrain yourself and replace the things you are taking away with something new. So, as I strip away the secondary things and shifted my gaze back to Christ to find contentment in him, these are the things I’ve been practicing:

  1. Seeking the Giver, not as a means to an end, but as the ultimate gift and nourishment for my soul.

  2. Wanting what I have now…and not wanting what I don’t have.

  3. Thankfulness - verbally expressing my gratitude to people and to God for what he has graciously given me.

  4. Taking all my requests to God before I let them grow out of control - putting my circumstances, my hopes and my needs in his hands and trusting him. Letting his peace cover me, calm me and ground me in the waiting.

  5. Loving others - engaging in community, serving others, taking my eyes off myself and what I don’t have and looking for ways to be a part of what God is doing to meet their needs and fulfill them.

 And, friends, as I have come to my Father as my source of life, rather than as a means of getting the things that I think will give me life, something has shifted in me. I have experienced a peace that is grounded and sturdy no matter my circumstances. Though I’ve been misunderstood and let down, dealt with feelings of failure, and offered vulnerability only to be met by the other's anxiety and fear, my peace has not changed. My joy has grown stronger. Each “blow” seems to deepen my feeling of being full to overflowing. When I break the addiction to those “fillers”, I am free to stop chasing bliss and simply pull up a chair to the table set before me. And it gives me more space to be hospitable and invite others to a feast as well.

To living dented (and throwing away the Cheetos)!

I’d love to hear from you if this resonated with you! What spiritual Cheetos have you been trying to satisfy yourself with? What could you start practicing to shift your gaze back to Christ and sit down at the feast he’s prepared for you?

Read the NY Times article about junk food and bliss points here!