I Ate Crisps Every Time I Wanted Some, to See How Weird It Made Me Feel

In a world without consequences, I would eat crisps uninterrupted, all day, forever. But how would that impact my body?
November 3, 2020, 12:36pm
woman with bags of crisps
Photos: VICE

Sometimes – in the dead of the night, when I’m alone with my thoughts dancing in my brain like spirals of scattered dust caught in a sunbeam – I can hardly believe that the vast majority of humanity lived before crisps.

The Romans didn’t have crisps, Henry VIII didn’t have crisps, cavemen didn’t have crisps. The world’s wealthiest man, 300 years ago, was technically poorer than you, because he never felt Wotsit crumbs beneath his ruby rings.

I love crisps. I love crisps so much that, often, when I am eating-a-packet-after-just-having-eaten-a-packet, I wonder how many crisps I would eat in a day, if I let myself loose. If I lived in a world without rules, regulations and that 2006 British Heart Foundation poster of the kid drinking cooking oil, how many bags of crisps would I want to eat?

One Wednesday in October, I put it to the test.

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A caveat, first, for hateful minds. This experiment was not about how many crisps I could eat in a day, but rather how many I would eat if I lived in a world without consequences, or I was in heaven, or something like that. I am not a YouTuber. I am not a clown. I could certainly eat 100 packets in a day, if you wanted to place me in the middle of an arena and throw your coins at me – but: I am a scientist and a scholar. This experiment was about one thing and one thing only: confronting the beast within.

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10AM

I start my morning at 10AM, which is the time the morning starts. I breakfast on a bowl of porridge and pour a glass of icy cold coconut water, finished off with two packets of beefy Space Raiders.

In truth, I’m daunted by the day ahead. I email registered nutritionist, author and podcaster Pixie Turner for reassurance. What would happen if I ate 30 bags of crisps today, I ask? Turner tells me I would be thirsty and likely have a headache, as well as a bit of bloat.

“One day of this, however, is unlikely to cause any long-term harm besides a bit of discomfort.” Phew.

11:19AM 

Despite my nausea and fear of death, by 11AM I’m craving some S+V, so have a bag of famously unsatisfying Walkers.

Before this experiment, the most crisps I’ve ever eaten in a day is probably six packets, if we’re strictly speaking about fingers-in-bags, but maybe around four family bags if we’re counting buffet situations.  

When I went freelance two years ago, my phone’s step counter plummeted from four and five-digit figures to numbers like “88” and “34”. I wonder if I should have told Pixie this. 

11:44AM

I have a craving and experiment with some Seabrooks Worcestershire Sauce flavour crisps. I vaguely remember that Worcestershire Sauce crisps were discontinued in the early-2000s because of a cancer scare, but I no longer feel fear.

12:27PM

Realise too late that I opened the Worcestershire packet upside down, so now – according to schoolyard dogma – I am gay.

I have some Walkers Cheese & Onion. Although I have permitted myself to eat other food today, I suddenly realise I don’t really want to. I’ve had five packets of crisps in two-and-a-half hours. I feel a fool that I was unafraid for a bit back there.

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This is where I must confess to faltering in my experiment. After finishing my C&O at 12:31PM, I immediately want another packet but I stop myself. The beast rattles at its chains. 

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3PM

Because I forgot about a deadline, I devour a late lunch of a cheese sandwich and a bag of Walkers Prawn Cocktail.

Side note: one of my prawnies had an extremely weird stringy bit on it, which I’ve photographed for posterity. I feel happy to be adding to the time-honoured primary school tradition of finding weird things inside crisp packets – extra-small Hula Hoops, extra-long French Fries, that little plastic blue slip that held a fiver during the best stunt in marketing in 2001.

4:30PM

I have a handful of sweets, a green apple, a glass of water. I pour out a bowl of beef Hula Hoops and decide to eat them with a fork (ask no questions / hear no lies). As I sit down, my left arm starts to hurt and I begin googling questions about death.

I find one of those tabloid stories about a woman who only ate crisps – she lived off 15 bags a day for three years and consequently got her tennis-ball-sized gallbladder removed. I don’t know what size a gallbladder should be, so I am unfazed.

5PM

Something strange has happened – I find myself wanting to clean the house and go on my exercise bike and put my laundry away. I also really want to brush my teeth.

5:56PM

I didn’t brush my teeth or go on my exercise bike, but I did scrub a stain in the sink. I’m now eating a packet of Pom Bears – after finishing one, I finally come to terms with the experiment and eat another. Something about the sun setting makes my endeavour seem less perverse.

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6:05PM

I have a bag of Sensations, so named because of the sensation of them getting stuck in your teeth.

7PM

My tea is smoked aubergine pasta and some garlic flatbread, which is really very good. I could absolutely eat crisps now, but I listen to my body and have a Müller Corner (the good type with the biscuit bits, not the bad type with the jam).

I press play on Hancock (2008) and sincerely enjoy it, so the chemicals are clearly doing something to my brain.

9PM

I lay out three packets of Cool Original Doritos on a baking tray, cover them with cheese and melt it in the oven. I dollop on some sour cream and salsa and make my way through about two bags’ worth of the crisps in the next couple of hours.

This brings my daily total to 12 bags of crisps in 11 hours (three of which are from the “grab bag” family and thus double the size of a normal pack. If you were being generous, you could say I ate 15 bags – your call). 

I have had at least 150 percent of my recommended daily saturated fat intake in crisps alone, without counting the cheese or garlic bread or anything else. Honestly, I could’ve done better – I could’ve done more. But perhaps the joy of junk is eating it mindlessly, and counting goes against the very culture of the crisp?

Left to my own devices, it is now evident I would eat over ten packets of crisps a day. Nutritionist Turner says, however, that foods become less exciting the more we permit ourselves to eat them – this is known as “habituation”.  

“I suspect that over time you’d start to notice and appreciate the way fresh fruit and vegetables make your body feel and function, and find a balance,” she says. Optimistic, like the smile of a Pom Bear before it enters my cavernous mouth.  

@ameliargh