We all get to choose what we put in our mouths, right? We all know that the plate of veggies is a better option than the battered scallops and chips. But we also know that ‘bad’ food tastes so damn good. Why, why, why can’t we meet our health needs with juicy burgers, crumbed and deep-fried everything and a nice slice of sugary goodness? It really does seem unfair on a universal scale.
Your body and your brain are to blame (traitors!)
For starters, your body is subject to something known in research as the ‘Caveman’s Curse’. Our bodies and brains are wired to store fat and gorge on available nutrients. Even the tip of your tongue is in cahoots, loaded with receptors for ‘sweet’ foods. This would have served us well in the savannah, but less so in suburbia. Your body doesn’t realise it’s 2017. It wants to store fat ‘just in case’. Your brain’s circuitry sparks like a Katherine wheel when given sugar, but then adapts and requires more sugar for the same dopamine rush.
Hunger & appetite
Our poor food choices are very rarely due to a lack of knowledge, and hunger and appetite are related, but very different. Appetite trumps hunger every time. Your need for a brownie after dinner has nothing to do with hunger, and everything to do with appetite. We form our appetite associations around food from a very young age. Your Grandma’s sponge cake was less about the cake, and more about how safe and loved you felt, hot chips in paper may take you back to carefree childhood beach holidays. Your brain is a mess of quivering excitement before your taste buds even get a look in. These brain patterns regarding foods are deeply entrenched and extremely hard, even upsetting to modify. Going on a ‘diet’ can involve a genuine grief in many people, going against the tides of your childhood and messing with soporific memories. There’s a reason they’re called comfort foods.
Stock your cave with the right foods
Being aware of your complex relationship with food can go a long way to helping you enjoy comfort foods on fewer occasions, while your knowledge of nutrition will help you to make better food choices on a regular basis. Stress, exhaustion, and heightened emotional states will make the choice harder, and your inner caveman will likely come to the rescue. Honestly, just being aware of your emotional food triggers is a great place to start, as is stocking your ‘cave’ with fewer comforting options. If it isn’t available quickly, at the whim of your appetite, it doesn’t get eaten.
By Catherine Lockley