Reviewed by: Erica An, BNutr&Diet, APD
Our bodies are complex in so many ways, but our minds ultimately still operate on a primal principle of pain vs pleasure. And it’s this sensation of pleasure, that can be the ultimate barrier when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.
At its core, our brain does two things:
- Minimise danger: We avoid dangerous situations that can lead to pain
- Maximise Reward: We actively seek out experiences that lead to pleasure.
Why do we prioritise pleasure?
This comes from our prehistoric ancestors who were constantly fighting for survival, that our first instinct is to avoid pain and risk. Once your body knows you are out of danger, that’s when it seeks out pleasure. Dopamine, is that feel good neurotransmitter in our brain. Dopamine relates to reward, and sends us that feel good emotion, and is tied with desire, addiction and ambition. For many people, that source of pleasure comes from food, which is no longer just about survival. Sugars, refined carbohydrates and caffeine release those feel good chemicals in our brains, and can lead to an addiction of pleasure.
In addition, we are seeing a significant rise on our dependency of social media. Facebook’s founding president Sean Parker even admitted recently that Facebook’s architects were exploiting a “vulnerability in human psychology”. Parker, who resigned in 2005, stated that whenever someone likes or comments on your post or photograph “we…give you a little dopamine hit.” So it’s no surprise that social media hits give us a feeling of love and a higher self worth.
Pleasure vs logic
What’s clear is that we’ve become a generation of people that eat out of pleasure rather than logic, which makes sense. If logic controlled the way we eat, no one would overeat.
It’s time to take back control
If long-term weight loss is your goal, you must first observe your behaviour, learn your triggers that lead to overeating and the need for those ‘feel good chemicals’ that you’re using food to access. Instead of reaching for your trigger foods when you need that hit, find out what else can give you the same feeling.
These healthy alternatives release the same pleasure hormones but won’t set you back on your health journey. So why not give them a go?!
- Go for a quiet walk in nature
- Play your favourite songs
- Have a warm bath with lavender and any other oils that make you feel good
- Sit quietly and have a cup of tea
- Take yourself to a day spa
- Take yourself to a movie
- Read your favourite book
- Whatever calms your mind and feeds your soul that doesn’t involve excess empty calories.
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