The one food that knocks everyone off their New Year's resolution diet

Every January 1, we awaken to face the raw, gray daylight of a new year, determined to make some changes and to finally follow through with our New Year's resolutions. "This year, it will be different," we seem to always say. This is the year that we're going to get our lives together, take our relationships to the next level, make that gutsy career move we've been promising ourselves, or move out of our parents' finished basement.

For many of us, this first step toward an improved life begins with a promise to stop treating our bodies like a burning dumpster fueled by cardboard Big Mac containers. "I'm going to go to the gym two, no, THREE times per week, and I am going to replace at least one meal per day with raw kale seasoned only with lemon juice and fish scales," we bargain with our broken bodies, still battered and reeling from the revelries of the previous night.

And it may go that way. At least for a while. But eventually, a food comes along that we find so irresistible, that we throw all of our good intentions out the window, put on a stained pair of pajama bottoms, and settle in for a heavy dose of comfort food and a four-hour block of Law and Order reruns. Here are the foods that most commonly knock us off our New Year's resolution diet.

Pizza

Pizza seems like it would be one of the easiest things to swear off, because it's so obviously bad for you. And for at least a few days after New Year's, it seems like it's going to be possible. But then, inevitably, it happens: It's 2:30 in the morning, you've had too much to drink, and the only thing separating you from falling face-down in the gutter is the lamppost you're desperately clinging to for dear life. And then your vision refocuses and it hits you: A slice of pizza from the corner pizza place will be just the thing to sop up the Mexico's worth of tequila burning a hole through your rotten, empty stomach.

Our brains simply can't handle the serotonin-hijacking combination of full-fat dairy cheese, sweet tomato sauce, and carbohydrates, which pizza delivers in spades. It's hot, it's melty, it's salty, it floods your brain with endorphins, and it's just what the doctor ordered to send your well-intentioned resolutions scurrying toward the recesses of your mind, where they belong.

Chinese food

Chinese food can be tricky, because it can seem on the surface like it may not be super terrible for you. "After all," you may find yourself rationalizing, "It's mostly vegetables, right? What's a little cornstarchy brown sauce between friends?"

Unfortunately, Chinese food also tends to contain uber-high levels of salt and fat, particularly in the deep-fried dishes, and is loaded with MSG, which is thought to make us overindulge and turn "just one egg roll" into 25 paper cartons of food. MSG is a way of boosting the umami factor in our foods, that same "fifth taste" that makes meat, mushrooms, and some types of fish delicious, and which makes a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos seem as close as man has come to developing a scientifically perfect foodstuff.

Couple the near-irresistibility of Chinese food with the fact that we tend to order it late at night, when we're not moving our bodies much, and the fact that we can have it delivered right to our houses without ever leaving the couch, and it's easy to see why a few forkfuls of sweet, crispy General Tso's can be a real resolution-breaker.

Burgers

Cheeseburgers have been basically designed to break our spirits and force us to summarily discard any feelings of self-preservation and good health. Even a simple cheeseburger combines the three elements: Bread, meat, and cheese, that our bodies have spent thousands of years foraging for, presented neatly in a package that we can eat while driving our fuel-efficient cars and spilling hot scraps of lettuce all over our laps, for just a couple of bucks.

It turns out, our brains are hard-wired for the occasional protein craving, and burgers satisfy that need without requiring us to stalk and kill a gazelle with our bare hands. Add a healthy layer of gooey, melty cheese (fat), a squeeze of ketchup (sugar), and stack it all on a bun (refined carbohydrates), and our stupid lizard-brains think they've found nature's perfect food source. Who cares if that Monster Thickburger from Carl's Jr. weighs in at a whopping 1,340 calories? Lizard's gotta eat!

Pasta

If you crave huge heaping bowls of spaghetti carbonara, pasta putanesca, or fettucine Alfredo within days of setting your new year's resolutions, it's probably not your fault. Your lack of self-discipline isn't due to your father disappearing with a Denny's waitress when you were in the fourth grade… it's because you have a complex carbohydrate sensitivity. See? Science!

Turns out, some of us tend to crave carbohydrates more than others, and have us dreaming of heaping plates of lasagna while we should be eating chilled radish salads, thanks to our bodies' increased ability to taste and enjoy the sugars in carbohydrates.

"What that could mean is that individuals who are more sensitive to the 'taste' of carbohydrate also have some form of subconscious accelerator that increases carbohydrate or starchy food consumption," says to Russell Keast, a researcher at Deakin University in Australia who is studying the link between carbohydrate craving and consumption. "But we need to do much more research to identify the reason why."

Fast food

Fast food companies employ gigantic teams of chefs and food scientists whose only job is to make food that isn't just delicious, but that is intensely craveable. By combining fat, sugar, and carbohydrates into an ever-increasing array of double-pattied, nacho cheese-blasted bliss and setting them at a price point that's affordable for just about anyone, these foods can be resolution-killers for even the most stoic and steadfast dietary teetotalers.

The trouble is, while fast food may be a ton of fun in your mouth, with all of its textures and layers and goops dipped in slurry, it's a nutritional dead-end. In most cases, fast food is overly processed and contains unnaturally large amounts of carbohydrates, added sugars, and buckets of unhealthy fat and sodium. What's more, these foods are usually ridiculously high in calories, while offering little in the way of actual nutrition. While it may be delicious and convenient, it's a surefire way to derail your new year's resolutions.

