But for some reason you can’t change your eating patterns for the life of you. And now research shows you are not alone, and your brain may be responsible.
If you want to alter the way you eat you need to “re-wire” the reward pathways of your brain to effectively reduce your food intake and lower cravings and overeating.
How is this possible? Re-wire what?
Let’s say you’ve had a stressful day. Although you might not realize it the brain does not like stress and will do everything possible to modify the displeasure.
If you had a bad day or unpleasant experience and then ate a hot fudge sundae and felt much better, before you know it the brain will say “eat a hot fudge sundae” if it encounters a stressful situation.
The brain wants to bring you back to the pleasure point as soon as possible. The brain creates memories about eating behaviors and these memories are tied to highly palatable foods.
The more sundaes you eat, the lower the threshold of bringing you back is and the cravings and promptings of the brain continue to escalate. The law of diminishing returns goes into full gear.
In fact, sweet taste may be more rewarding and possibly more addictive than cocaine.
The bottom line: the complexity of the brain can create a quick high tolerance to sugar thus being in a perpetual state of dependence.
So how do you fix it? The answer is REWARDS since the brain is reward driven.
You need to find a reward that works for you. Efforts to quit or moderate bad habits will fail if they focus solely on depriving oneself of doing the habit. Even if you are successful in the short-term your brain will remind you of the pleasure from the old habit.
Dr. George Koob, a neurologist from Scripps who specializes in the brain and forming new habits states:
We can’t always focus on acting healthfully! We must train up our autopilot.
How do we do that?
- Avoid high-risk situations – if you know an event or party will trigger the old eating pattern avoid it while you are in the learning process.
- Replace the bad habit with something that is rewarding – don’t just deprive yourself. A few of my clients put money in their accounts every day they ate well or exercised to withdraw the money later for a new wardrobe or long-awaited vacation.
- Lower your stress level by pacing your schedule and developing a sense of control.
- Get your rest, eat regular meals and snacks (don’t get over hungry), and schedule in exercise or activity and yoga/meditation on a daily basis.
Just like having too many trigger foods in your house is a cue to eat, setting up cues and triggers for healthful habits can achieved- you just have to think outside the box of your norm.
Practice new habits till your brain is happy with the new behaviors and thinks healthful foods and exercise are the rewards.
Changing your brain habits will not happen overnight – it is a process of going forward and setbacks. Acknowledge the setback and get right back on the horse. Research is not calling it changing the neuro-pathways in your brain towards change!
You can change your brain – you just have to train it till what you want becomes your new habit and that is a long-lasting reward.