What, how, and when you should eat has become almost as controversial a subject as this upcoming election. All over the internet, TV, and airport magazines; we see suggestions on how to drop 10 lbs, how to “shred” fat with this or that new diet. All nonsense really. The truth is, we all know what we SHOULD be eating. We know that we should be eating more vegetables, fruits, and lean protein sources. We know we probably shouldn’t reach for that tub of ice cream in the freezer. If we know we shouldn’t be doing all of these things, then why are we still eating like crap? I believe there are a couple of reasons
According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of adults reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods due to stress. Going back to a previous article I wrote on the Power for the Mind, I discussed how we literally aren’t “ourselves” when we’re chronically stressed. Typically in this state, negative thinking, anxiety, and general unhappiness are at peak levels. During this state of being, our body looks for ways to increase pleasure. This leads to a similar addiction mechanism we see with smokers and alcoholics. Our brain attaches pleasure to sugary, fatty foods. These foods trigger a neuro-transmitter in the brain called dopamine that can give us a temporary “high,” that makes us feel good in the moment. If you’ve ever made 3 or more trips to the fridge for just “one more bite,” you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s essential that we find a stress management technique to address the root problem, or we will continue to get caught up in the viscous cycle.
The second reason we are eating like crap is related to stress as well, specifically stress on our digestive system. There are a couple ways we tend to put stress on our digestive system. One way is our lack of sleep. People still believe that they don’t “have time,” for sleep. Most digestion and recovery occurs while we’re sleeping, so you can imagine that if we aren’t getting good sleep, then we aren’t going to keep our body in a good digestive rhythm to promote high energy levels. Guess what types of food your body wants to get your blood sugar levels fired up? If you guessed Ho-Hos and Twinkies, your right on the money! It’s important that we are sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, to keep our hormones and digestion in check. Another way we put stress on our digestive system is our lack of basic nutritional knowledge. Our body needs certain amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to function correctly. [To learn more about the specifics of these macronutrients, click here.] When we are lacking one of these, hunger hormones are thrown out of wack and your body compensates by turning on the emergency switch, aka, cravings. If you are consistently having massive cravings, it’s likely something is majorly off regarding your nutrition. It’s an unfortunate reality that most people have absolutely no rhyme or reason why they pick particular foods as part of their meals. When you are putting random things on your plate, then random things are happening in your body. To keep things simple, I like to make sure I have vegetables, a lean protein source, and a healthy fat with my major meals throughout the day. Focusing on eating WHOLE FOODS is also simple approach to creating a healthier plate.
Does this mean that we should never eat ice cream or potato chip again? Absolutely not. It’s ok to eat for pure enjoyment here and there. The point of this article is to recognize why at times we may feel that we aren’t in control of our appetite and to provide some strategies we can use to take back control of our plates. Stress management, proper rest (sleep), and a basic meal game plan can help you achieve this!