Potato chips

'Betcha can't eat just one, amirite? Junk-food aficionados worldwide understand the allure of potato chips, and why it can be so ridiculously difficult to crack a fresh bag with the best of intentions, only to find themselves buzzsawing through the entire sack and involuntarily falling into a Cool Ranch coma a few minutes later — New Year's resolution be damned.

Potato chips feed our bodies' natural cravings for salt, but it turns out the satisfying CRUNCH of a potato chip may also be a component in their appeal. According to Mental Floss, the crunch of a chip may reach 63 decibels (for reference, a human conversation registers about 20 decibels), the sound reverberating along the jawbone and into the inner ear in what researchers call, "the "music of mastication," an auditory accompaniment to the sensory stimulus of eating. And when we hear it, we eat more, because we associate crunchiness with freshness and nutritionally rewarding foods… and because we want to hear it again.

Donuts

It doesn't matter how committed to a healthy lifestyle you may be in the new year… if you drive by a Krispy Kreme when the warming glow of that "Hot Now" sign kicks on, signaling the arrival of fresh donuts coming off the line, you're hard-pressed to keep on driving by without a stop for a tiny piece of sugar-glazed perfection. But let's say that by some miracle, you do manage to drive on by — there's a good chance one of co-workers didn't, and you probably won't be able to resist that box when it's actually inside your work space.

What's not to like? When you deep-fry cake into lighter-than-air morsels of fluffy, sugary pastry that melts as soon as it makes contact with your hungry maw, and then coat the whole thing in a shellacking of pure sugar water that crackles into shards of sheer joy, and pretend that serving it with a piping hot cup of coffee somehow qualifies it as "breakfast," you're well on the road to a list of broken New Year's resolutions. Just don't try to course-correct by substituting the donuts for regular mealtimes. According to a statement on their website, Krispy Kreme doughnuts "are an occasional indulgent treat and, as such, do not have the nutritional values adequate to be a meal replacement." Good to know.

Bagels

If you're ready to enthusiastically abandon your good intentions for the new year, a freshly-baked bagel is the perfect way to do it. Whether you take your bagel plain or toasted, buttered or slathered with habanero whitefish cream cheese, the allure of a hot, crusty, chewy bagel can prove impossible to resist. Squint your eyes tightly enough, and you might be able to convince yourself that a bagel is no more or less healthy than similarly carb-heavy breakfasts, like an English muffin or a piece of toast. But hooboy, would you be mistaken.

The average deli bagel clocks in at around 350 calories, and about 50-60 grams of carbohydrates, which is the equivalent of three or four slices of bread. Add a pound of bacon cheddar horseradish cream cheese to the mix, and it's easy to drive the fat and calorie load to unconscionable levels. Use a bagel as a base for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, and you might as well start reinforcing your bed slats with rebar, pricing out Rascal scooters and widening all of your door frames now, because your resolutions are history. Better luck next year.

Chocolate

If you've ever found yourself ransacking your pantry shelves late at night, furiously searching for a stray M&M like a rabid squirrel that accidentally got into the kitchen, or been guilty of cracking into the unsweetened baking chocolate, don't feel bad — there may actually be a scientific reason why.

As it turns out, rabid squirrels, drug addicts, and chocolate lovers all have one thing in common: They crave surges of the pleasure-giving chemical dopamine in their brains, and eating chocolate produces these feel-good neurotransmitters in spades. While scientists originally speculated that chocolate contained compounds that stimulated dopamine production directly, a study proved that eating the chemical components of chocolate on their own didn't trigger the same satisfied response. Test subjects actually had to eat the chocolate itself, which indicates that there also may be an emotional component to your craving the sweet stuff.

Cheese

We Americans love our cheese. But according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (via One Green Planet), we're eating entirely too much of it. "Americans eat more than 33 pounds of cheese per person per year — three times more than they did in 1970 — and our country is more obese than ever … Cheese is a high-calorie product loaded with fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat. And the type of fat they contain is mainly saturated ("bad") fat."

Cheese intake is at an all-time high, with chains like Domino's Pizza leading the charge into our high-cholesterol, obese futures. According to an article published in The New York Times, when the company tweaked its pizza formula to include 40 percent more cheese on their pies, business boomed… but so did our waistlines. Just one slice provides two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance for saturated fat, which sounds like the most delicious way to break a resolution we can think of. 

Bacon

You know how pork chops are delicious, right? Well, what if we told you that if you took thin-cut, fatty slices from the belly of a pig, cured them in salt, and then sizzled them in a hot skillet they would turn into crispy, crackly, crunchy scraps of porcine perfection? That's bacon.

Whether built into a perfectly balanced BLT or tucked discreetly into an already-decadent burger, the craving for a perfect piece of bacon can be profoundly overpowering. In fact, the average American consumes just over 18 pounds of bacon per year, while one study claimed that 43 percent of Canadians would choose bacon over sex, because who even knows what those people are doing up there. According to AsapScience, when you cook bacon, the melting fats and sugars release around 150 "volatile organic compounds" that fill the air and make you want bacon even more.

Whether you fry it, bake it, broil it, microwave it, or forgo sex for it, one thing is abundantly clear: When the smell of sizzling bacon comes wafting through your kitchen, your New Year's resolutions are history.