Week Three: Food Addiction, Obesity & Diabetes - Cognition
Welcome to week three of Food Addiction, Obesity and Diabetes. I’m Steph Wagner, Bariatric Dietitian on FoodCoach.Me
If you haven’t watched weeks one and two, be sure to follow the links below this video on the FoodCoach.Me blog to start from the beginning.
We’ve covered the two main systems that influence our intake and why it’s so important to take care of ourselves. Last week we talked about stress and the importance of finding good stress relievers. This week we are going to talk about the power that lives within our minds. Lets get started.
The human mind is a powerhouse. We have been created to think, adapt and improve. When it comes to food addictions, we can tap into the power of our minds to fight back against emotions and hormones.
Cognition is what we call that power. The definition would tell us it’s the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and sense. In short…it’s our ability to THINK and understand.
Cognition is developed throughout our life and truly refined in adulthood. Theories support that cognition isn’t fully developed until we are 30 years old. That doesn’t mean it’s done at 30, that just means it’s developing until then and even beyond that we have the power to change how we think and react. While it does take a lot of time to re-program our minds, we have an immense amount of power available when we do put in the time.
Decisions we make are often emotionally driven. The hedonic system if your remember is the system that make us want to react emotionally. We must develop our cognition to think critically and overrule our emotions. We must put time, energy and focus into developing impulse control. When you think of anger management, you might think of someone who has to focus on breathing exercises or someone who has to make themselves walk away from something. This is an image of them establishing impulse control. We see this in children. In a kindergarden class, five year olds are learning to sit still and be quiet. They are being taught impulse control.
So what are some of the practical ways to develop cognition and impulse control when it comes to addicting foods? Yes, we do need to stop getting high 🙂 but truly we need to identify our false fixes. This is anything that is a short term gratification that is associated with self-destructive behavior, usually followed by feelings of guilt, shame and defeat. False fixes are foods that trigger overeating and make you feel out of control. Choosing healthy fixes on the other hand, are productive, positive habits that are associated with feelings of pride and happiness. This would include exercise, new projects, social interactions and good food choices.
Allow time to experience withdrawal of those highly addictive foods. The first 3-5 days of eliminating starches and sweets are the worst. Be aware going into it, drink lots of water, go for walks, plan out your meals and when you will eat them but get your mind off it. Plan for support during this time and plan for plenty of rest.
Recognize the risk of relapse is high in the early stages. You will be supersensitive because of the dopamine receptors in your brain. Stay away from trigger foods or settings while your brain rebuilds itself.
Realize that your taste preferences will change gradually. Your taste buds can get used to a healthier diet. Some experts suggest it may take 8-12 weeks for “recalibration” to occur. It won’t be easy at first but be patient and stick with it! If you improve your diet, you can reset your brains reward circuitry.
Build up your stamina. Every time you resist the junk, you are building stamina in your cognition. Stress reduction is a top priority and meditation, prayer and movement is a powerful way to build up stamina and cognition.
Have meaningful longer-range goals. Focusing on longer term rewards will keep you focused in the moment. We all need a carrot to go after. Your confidence will increase in yourself and in your ability to resist temptations.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself at the most basic levels. Sleep, water, eating consistently, exercise. Don’t focus on perfectionism but do focus on taking care of your basic needs to stay in a balance.
And finally be a smart shopper. Set your environment up for your success. Plan your meals out. Take a grocery list with you and Stick to the perimeter of the store.
For free dinner menus be sure to visit foodcoach.me. Subscribe to the email list to stay up to date on new recipes, new meal plans and my upcoming back to school wellness challenge. Check in next week when we talk about our second brain…the gut…which doesn’t mean your muffin top 🙂
Source for all the content in this series: INR (Institute for Natural Resources)