Why do you eat what you eat?
There are many reasons why we eat what we do and hunger is just one of them. There are many other reasons and they include:
• Sleep deprivation
• High Stress levels
• Culture and family
• How much exercise you do
• Happy or sad
• Mind Monkeys
In the main as human beings we eat to survive, we eat out of habit and we eat for pleasure. On top of this
certain foods can be very difficult for us to resist, we all have favourite food and we all have our go too food when we need comfort or are enjoying ourselves.
You may think that your conscious brain has full control, well think again, your subconscious, your environment and your mood has a lot more influence than you think. Look again at the list above, how many do you recognise that have found you eating or drinking, when hunger was not the driver.
Over the next couple of months we will examine most of these points and look for ways to overcome them and make better food choices.
Firstly let’s look at stress.
Have you ever noticed, when you are stressed, how quickly your resolve collapses and how quickly healthy food choices disappear, and how very quickly we replace then with calorie laden junk food with little or no nutritional value. After all don’t we deserve a treat?
Why is this?
There is more than one thing happening here, the reasons we eat what we eat when stressed are complex and happen physiologically and neuronal.
Mathew Tyron from the University of California conducted a small study of 30 women under different levels of stress, his findings were very interesting.
• Women with high stress levels showed increased activity in the regions of the brain that are linked to reward, motivation and decision making when shown pictures of high calorie foods.
• These women also showed reduced brain activity in the areas that govern strategic planning and emotional control.
In addition, the body, when under levels of stress also releases a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol increases your appetite for high energy food.
Elisa Espel also from the University of California examined the effects of Cortisol and decision making about food.
These are her findings:
• Individuals who create a large amount of Cortisol also consumed a greater amount of high fat and sugary foods.
One of the principal indicators of chronic stress that I see is disrupted sleep and disrupted sleep also increases Cortisol production. So, sleep deprivation increases Cortisol which in turn increases your stress levels and both increase your need for high calorie sugary foods. Is it any wonder that it becomes challenging when stressed to make good food choices?
Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that those in high powered jobs and bad sleep patterns will have bad diets, it is about how you take hold of that stress and make it work for you.
So what can we do about it?
Learn to love your stress! Your body reacts as it does for a reason, the release of Cortisol happens because your brain has conceived a threat, now you can begin to remind yourself hat you are feeling this way in order to prepare for something, acknowledge and accept it or take yourself off to a Tibetan hill and meditate for the next 20 years! Not for me way too much to do. So I learned to accept how I am feeling and guess what it, the feeling dissipates, this isn’t hocus pocus, nothing magic, just a realisation that stress and anxiety happen.
Those at the top of business, use stress to their advantage.
Ok, you can help his along even more by, changing some of those rituals that you hold onto. Some of the anger that you think keeps you safe and protected, it doesn’t, it destroys your life.
Change those things you can, I know that first hand how difficult anxiety can be so try changing just one thing at a time, in my experience the all or nothing approach generally fails. Have a go at one of these
• Exercise – just move more, especially when the sun is out
• Get outside
• Food – try to eat fresh
• Study your stress, understand what is creating it, and be honest with yourself
• Spend time with people you love.
• Find someone to help you, but engage with your stress, don’t just try and dump it on someone else.
• Come up with small ideas that will change your life and start implementing them.
If you don’t have reactions towards stress, then you are dead!! Accept your stress, it is yours and you have reacted this way for a reason.
Here’s to calmer living, better choices and loads of fun in the process.
If you need help with making changes, please feel free to use my short planning booklet. Or let me know what would help you, and I will try and help.