Published: 06/09/2013 - Updated: 03/20/2017
When we have a problem or difficulty, everyone has a friend, a treasure, a food that gives us peace, calm, and helps us feel better in the face of adversity or a state of anxiety. Initially, a dose of thisis more than enough.
When we think of something we like to do, whether it's eating chocolate, surfing the Internet or something else, our brain lights up a as part of a reward system and in this way when we succumb to that desire, we appease our "appetite". At first, a little is just enough to satisfy us but when we enter into this process, it is normal that every time we do this, we tend to want more.
We cannot say that this is an addiction as such, but it is definitely something very similar to that which happens with narcotics: When we perform an action we enjoy, like eating ice cream, our brain produces a chemical called dopamine which makes us feel a rush of pleasure and satisfaction.
So if you have a craving to eat something, which is constantly on your mind and sometimes you cannot rest until you get it, it's nothing new: This is something that happens to many of us. However, if this behaviour has been strengthened to the point of obsession, this is the result of a reward system that has gone too far.
There is nothing wrong with our brain: In fact, the reward system is a very useful tool in the learning process and for achieving our goals, however if food becomes a reward for us, we will be very likely to have health problems in the future, derived from our diets and weight.
Throughout our lives, we can find a refuge or escape in food, technology or anything that lights up the welfare chemistry in our brain. That is, if you do not sleep well, you wake up in the morning tired, cranky and could use some cookies or something sweet and a cup of coffee to raise your blood sugar and "relieve you." A very fast and effective relief for many, however, it is not the solution and as we take these actions, food will become our escape. Before we know it, we will have advanced on the road towards being overweight and developing chronic diseases.
Indeed, foods rich in carbohydrates and fats stimulate our brain and we feel better, however, the feeling is fleeting and to a very unhealthy extent.
Got a lot of work to do and are eating all day? If we are "programmed" to relieve our body with food every time we feel stressed, sad or facing difficulties in life, we will immediately take refuge in our food and it could be said that we are indirectly feeding on our emotions.
The bad news does not end there: As well as an addiction, the first doses become increasingly large, because the more we release dopamine (a substance that makes us feel good) through food consumption to feel better, our body adapts and lowers its receptors to the substance so that the effect appears to be less with the passage of time. As a result, we need to eat more and more to feel satisfied, just like a drug, making it an increasingly difficult cycle to break out of.
Whether you're feeding on your emotions or you're just looking for alternatives to eating compulsively, it is important to know that you can reprogram your brain to stop, once and for all, from resorting to over-eating to feel good.
- Be aware: A lot of the time we don’t even think about how food can affect us, we just eat it without realising how much we are eating. So whenever you are about to eat something, ask yourself this question: Is it healthy? And then, Am I actually hungry? If the answer to the second question is "Yes", look for a healthy alternative to what you are going to eat, like fresh fruit, or a handful of natural almonds.
- Do not let your brain control you, make your own decisions: Planning is important, if you know you're going to have a very stressful job and a chocolate craving is imminent, then ask yourself about this situation and imagine what a healthy option might be that you could choose instead. Say something like "I know I'll want to eat chocolate, but instead, I'll eat an apple,". These scenarios are important to anticipate because when the time comes, your brain will also gain pleasure from eating an apple because it was a goal you set for yourself.
- Choose more quality: Nevertheless, you can get a craving from time to time without fear of feeding on your emotions and there are many options of tasty, healthy food that you can use as a substitute. If you crave sweet things, then try to opt for a handful of raisins or dried fruit, which, as well as natural sugars, have good sources of fibre that will make you feel full for longer. Twenty-five grams of dark chocolate (not white) is an option you can also consider. If you like more salty snacks, you can have whole grain products or cucumber slices with salt and lemon. The point is to avoid, at all costs, going back to your classic snacks: Pre-fabricated biscuits, pastries, fried foods, and in short, foods that lack fibre and are high in fat, salt and sugar contents.