Ever wondered why you are such a loser that you don’t even have the will power or self-discipline to stay on a diet (or any other habit) for one single day?
It’s not that simple though. When it comes to overeating, it has nothing to do with will power.
I was 15kg overweight, when I saw a picture of myself when we were on holiday. I was horrified. My first born was already 1 year old. Many times, it’s almost normal for moms to have some extra weight years after the first baby. It’s like a status symbol…you are now a “mom”. You fall into that group of people who are constantly tired, you constantly trying some sort of diet and trying to convince your friends it’s the best and you’re constantly just trying to be a mom.
Before you know it, your 2nd child is here and you have packed on the pounds year after year, without even realizing it.
Your brain has a very peculiar, but magnificent reward system.
When you experience pleasure, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Once your brain releases dopamine, it sends the dopamine to different areas of the brain. These different areas are responsible for your emotions, how your body move, focus, attention and planning as well as the formation of memories. The dopamine literally gives your brain and your body a message of “this was good, let’s do it again”. It’s a very natural response to things that are pleasurable, like food.
All these different areas in your brain works together. E.g. You eat a piece of cake; one area of your brain will say it was wonderful. It will trigger the other area to say “well, let me make sure I remember this feeling of euphoria and the details of this experience so that we can do this again”. Then, the part that control movement will say, “well, let’s take another bite. Let’s use my hands to get more cake, let me get-up and go get another piece”. The area in your brain that’s involved in focus, will make sure your attention stays on the topic…the cake.
You take another bite, and the whole process starts again…
Can you understand now why it’s not so easy for anybody who’s been obsessed with sugar, to just quit on a Monday morning when you wake up?
Long-term stimulation or exposure to this cycle, will eventually physically alter your brain. Yes. You are literally not the same person you were 10 years ago before your sugar obsession.
Your brain is constantly overstimulated with dopamine. It’s way too much for it to handle and your brain will try to balance it out. Your brain doesn’t always want to be in a state of euphoria or excitement. It also needs a moment where it can calm down, recuperate and rest. If the above cycle doesn’t stop, your brain will eventually say “that’s it, I had enough. I’m going to shut down these areas in my brain to not get affected by the dopamine that is released. I’m not going to get so overstimulated by the same amount of dopamine”.
That is called tolerance. You’ve built up a tolerance of the same amount of sugar and it just doesn’t have the same effect anymore. You have now built a dependence on the sugar, which is called an emotional dependence. So yes, that’s where the term “emotional eating” comes from. But it has a much deeper meaning, than just “eating when you’re emotional”.
Once you’ve build up that tolerance; you are seeking that feeling of being on a “high”, you end up taking more sugar to get the same feeling as before.
And before you know it, you have secondary issues like weight gain, insulin resistance, diabetes, memory loss and inflammation. You go to the doctor and they tell you “it’s part of getting old”. You go home with a bunch of medication, and you continue to repeat the cycle.
Hope this helps to make sense of it all. Just know, that it’s not as easy as drinking a shake, or following a calorie restricted diet to lose weight. It involves a lot of brain power, reframing your mindset and renewal of your thoughts, to get you through this journey.
And if you’re reading this, determined to make a change, start small. Start with something that’s easy to change, e.g. skip one cup of coffee during your morning routine. If you’re trying to drink the coffee without sugar, it’s just going to be disgusting. Rather skip the coffee altogether.
May your life this week be filled with achievements and let us know how it goes!