Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Food Industry – They Got Us!

The “trifecta”, sugar, fat and salt, trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, causing the reward system. The more we eat, the more we want. Remember the Lays potato chip commercial from many years ago, “I bet you can’t eat just one?” They were onto something way back then. The food industry hires food consultants to make meals more appealing to the public and keep them coming back for more. Guess what ingredients they make sure are added to the food? Sugar, fat and salt in large amounts and layered! Not only do we keep coming back for more, but also we LOVE it! I don’t want to name any particular restaurant chain, but I don’t have to because they are all the same. Foods that seem healthy, such as chicken and fish dishes have hidden and sometimes not so hidden fat, salt or sugar or all three. The delectable sounding sauces and presentations are actually well thought out combinations of the dopamine releasing triple. Many restaurants are now putting calorie counts of each item on their menus. That is certainly helpful. Wouldn’t it be so much better if they listed the ingredients, including the sugar, fat and salt content? The reinforcing properties of these three are well documented in scientific literature and probably the main reason for overeating, weight gain and obesity in the US. What can we do? The first thing is decrease the number of times you eat out, choose restaurants that cook things from scratch and will cook it your way. How do you know if they are cooking with whole foods and from scratch? If you order a dinner and it’s served to you in 10-15 minutes, it was pre-prepared and processed with fat, sugar and salt. Cook most of your meals at home, using less sugar, salt and fat. Challenge: the next time you go out to your favorite restaurant, look closely at the menu and the selection you typically choose. Is it loaded with fat, salt and/or sugar? All three?

Stress and Eating

Deadlines at work, family responsibilities, errands to run…we all feel stressed at times. Chronic stress causes a release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which shifts our preference towards comfort foods- high fat, sugar and salt. The more we eat of those, the more we crave them. Spending time each day on stress-reduction techniques can really help! What have you tried?

Afternoon Energy Boost

How many times have you had that energy crash in the afternoon and thought a candy bar or coffee would help? Try this yoga pose instead, called Seated Warrior: sit up straight with both feet on floor, raise arms overhead and press palms together. Drop your head back slightly and look at your thumbs, making sure your shoulders are relaxed. Hold for 5 deep breaths and release. Enjoy!

Eating Healthy or Counting Calories

When you focus on positive changes associated with adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as trying new foods, sharing new healthy recipes and hanging out with supportive like-minded friends, your brain releases dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter). Focusing on calories and forbidden foods causes a release of cortisol (stress hormone). Hmmm, what hormone would you rather release?

Healthy Food and Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping has become more of a challenge to buy healthy, unprocessed food. Not only is it best to stick to a list, but focus on whole foods- natural, unprocessed foods. Look for items that have 5 ingredients or less. Some products have over 15 ingredients, some of which you cannot pronounce. Ask yourself, “Would my grandmother recognize this ingredient?”

Work Stress and Tension- Relievers

Having a quick tension-reliever at work will make you feel better and prevent overload. Sit up straight, take a deep belly breath in through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Do this 3 times. Then consciously relax all your muscles one by one – starting at your feet and working up to your face. It only takes a few minutes- the same time as a coffee break, but much more relaxing, centering and calming.

Why Are We Overweight?

Did you ever wonder why there are so many books written about diets? Why are there so many different weight loss programs? But here is the REAL question…why are so many Americans overweight? If any of these diets or programs worked long-term, we would not be one of the most overweight nations. We are addicted to foods. Yes, I said addicted. The sugar, fat and salt that we love to consume, triggers a release of dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter in our brain. After a while, our brains become “trained” to release dopamine just by suggestions of the foods, such as driving by the “golden arches” or smelling chocolate. When you actually eat the food, you now release opioids plus the dopamine. Even though our bodies naturally produce some opioids, guess what a man-made opioid is – pain medications, like morphine. Do you think you feel good with the release of dopamine and opioids? That’s why eating these foods are truly addictive. They cause your brain to physiologically respond, making you feel good, just like a drug does. David Kessler, MD has done much research on this topic, as have many other scientists. When you combine fat and salt (chips) or sugar and fat (donuts) or refined foods (white flour products, white pasta), it causes a bigger surge of dopamine, which reinforces the eating behavior. If you want to lose weight or just overcome your addiction to food, it takes 8-12 weeks to create a pleasure shift-taste preference. Manufacturers of food are well aware of this addictive power and use it to their advantage when advertising and formulating new food products. Have you seen Lindt’s new ad for dark chocolate with “a touch of sea salt”? It’s not about willpower. Now that you know it’s not your fault, what do you do about it?