I just finished reading/listening to the hungry brain by Stephan Guyenet and it was one of the best books I have read on the relationship between our brains and food choices.
Here’s the part the trillion dollar weight loss industry doesn’t want you to know….
– our bodies want to be carry fat for protection from illness and for storage since our ancestors didn’t know when the next meal was coming
– when we lose fat, our bodies want to put it back on as a protective mechanism (it will trigger hunger in your brain to get you to eat more)
– food is a reward and thus can be rated based on calorie, fat, sugar and salt density. The higher the reward value, the harder it is to resist and the more we want to eat of it regardless of having the feeling of full. The reward value outweighs the satiety factor in our brains and causes us to overeat certain foods (think of an entire bag of chips or a whole tub of ice cream)
– different foods have different feelings of fullness and this is not related to calories
Outsmart the hungry brain
We need to be able to manage the unconscious brain in order to give ourselves the highest potential for success of what our conscious brain desires.
I jotted down some of the key notes taken from this awesome book to get the motivation of the conscious brain and the unconscious brain in alignment:
1. Fix your food environment – one of the most effective tools is also the easiest.
get rid of all food that is readily available that is calorie dense and has a high reward value
Remove VISIBLE food.
Minimize exposure to food advertisement
Create effort barriers – nuts in shells, oranges that nerd to be peeled. Things that are not easily ingestible.
2. Manage your appetite. Chose foods that send a high satiety rating yet a lower calorie count. These are foods that are higher in protein and fibre. These will be foods that are closer to their natural state.
Keep the lipstat comfortable.
A) eating more protein
B) limiting highly rewarding foods
C) regular physical activity
D) Managing stress
E) getting enough sleep
3. Beware of food reward. The brain values food that contain calorie combinations of fat, sugar, starch and salt and that sets your motivation to eat those foods. This motivation is independent of hunger and can manage your brain to blow past satiety signals and eat more than your body needs for energy.
4. Make sleep a priority. Sleep has a major affect on the unconscious brain and our eating behaviour.
A) make sure room is completely dark
B) allow your room to cool down at night if possible
C) only use your bed for sleeping (and sex)
D) try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day
E) try to get bright blue spectrum light first thing in the morning and spend time outside
F) at night, limit blue spectrum light and install warm colour bulbs in area that will have light on at night.
G) dimming lights and using light dimming apps to reduce brightness on electronic devices
5. Move your body.
Regular physical activity will help burn additional calories.
IT will also affect the lipostat in the brain to promote a healthy weight.
Just do it!
6. Manage stress. The threat response system was meant to protect us.
A) identify if you are a stress eater
B) identify stressors (possibly things you cannot control)
C) try to mitigate the stressor, can you fix it or avoid it? If not, can you turn the uncontrollable stress into a controlled stress? Make a plan.
D) practice mindfulness
E) Substitutions – are there other things you can do instead of waiting? Call a friend? Have sex? Go for a walk? Read a book? Listen to music?
F) remove calorie dense foods from home and work. Without having access to these rewards, you are less likely to indulge in them when stressed
If you go back to our ancestors, they didn’t have cars, fast food or regular meals. They hunted and gathered and were playing a survival game that no longer exists in North America. The same response that once helped us survive, now causes us to overeat, gain fat and contract diseases that drain our energy and health.
If we change our environment, we can change the direction of our unconscious brain.
The unconscious brain is the impulsive brain. If we tend to be an impulsive person, then the odds are, you will be an emotional eater as well. I can relate to this tremendously. Having fought with bulimia and binge eating disorders, I know exactly how the unconscious brain can affect our choices. Even when the conscious brain wants to be fit and eat in a healthy way, the impulsive unconscious brain can overpower the conscious brain. Add exhaustion, stress and hunger to the mix and it’s a lost battle.
As humans, we will never be perfect. If we struggle with maintaining a healthy amount of adipose tissue, the probability is that we will struggle with this.
What we can do is take time to breathe, manage stress and reduce availability of those ‘high reward’ foods. Choose foods that are closer to their natural state, instead of refined and processed foods. This means packing your lunch and eating fresh fruit and vegetables and proteins throughout your day.
And make sure to exercise regularly. This is important to not only maintaining a healthy body mass index, but it also helps with bone density, flexibility, cardiac health and overall well being.
If you don’t know where to start with your exercise routine, I am here to help! I have a beginners challenge starting and I’d love to chat with you about your goals and how to get you started!