Regain the Power to Control Your Own Health (Part 1)Everyone knows that eating more vegetables, protein, and fruit will make you feel better. However, most of us find it hard to eat well. So what happens along the way? How do we overcome cravings? Is it even possible to eat healthy in this day and age? It seems like everything is working against our health and we are powerless. I am a realist. I understand that eating well all the time is not always possible, but I do know it is possible to regain the power to control your own health. Over the next few weeks you will receive several blogs outlining how to make better choices with food.
The first thing you need to do is love yourself. That’s right! You need to believe that your body is worth taking care of. You can change your habits. You can control what you eat. When you love yourself, you make better choices about what you will and will not allow in your body. One way to love your self is eating healthy. This is not always as easy as it sounds. You have been conditioned to have an emotional response around food, soda, and alcohol since your childhood. Marketing firms have worked tirelessly and spent a fortune to convince you that you will feel better if you eat or drink what they are selling. Even as an adult you are still bombarded by subliminal messaging in an attempt to make you to believe comfort food will make you feel sexy, fit, and healthy.
Let’s say you walk into a friend’s house who just made warm chocolate chip cookies. It might bring back a wonderful memory of your grandmother’s house and her delicious chocolate chip cookies. You’ve had a long stressful day so you decide to indulge and have a cookie. You decide to have it despite the fact you don’t feel well when you eat gluten and dairy, and you have been fighting to stay awake since lunchtime. While you are eating that warm chocolate chip cookie you feel amazing. Your neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are soaring and for about 10 to 20 minutes you feel great. And then you don’t feel great. So you search for something else to make you feel better. Maybe you want a cup of coffee? Maybe you want a bowl of pasta? Maybe you want a beer? Maybe you want a bag of potato chips? What you might not know is that this is a normal response. You have been conditioned to feel this way. But when you start to eat clean, healthy food you will notice your cravings go away.
Neurochemistry is what fuels food addictions. How many of us are addicted to sugar? Most of us grew up being rewarded with sweet food. Therefore, when we feel bad we associate eating sugar or carbohydrates with feeling better. In addition to our emotional response to foods, we have neurochemical cravings too. When we are low energy we crave stimulants like sugar, simple carbohydrates and caffeine to bring us up. This only works for a short period of time. We have to make more sustainable choices to bring up our serotonin and dopamine.
I have many patients who know they feel better when they avoid their food sensitivities. So they try to avoid those foods, but eventually they say ‘I can have a little of that and then I’ll avoid it tomorrow’. This is where they usually slide down a slippery slope and eventually find themselves eating the foods that make them feel bad on a regular basis. I suggest making a commitment to your health and asking yourself why you would want to eat something that isn’t serving your body. If your priority is wellness, it is easier for your brain to say ‘no’ to the foods that are not good for you. Like any muscle, the more you train your brain to avoid eating unhealthy foods the less you will want to eat them.
In order to retrain your brain to eat healthy foods, you have to realize that you need more self-love. Comfort foods and food sensitivities are toxic to your body and you are poisoning yourself every time you indulge in your cravings. You need to change your emotions, awareness, and brain chemistry around what you are eating and why you are eating it. By giving in to foods that are unhealthy for your body, you are feeding bad habits. By consciously choosing to say ‘no’ to the foods that don’t serve you, you are empowering yourself toward health.
In short, just love yourself more. Your body is worth it.