Are You Actually In Control Of What You Eat?
Think you are in control of what you eat?
I used to think that too… But boy was I wrong.
There are so many factors that affect your food choices. So if you’ve ever had the thought of “I just don’t have the willpower”, let me clear something up for you.
No-one has the willpower to stick to things, especially diets you don’t want to be on. No-one!
If I could list all of the intricate factors that control what you eat, you’d be reading this email for the next 24 hours.
However to start with, I want to tell you about this one thing that may be affecting your food choices without you even knowing it, and no it isn’t that your willpower isn’t strong enough.
I’m not talking about a busy schedule. I’m talking about physiological signs of body stress, the main of which is blood levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”.
In fact, cortisol levels can be running too high, chronically, even if you’re schedule is totally free (although I know that isn’t most of you – we are busy peeps!).
Point being, if you’ve read this and thought “I’m not stressed”, even if you may not feel stressed your blood results might be painting a different picture.
This is just one way (there are many) that stress can change what you eat…
Studies show that when you eat sugar, dopamine (happy hormone) is released into an area of the brain that signifies reward. AKA you think “Mmmm that felt good”.
Your body and your brain is smart. After this happens a few times, it thinks…
“Ahh ok so this is how I can get an instant feel-good feeling”…
“All that needs to happen is we need some sugar”
Next time you are feeling down, depressed, sad or stressed.
Your body thinks…
“I know how to fix this!”
“Let me send her a sugar craving”
So you’re stressed.
You crave sugar.
You eat sugar.
Dopamine is released.
The body has exactly what it wanted in that instant.
But the thing is, it’s not actually what you want.
What you actually wanted was not to feel down, depressed, sad or stressed.
That rush of dopamine may have given you an instant moment of pleasure. But it hasn’t got rid of what made you feel stressed in the first place.
It gets worse too.
After a while, your body builds up a tolerance to this dopamine releasing trigger, and so as time goes on, until you cut the cycle, you slowly need more and more of the stimulus (sugar) to achieve the same “stress-relieving” effect.
Sound familiar? This is a similar process to drug addictions… Yep! Drug addicts continuously need more and more to feel the same effect as they build up tolerance to the drug.
PS. This is just one reason why I see many deep holes in the philosophy of “intuitive eating”. In that stressful moment, you intuitively want sugar to pacify the sad feelings – but that doesn’t at all mean that your body needs junk food.
To be really honest, your body never needs junk food. It may need pleasure, nourishment and happy hormones yes but junk food no.
And this is yet another reason I don’t believe in meal plans!
If someone is trying to eat well (claps to them!) and they are really stressed, the intervention that may be most effective for them is actually not a meal plan but rather stress relieving lifestyle interventions!
So what do you do?
What I want you to remember is that health is holistic.
From this story you can see how lifestyle changes that may seem unrelated to diet are actually directly impacting what you eat!
Never underestimate the benefits of things like mindfulness, meditation, time in nature and breathing! These things may easily help you eat well, by way of reducing your stress levels and therefore your sugar cravings, without you even having to try!
How good would that be?!
You may have already noticed, but I am no normal nutritionist. I’ve never really been conventional in life and certainly not in work either.
You see, the reason I became a nutritionist was because I’ve always seen how I had infinite opportunities when I was eating well. I grew up experiencing first-hand the effects that diet had on my state of being.
And after spending four years at university studying the depths of nutritional biochemistry, while I loved it… I still wasn’t satisfied with the way nutrition was done.
Because I know (and as you now know too) there are many factors that affect what we choose to eat. And if I could coach my clients into wanting the right things, I wouldn’t have to worry about them eating junk… Because they didn’t want to.
How I got them to this stage was a whole lot of work and rigorous research and trial and error. But I am so happy I followed my gut in knowing that nutrition could be done better. Because my clients actually see success in the most pleasurable way. No force required.