Retrain Your Brain
Imagine not having food cravings, only eating when we are hungry and rarely wishing for chocolate treats and salty snacks. As adults, we crave sugar, caffeine and high fat foods. All day, most of us feel like we’re constantly battling with ourselves to avoid these tempting treats and love healthy eating. When we were children our brains had yet to develop the association we now have with these high-calorie foods, so we were happy to enjoy healthy eating. Well perhaps we need to retrain our brain’s to think “love healthy food”.
A recent study carried out at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing at Tufts University in America has discovered that the answer could be easier than we thought. It’s simply a matter of re-training our brains to stop craving high calorie-laden foods and instead seek out only fresh and healthy options.
If you don’t like certain foods, don’t force yourself to eat them just because they are healthy, it is fine if you don’t love lettuce and cottage cheese. But find time to shop for some other healthy foods that you do like and spend some time browsing the supermarket shelves and research different ways of cooking and preparing things to make them more enjoyable.
If you are dehydrated you will lack energy and your instinct will be to reach for a quick energy fix – usually sugary, salty, processed food, but if you stay hydrated and you won’t experience the energy dips which drive you to search out unhealthy snacks. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
If you remove unhealthy foods from the house and only keep healthy foods that you should be eating, there will be nothing to resist. If you’re eating out order only what you actually intend to eat. Don’t order things that will sit on your plate tempting you, forget those fries – order a large salad to go with the steak – no temptation and a filling salad.
Stop eating when you’re full. Many people struggle with the idea of leftovers and whilst it’s not good to waste food, if you’re eating food you don’t need then it’s just as wasted as if you’d thrown it in the bin. Either way it’s not going to good use. So if you’ve got too much on your plate tell yourself it’s OK to leave some.
Low-fat versions of food are generally more processed than the original food, and often the fat is replaced with sugar. The sugar is addictive and will cause chemical changes in your body which will have you craving more. So you are better off with the original version of the food, but maybe have a smaller portion – you’ll feel more satisfied and you’ll be less likely to suffer cravings.
Focus on the benefits you are gaining for your healthy choice – you are nourishing your body, improving energy levels and avoiding weight gain. So when you choose some healthy fruit instead of that chunk of chocolate cake don’t think about what you are missing think more about what you are gaining.
Try to keep healthy snacks on hand, because when you’re hungry and in a hurry, your first instinct is probably some sugary or fatty snack – chocolate bar, crisps! So have those nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, chopped veg, homemade energy bars (one of my previous recipes) handy. Salty, sugary foods are always going to be moreish, that’s the way they’re made, but save them for a very occasional treat as you probably won’t be able to eat them in moderation. And it’s ok not to be eating healthy 100% of the time, the occasional treat is allowed it will help you keep that long-term health goal in sight and more achievable, not having any kind of treat could lead to you giving up.