This week's luck winner(s)... pastries!!
From scones to baklava to profiteroles, pastries are a great way to overeat and feel classy at the same time. Pastries have a combination of qualities that make them among the most hyper-palatable of all foods: high calorie density, sugar, fat, starch, no bitterness, and a texture that's easy to chew and swallow rapidly. Pastries are a perfect example of the fact that low-quality corporate junk food is not the only challenge we face in the modern food environment: hyper-palatable, fattening foods can be quite artful. They can also be made in the home kitchen for people who wish to take the time.
I do have a pastry every now and then. In fact, I had two small but excellent pastries right before writing this post. I was at an upscale buffet-style meal where I had to walk past them to get back to my seat. The sight of the pastries was a cue that triggered a desire (motivation) to eat the pastries. The desire was strong enough that it overcame my cognitive desire to avoid them for health reasons: I gave in and put them on my plate. Despite no longer being hungry after finishing the savory portion of my meal, I ate both pastries and they were excellent. As soon as I had finished the second one, the first thing that came to mind was "I need to get more of these and wolf them down". I had to exert a little bit of willpower (cognitive restraint) to keep myself from getting up and putting more of them on my plate. This is how reward works. Cue -> motivation -> behavior -> goal attainment -> reinforcement.
I don't feel any guilt about having the pastries, just as I don't feel any guilt about having a glass of whiskey from time to time. I don't do it often enough for it to be a problem, mostly because I rarely expose myself to the temptation (controlling cue exposure is key). But it is interesting to observe my own reward system in action when I do expose myself to unnaturally rewarding foods.