Stress can have a powerful effect on our programmed brains, and negative emotions drives our minds to comfort food and sugar.
So, you get an email from a demanding boss or a phone call from a needy family member or an argument with a spouse. You find yourself raiding the pantry or finishing off a quart of ice cream. Only later to feel guilty and self- loathing for once again finding yourself victim to stress eating. So your doctors, personal trainer and online health guru says eat less, exercise more, like you didn’t know that already?
Early brain programming triggers you to seek food to feed an emotion. How do you unlearn what you have learned?
Rewire Your Brain: My advice to my patients, practice Mindfulness to re-program your brain. In the past, we were told our brains were rigid or static. ‘You are what you are based on genes or childhood experiences. You can’t change your behavior or thoughts’. Current evidence shows that the brain is constantly changing with our new experiences, emotions and environment. There is a growing acceptance of neuroplasticity of the brain which means you can rewire your thoughts and there is hope to develop your Jedi skills!
‘These are the steps you are looking for’:
Recognize- recognize the stress that is triggering you. Slow Down. Move in slow-motion. Pay attention. Identify the trigger, person, event, emotion that has just occurred. Are you angry, sad, hurt, thirsty, bored, anxious, guilty, sad, depressed? Write the event and the emotion it evoked.
Remind- remind yourself of your goals and reason why you need to change. Ask yourself, ‘ Does this food serve my purpose?”. Remind yourself of a health scare, a cancer diagnosis, heart condition, recent death of a relative. Change is difficult. Staying the same is easy and comfortable. Remind yourself what motivates you to change.
Redirect- remove yourself from the situation or location. Change rooms, leave the home, find another activity to redirect your mind into a positive, uplifting activity. Replace the tempting food with a healthy alternative. Know the difference between false hunger and true hunger. In true hunger, even water tastes sweet. If you pass over the cucumbers for cookies it is false hunger. Take a 15 minute pause, set the microwave timer, paint your nails, take a shower. Give yourself time to let false hunger pass. Cortisol (caused elevated by stress) and Insulin (caused elevated by blood sugar) are both hunger-causing and fat-storing hormones. Remind and redirect.
Repeat- ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. For continued success, it is important to repeat this process daily. Repeating the same behavior will create new neural networks in the brain and form a new path, reprogramming the previously learned behavior. These new behaviors will forge a stronger path becoming roadways, then highways and then superhighways in the brain fostering healthy coping skills.
Food is an integral part of our culture, family, and psyche. Embrace your relationship with food, love yourself with all your gifts and imperfections. Forgive yourself for any set-backs. We are all dynamic, individual beings reshaped daily by our experiences and emotions. Hopefully, reading this blog will re-shape your thinking in a positive way!
Join us for our weekly group visits for healthy eating and weight loss. Share this with someone you know or love who may benefit from this information.
The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.