The brain is wired to produce change, a constant in everyday life. Generally, this is a wonderful thing as it means we can influence our thoughts and actions in many positive ways. However, if we can have positive influence, it also means we can also have negative influence based on various choices that we make, especially when it comes to breaking old habits to make way for new ones. One of the biggies here: Eating Habits. When we decide to make great, healthy life changes, we generally set out with the best of intentions. But oftentimes, we don’t quite manage to reach our goals and fall easily back into old eating habits and patterns.
The brain has a lot to do with this. It’s not easy to make new changes and to create new behaviors. It can take anywhere from 18 to 224 days to implement a new habit that actually sticks. It’s hard work and here’s why.
When we engage in unhealthy behaviors, we actually rewire our brain and more specifically, the brain’s reward system, which depends mainly on dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical in the brain that controls our reward and pleasure centers, that helps to regulate movement and emotional response. Studies find that individuals with low dopamine levels are more prone to addictions, such as overeating, and will always seek out methods of generating that reward response.
The interesting thing here is that, although engaging in unhealthy patterns, such as overeating or binge eating, gives us that rush of dopamine and a huge pleasure response, it negatively impacts the brain’s feedback systems. We become dependent on this emotional rush and our body remembers it clearly, so we repeat the behavior, trying to recapture this feeling. As dopamine repeatedly surges, the brain struggles to put the brakes on the overflow and the normal response fails (think “willpower” here). The brain will actually decrease the number of dopamine receptors in order to deal with this overload, meaning that the next time around we need even MORE of our sugary food of choice in order to achieve that same emotional rush. Outcome: Overeating and binge eating. Our body needs more dopamine EACH time and this is how addictions occur. In many obese individuals and those with a higher BMI, that part of the brain that controls inhibition isn’t functioning correctly, making it very difficult to resist those very foods that are contributing to their poor state of health.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s hopeless! This was a system that was created within the body due to our behavior and it can also be turned around.
1) Psychotherapy has been quite effective in helping people overcome food addictions. Quite often, there is an underlying cause, such as anxiety or depression, that has caused an individual to seek out foods to give them that positive reward and an increased sense of happiness. Therapy is essential in order to regain that self-control. Even just learning and acknowledging a problem will actually produce chemicals in the brain that begin to generate positive change. This means positive insight and self-awareness can actually change brain chemistry, impacting our “willpower” and our ability to stick with our goals and regulate our pleasure-seeking behaviors.
2) The next step to help manage these behaviors would be to naturally target dopamine levels in the brain, in addition to making positive changes. The best way to do this is through supplementation. Using natural supplements to increase those feel-good chemicals, specifically dopamine, while at the same time creating new, healthier behaviors will assist you in sticking with it! If you no longer attempt to seek your “feel good” reward from food, you’ll be less likely to fall off track. So, below are a few good options.
L-theanine is an amino acid, and in doses of around 200 mg per day, may help increase dopamine levels. You can find a good dose of L-theanine inTrueRENEW.
– L-tyrosine, found in a significant dose in TrueIQ, is an amino acid found commonly in meat proteins. Not only is tyrosine necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, it also plays a primary role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine. It also has the additional benefit of assisting in stress management, especially when it comes from lack of sleep or multitasking.
– Fish Oil has so many diverse health benefits and one of the lesser known benefits is its effect on neurotransmitters. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can affect the release of neurotransmitters in the brain and can significantly increase dopamine levels in the brain. Give TrueBASICS for Men / Women or TrueBASICS A/O a try and make sure you’re getting those essential omega-3s.
And, lastly, don’t forget the many benefits that a healthy diet and exercise can play when it comes to increasing those feel-good chemicals in the brain!