Getting Fatter And Fatter: The Psychology Of Eating

What we eat is determined by how we feel. But what we feel is partially determined by what we eat.1,2,3 This paradoxical catch-22 is doubly important because of the obesity pandemic which we currently find ourselves in.4,5 Clearly, there is a great psychological disruption from the obvious paradigm of eating healthy foods, which help us to feel good and keep us on a healthy path.6,7 And the mere fact that that issue is so largely affecting so many of us, means that there must be a lot more to this issue.

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating | The Paleo Diet

Asmaro, Deyar, and Mario Liotti. “High-Caloric and Chocolate Stimuli Processing in Healthy Humans: An Integration of Functional Imaging and Electrophysiological Findings.” Nutrients 6.1 (2014): 319–341. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

When we eat vegetables, like kale, broccoli or spinach, we don’t attain any reward, biochemically speaking. However, we, as a world, are now largely subsisting on processed, junk and fast foods – all of which affect our psychology much differently.8,9 Drinking 20 oz. of soda is a quick way to short-circuit your brain’s pleasure center – by giving it too much, too fast.10,11

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating

Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience 9.7 (2008): 568–578. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

But perhaps worse, is that we are now consuming these foods when we are stressed. And we are now stressed all the time.12 Food as a coping mechanism is a very unhealthy relationship, and more and more, that’s the kind of relationship our citizens are in.13 With the short-term reward of a digital, hyper-connected world, we now seek less and less direct human companionship, resulting in a closer relationship with food, or more accurately, “food-like products.”14

Processed, microwaved pizzas, donuts, pastries, sugary breakfast cereals – these have become our fallbacks.15 As we become lonelier and more isolated, we become closer and closer with our genetically modified foodstuffs. And as a result, we become fatter and fatter. We also develop a deeply unsettling relationship with food, as we psychologically use it as a crutch for just about everything.16,17

We no longer even seem to know the difference between cravings and hunger. And this is the key difference that stops us from making poor, stress-related food choices. Sugar alone is a key issue that is destroying our world’s health.18 Perhaps having the greatest single impact on the psychology around food, sugar is by far the biggest factor that we can control, and which will make the biggest difference on our mental health, in regards to food.19

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating | The Paleo Diet

Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience 9.7 (2008): 568–578. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

By avoiding excess amounts of sugar, we are automatically focusing on more nutritious food choices. And this is what we need, more than anything else, in order to regain a healthy mental relationship with food.20,21,22 Eating meals when we’re hungry, full of brain healthy foods, will help us focus on what really matters – rather than something that temporarily relieves our stress.

And perhaps the worst element of all, is that the more and more we consume foods empty in calories and high in reward – the more we need of them – just to feel normal. This is due to a down-regulation of D2 (dopamine) receptors.23 This is the same mechanism that underlies addictions to alcohol, cocaine and other addictive substances.24,25 Surprising, isn’t it?

Since Americans are now eating about four to five times more than the amount of sugar they actually need – this is a serious problem.26,27 And, once our brain feels that reward – it never forgets it. This is the crux of the underlying psychological hold which food has on us. When stressed, we don’t turn to sweet potatoes, kale and liver – we turn to candy, soda – the “hard” stuff.

Consuming a Paleo Diet will help us avoid excess, processed sugar, and will reward our brain in a different way – with neuron-boosting nutrients. Not only does this improve our psychological relationship with food, it keeps us trim and fit. Win-win. Instead of spending your brain’s energy thinking about donuts and sugar, focus instead on Paleo-friendly foods like wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and spinach.

Avoid those psychologically unhealthy “foods” made in factories and with added chemicals and preservatives – and you will be well on your way to improving your mental and physical health.  This is a definite step in the right psychological direction – just by changing the food on your plate. Your health is ultimately in your control – make the right choices when it comes to the psychology of eating, and you will be much healthier for it.

 

REFERENCES

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