I’m at the symposium and having a great time learning and getting to know researchers and practitioners that are passionate about improving the lives of adolescents. Looking forward to share more with you in the future!
This afternoon, I will give my presentation on breaking down THE talk with parents and supporting them throughs process of educating their children about sex and sexuality.
Have you decided that food has become more of a problem than a source of nurturance? Then perhaps it’s time to change the way you eat!
We all need a reason that will make a big behavioral change stick and it needs to be something more deep/impactful than, “I want to look better in these jeans.” Has your eating created shame? Does it reflect a lack of self-care, support and love for yourself? Are you ready and able to make changes that put your health first? What is the deeper reason for making change?
Support your healthy, deep goal (see #1) by moving around. Keep in mind that each exercise/activity may not cause you to drip with sweat and collapse at the end. Even a walk with the dogs after dinner is a support to what you are trying to do with your nutrition and as and added bonus also really good for your brain.
If you have read any of my other blogs you may be sick of hearing me suggest mediation but it is so good for you! There have been several studies that support that meditation is a really powerful aid to sustained abstinence in both chemical and food additions.
Ok, maybe I don’t hate it. I like that when I hear people say it to themselves I hear motivation and urgency. What I really don’t like about it is that it is not a plan and without a plan it is so easy to fail and give yourself a hard time for “just doing it.” So what’s the plan?! I encourage people to start small here. If you eat most of your meals from a drive through, start with just going to the grocery store, even if you are eating the same/similar things. When going to the grocery store is easy/normal/routine, start cooking the food you’re eating, even if it’s the same stuff. Take small, incremental steps in the direction you want to go as these are soooooo much more sustainable long term.
(*For those of you who never rented a VHS from Blockbuster, they had a sticker on all of their videos that said, “Be kind, rewind” requesting that you rewind the VHS before returning it.)
If you had a bad day and fell off of your goal/routine for the day, be nice to yourself!! It was one day. Tomorrow can be different. If you can compassionately look at what took you off of your path. Was it that someone who was well meaning showed up with your favorite cookies in the office and in a moment of weakness you caved? Was it that you had a bad day and the drive thru on the way home felt easy or comforting? It isn’t helpful or necessary to shame yourself for it but it can be helpful to know when you are most vulnerable to falling off the wagon.
Please know that nothing happens overnight. Research shows, that small incremental changes, rooted in a deep, meaningful purpose are those that are most likely to change your life for good. If I wake up tomorrow and create a new diet/meal plan, it will take more than 48 hours to see results. I will have good days and bad days. I will have set backs and triumphs. The only way to FAIL is to not try.
Have you ever had a craving for something all day and when you finally gave in and ate it, you didn’t really enjoy it?
For a long time, researchers believed that the reward or pleasure center in the brain was a one-dimensional operation; craving and wanting were synonymous. In the last ten years, researchers have been able to prove that people can crave things they did not actually like!!
In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009, researchers found that two of the primary chemicals produced in the pleasure center dopamine and endogenous opiates may not be released for the same reasons. From studies on dopamine, we know that addiction is associated with decreased sensitivity to dopamine in the reward center. Which is one of the reasons that in addiction, people need more of the drug/substance to get the same neurological impact.
Liking is pretty simple, we like something or we don’t. We are more likely to like fatty, sugary, salty foods.
Anticipating is a little more difficult because it is often implicitly learned. When your teacher makes memorize the preamble to the Constitution that is explicit learning. Implicit learning is by accident or unconsciously done. For example, when you start to crave popcorn when you purchase movie tickets online, before you can even smell them
Craving can work with you or against you. If you have ever craved salad it was likely because your body was sending your brain messages about the nutrients it was in need of at that time. When you’re having a bad day and you start to crave fatty, sugary, salty (hyper-palatable) foods it is likely that your brain is seeking a surge of dopamine. Of course, the more often your brain is given the hyper-palatable substance, the higher quantity your brain requires in order to get the same amount of dopamine.
The three-headed monster of your reward system is really powerful! Your reward/pleasure center has a direct connection to your primitive brain, which controls things like sleep, breathing, body temperature, heart rate, etc. So when your reward center doesn’t get its way, it can actually impact your basic bodily functions and make you feel as though you really want/need whatever it is seeking.
Additionally, food companies have made hyper-palatable foods so accessible and socially acceptable they are actually more difficult to avoid than real food.
Can you think of a single isle in the grocery store that does not have packaged food? In my neighborhood grocery store, there are even little add-ons in the produce isle! They do this because it works!! They know that we are all busy and have a lot of demands on our time and attention and they know that if they present something to us that seems healthy and like it will make life a little easier they will likely make that sale.
The food industry doesn't want you to think about all of this because they don't want you to start challenging what you like, what you're anticipating and what you're craving. Because if you did, you may begin to make different choices. Different and possibly healthier choices could result in reduced profits for them. But what could it mean for you?
What if, just for a few days, you start paying attention to what you're brain tells you it wants. I wonder if you start making notes if you could find a pattern. I've noticed that when I'm working late, I'm more likely to snack mindlessly and when I'm having a crummy day I want salty carbs. What patterns can you find?!
Have you ever craved something that isn’t healthy? Do you have a favorite comfort food? A favorite fast food? Have you ever worried that maybe your cravings for this particular thing may not be totally healthy?
You would have two options; dismiss me as a crazy, conspiracy theorist or think perhaps I have a point.
A couple of years ago, I attended a training that examined the intersection of trauma and addiction. I thought it was really compelling that they had a researcher, Dr. Pam Peeke, there to discuss food addiction and that was the first time I heard the term hyper-palatable foods. The research presented highlighted that the pleasure center in the brain reacts similarly in many people when addictive (hyper-palatable) foods are introduced, as it would when drugs are introduced to drug addicts.
A 2011 study from Yale that examined this phenomenon in lean as well as obese individuals found that there were addict behaviors in both lean and obese individuals. At the beginning of the study they evaluated each participant using a modified set a questions that would be used to determine if someone had an addiction to drugs/alcohol. Then the participant's brains were monitored and measured while they consumed hyper-palatable foods and found that the participants who fell within the addiction spectrum had brains that reacted similarly to brains of drug addicts when drugs were introduced.
It is not far fetched that food companies and manufacturers could use the same data to create foods that are nearly irresistible. We have seen in the tobacco industry and the sugar industry. Tobacco companies knowingly lied to consumers for decades about how addictive their product was. Now, we have food companies attempting to mislead use about how much sugar and salt are in the foods we eat.
It means a few things. For starters, if you are struggling with a complicated relationship with food, it may not be as simple as 'I need to just stop eating that' because your brain could be working against you. It could also mean that you may need more support than you think to 'kick the habit' as you are being targeted by a multibillion dollar industry. And finally, you could have other life stressors that could likely contribute to making it difficult to give up hyper-palatable foods.
If you are curious to see if you fall into the food addict spectrum the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) is here and only takes a few minutes to complete.