The Hypothalamus is the main regulatory organ for appetite. It is a section of the brain responsible for producing hormones. This area of the brain controls hunger, sleep, mood, and body temperature. What if we could train our Hypothalamus to signal for only healthy foods? Well, maybe we can.
According to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, obesity is extremely common in the United States. In fact, about 93.3 million adults were considered obese in 2015-2016. 39.8% of the entire population were obese. Obesity is a complex problem with many contributing factors. It results from behavior, but also genetics. Lack of physical activity, and poor dietary choices lead to obesity. But then there are the more complex factors that weigh in. Genetics, as mentioned play a role in obesity. And even certain medication use can factor in.
As an estimate, in the United States the annual medical cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008. If you are an obese adult, you are spending a whopping 42% more on direct healthcare costs, than the average adult who is a healthy weight. Severely obese patients that present in the emergency department with chest pains see a 41% higher cost than the average patient.
Nauru, a country in Micronesia is the most obese country in the world, with 61% of its population being obese. The United States in 12th on the list of the most obese countries in the world. We can see that obesity is not just limited to a certain part of the world. According to the Bloomberg Global Health Index the healthiest countries in the world top off with Italy, Iceland, and Switzerland. It’s important to add that sometimes a common misconception about obesity is that it must be happening in the richest countries. This isn’t always accurate. In fact, countries that are not very wealthy can still have a high rate of obesity due to lack of access to healthy foods.
Obesity is the leading cause of preventable diseases. Heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and some cancers are caused by obesity. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. This is why it’s crucial to have an open discussion about the importance of eating healthy. Let’s take a look at 3 ways to train your brain to eat healthy.
Training your brain to rely on and crave healthy foods can be done. It won’t be easy, and it’ll take hard work, patience, and determination but it’ll be worth it. Here are some tips that will start us on this journey.
1. Think About How You’ll Feel Afterwards.
We’ve all been there. Unable to stop eating something we knew wasn’t good for us. The late night tacos, or greasy pizza is easy to binge on. Vegetables, fruits, and healthy foods are not so easy to binge on. We may be craving foods that are high in calories as a form of self medication, so to speak. Foods can have a role in releasing dopamine in the brain, so those are the types that we generally crave.
So, what’s a good first step to training our brains to eat healthy foods instead? Think about how this food will make you feel, and how it will affect you after you’re done eating it. Really focus on the fact that you’ll likely feel more sluggish, tired, and bloated. Try not to focus on the good taste. Think about how eating this food will affect your weight, and your goals. If you’re going to be disappointed in yourself for having this meal, then make that your focal point.
Addiction is a hard cycle to break. And research studies have proven that eating junk food is similar to an addiction. But once you break free, you’ll feel so much better. Associate eating healthy foods with being better for your body, for making you feel better, and look better. Think about eating well to live well.
2. Try A Variety Of Foods & Textures.
It’s easy to get into a slump of eating the same thing over and over again because you know it tastes good, even though it’s unhealthy. If you’re used to the same cheesy pizza each day, you’re not going to be remotely interested in that new healthy place across the street or what they have to offer. You’ll likely be turned off entirely from the idea of crunching vegetables or trying something new.
You have to break the habit of eating what’s comfortable, and go out and try a variety of foods, textures, and flavors. Once you diversify your foods, you’ll be much more satisfied! You’ll then be reaching for foods that are interesting, and you’ll wonder about their nutritious value. Trying new things is fun, and this is one way you can train your brain to crave healthy foods.
3. Read The Labels. What Are The Ingredients?
It’s easy for us to chomp down some fast food because there are no labels. If there were labels attached in clear view telling us we are about to scarf down one item that has the calorific value of three meals, we may put it down. Ignorance is bliss right? In order to train your brain that you need and prefer healthy foods, you need to start taking a look at what ingredients you’re actually putting into your body.
Unhealthy foods you buy at the grocery store have package labels with nutrition information and the ingredients. This is great, except who really looks at these? In these types of items you’ll find preservatives or altered foods with incredibly long unusual names, and when you read them you won’t really know what you’re looking at. It’s easy to be complacent when you don’t know what you’re putting into your body.
This may take time, but make a habit out of reading the ingredient labels of the foods you’re eating. If you come across a name you’re unfamiliar with, go ahead and look it up online. Find out how this ingredient will affect your body, your weight loss, and your health. Guess when you don’t need an ingredient label? When you are eating great produce like fruits and vegetables. These are the types of foods you need to make a habit of eating. Don’t blindly put chemicals into your body. You only get one body and you should take care of it.
As a recap, what are the three main ways to train your brain to eat healthy foods? Before you order in that greasy dinner, think about what it is you’re craving, and why you’re craving it. Think about how you’re going to feel after you’re done eating. Will you feel bloated, fatigued, maybe even sick? What about what you’re going to feel like tomorrow? Does this food contain a lot of sodium? Are you going to wake up refreshed, or dehydrated? Focus on how this food will affect your health, body, and your progress. Training your brain to eat healthy is possible!
Associate healthy foods with feeling energized, with feeling like you’re doing your body a favor! Think about how great you’ll feel tomorrow, and think about how healthy food is going to help you lose weight and look at feel the way you’ve been dreaming.
Next, try as many different types of foods as you can! Play around with textures, flavors, colors. Eating lots of different veggies and fruits can be fun. Try new snacks, nuts, seeds, and beans. Coming up with fun new dinner ideas can be exhilarating and soon your body will be craving these balanced foods!
And finally, stay educated on what you’re putting into your body. Don’t know what an ingredient is? Look it up online! If it doesn’t benefit you, and if it’s questionable- eat something else! Find out how it’s going to affect your body and your health. Do your research! You only get one body! You can train your brain to feed it properly! Eat to live, don’t live to eat!