The new year has begun! New year, new beginnings and Rob (let’s say Rob Ford for a great visual) is looking for a lifestyle make-over. He wants to lose his extra Christmas weight, as well as the muffin top he acquired munching on chicken wings and slurping down beer throughout the year, and he is motivated!
Rob is a man with a mission. He begins a solid workout regime, maybe running a few times a week combined with a bit of weight training. He’s eating clean, chowing down on fruit and veggies, lean protein and dark, delicious whole grains. The next thing you know, Rob Ford is starting to transform. His waistline is coming back into sight and his facial puffiness and pallor is turning into a healthy glow. Friends and co-workers start complimenting him. Rob Ford is feeling pretty darn good about himself!
So why then, a few weeks later do we see Rob back in the pub with a huge beer, greasy, cheese-laden pizza in front of him and a big, bbq chicken wing dangling from his mouth? Why, Rob, why?
Why exactly do so many of us cheat after getting promising results with our new-found healthy lifestyle? Giving up refined sugar, excess salt, MSG and white carbs is not an easy thing to do, that’s why.
Unfortunately these less than healthy foods set our brain’s feel-good chemicals on fire, giving us an instantaneous boost of the warm fuzzies. Shortly after eating a meal at, say, McDonald’s we feel happy, satiated and relaxed as dopamine and serotonin course through our brain. The problem with the McD meal is that the hit is short lived and when it’s gone, we crash. When we crash, what’s the quickest fix to feel good again? More junk food. So, after a few months of eating like this we become chubby, complacent “junk food junkies” and our quality of life starts to deteriorate. We’re lethargic, we don’t have enough energy to work-out or be active anymore and we have almost constant cravings for salty, sugary and fatty food that give us a temporary high and energy boost. And when the artificial boost nose-dives into an energy slump, we crave it all again. A vicious cycle.
Leaving this vicious cycle isn’t as easy as it seems. We are all creatures of habit and eating the way I’ve described above is a bad, bad habit that your system has gotten used to. It’s also been scientifically proven that it takes a minimum of 30 days to break a habit. So if you’ve been living this way for a while, guess what? The habit is ingrained. Since we’re talking chemical reactions powerfully triggered in our brains, it may take more than willpower to get you on the right path.
Check out my list of feel-good, healthy, brain boosters below. Next time the golden arches or your local pancake house start calling your name, do something on the list below and in no time you can kiss the peaks and valleys of junk food addiction bye-bye and get on with your fabulous life.
Seratonin and Dopamine Boosters
Eat complex carbs. Quinoa, real whole-grain bread and brown rice give our brain a serotonin boost.
Give someone you like a great big bear hug.
Drink a big glass of water with a squeeze of lemon. Something citrusy always perks up our senses.
Eat a generous amount of fruit whenever you have a refined sugar/dessert craving. You’ll be amazed how quickly your craving disappears and you’ll have consumed a ton of yummy, healthy fiber and vitamins.
Eat natural, sugar-free yogurt. A key ingredient is tyrosine, an amino acid that encourages your brain to release dopamine.
Consume lots of Vitamin B as it relaxes your nerves. Plentiful in beans, whole-grains, meats.
Eat Omega 3 fats. Essential for healthy brain functioning. Fish is brain food after all.
Do something nice for someone. Be generous and give someone a gift – a friend, a homeless person, anyone. It’s a scientific fact that they will be grateful and happy and so will you, the giver.
Go for a run. Hard at first, but your brain will be popping with happy chemicals after.
Climb a mountain. Or, less extreme, go for a walk in the woods. It’s been scientifically proven that a walk in nature (untouched by man) soothes and heals our souls.
Do yoga. It calms and alkalinizes the body.
Cuddle up with someone you love or Ryan Gosling. Either will work.
And there you have it, a few tips to help you stay on your happy, healthy eating plan.