Habits-Brain, Nutrition

Your Brain on Food: The “Trick” to Eating Better, p2/2

Posted by Dr. Del | February 11, 2014

In part one of this article I shared that the more you eat highly processed sugary foods, the more you will crave them because your brain will push you to eat more of them.  The end result is that you are often unconsciously drawn to those foods not because you lack willpower, but because your brain is like a three year old sugar addict with the power to compel you to do its bidding.

Add sugar to high fat foods such as ice cream, cupcakes and doughnuts and you are doomed to junk food heaven because there are so many powerful hormones working against you.  First, sugary foods increase your levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite and increases cravings.  Secondly, the more sugar you eat the more dopamine your brain releases.  And dopamine is a neurohormone that regulates pleasure and memory, which explains why people become addicted to sugary high fat foods.

The “trick” to eating better
The beautiful thing about the brain is that the same mechanisms that it uses “against” you can also be trained to work “for” you. I put “against” in quotes because your brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad.  It acts based on the information it gets from a myriad of neurotransmitters.

So how do you “trick” your brain into doing what’s in your best interest?  Simple, by using the same food triggers it uses to develop cravings for sugary foods.

In a study published in Nutrition Action Canadian newsletter, one of the researchers reported that the first foods that someone sees at a buffet usually influences what he/she takes, even if they don’t end up taking that particular food. For example, if you see a bowl of fruit first, you are more likely to eat more fruits and less eggs and beacon.  On the other hand, if eggs and beacon are the first things you see, then you are more likely to eat more eggs and beacon than fruit.  Is that crazy or what?  And you thought you had free will and willpower, think again, your brain is in charge.

So here’s the simple trick or “hack” that you can use to eat healthier with very little effort.  Serve the healthiest foods first.  Not with or after the other stuff.  Start your meal with a fruit or vegetable salad.  Then eat the other stuff.

To trigger healthier choices throughout the day, keep a bowl of fruit on the coffee table, at your desk, or anywhere you can see it often.  You should also keep the healthiest options at eye level in the refrigerator and pantry.

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The bottom line
I hope now you have a better understanding of how your brain controls your habits and the fact that your brain responds to food in the same way that it responds to drugs and alcohol.  Fortunately and unfortunately, it is very easy to “hack” your brain into doing what you want.  You just have to know how to do it.

Until next time, be well, do good, and live inspired with passion and purpose.
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About Dr. Del

Dr. Del Millers is the founder of TheBestYouAcademy.com and author of eight books on mind-body health and nutrition. A PhD Nutritionist with a Masters degree in psychology, Dr. Del teaches motivation and high performance strategies to busy entrepreneurs and professionals, so that they can make a difference in their lives tomorrow in just ten minutes today. Dr. Del has appeared on FOX Television (Good Day LA) and E-Entertainment TV (DR 90210), magazines, and newspapers throughout the United States and Australia (LA Sports & Fitness, Australian Ironman, Health & Fitness, Stuff, Fighting Fat and others). Dr. Del's books include: Fitness & Spirituality, Dr. Del’s 10-Minute Meals, and Dr. Del’s Rapid Fatloss series of books.