Sunday, September 6, 2009

We are being manipulated!

First, I apologize for failing to blog last week. I know that many of you check in regularly and I so much appreciate that. I have fallen victim to some nasty little flu bug and only today do I feel a tint surge of energy. So, here is an extra special blog for you this week. Enjoy! (and please do feel free to drop me a note any time to let me know what you thiunk. I would love to hear from you!)

We know much more today than ever before about foods and the various ways we are affected not only by eating them but also by the specific ingredients manufacturers put into them and the ways these foods are marketed to us. It has been well documented that sugars, fats and salt (particularly when combined) are highly addictive for most people. Dr. David Kessler in his book, The End of overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite labels this irresistible eating experience as “hypereating” and most of us can relate to that. When most of us are faced with foods laden with fat, sugar and salt we become helpless to stop.

Let me explain the cycle. When we eat sugars, fat and salt, we feel good. Our feelings recede into the background and we become immersed in the eating experience. We feel better for a short while but then crave another “fix” as the good feelings fade. We know that more sugar, fat and salt will provide another “high” and the reward center of pour brain makes us seek out that pleasure. When we are given large amounts of these foods most of us will overeat.

For years you may have been thinking that there was something wrong with you and that your inability to modulate your eating was because you lacked will power. We now know that that is not the case. Sugars and fats are self reinforcing and we are cued to seek them out. When our desire to eat is stimulated by certain sights, sounds, or places we associate with eating we release dopamine in our brain and reward seeking behavior is motivated. As Kessler points out, dopamine pushes us to seek the food we want and we are not easily distracted away from our goal. So, dopamine leads us to seek food. We eat and this leads to opiod release and the production of both dopamine and opiods leads us to further eating. So cues ensure that we will work hard to obtain the reward. In this excellent work he goes on to expose the food industry and explains ways foods are engineered to figure out exactly what we will like.

Every aspect of food manufacture and marketing is of great importance –packaging, the ambience in restaurants, noise levels, portion sizes and even the name of the product has an effect. If we are under stress (and who isn’t?) we are even hungrier and more susceptible to falling victim to the hypereating cycle. Kessler acknowledges that emotional learning has not traditionally been part of habit reversal but that emotional eating may be the missing link necessary for stopping this mindless eating.

Scattered throughout my blogs are ways to stop being a victim of the food industry. First, please acknowledge that your overeating behavior has not been your fault alone and has not been entirely in your control. Next, please remind yourself that this quest for health will take patience, time and an attitude of self acceptance and gentleness. You have techniques for stopping this automatic eating response in its tracks and returning to balance and joy even if you have an experience now and then of eating mindlessly and getting hooked into the victim role that our food industry wants you to play. You will now know different ways to take care of yourself and to bypass the automatic responses to the food cues that abound in our culture.

You already know that you want to move yourself away from unhealthy behaviors and move towards healthy ones. This is key. Keeping this goal in mind will help you immensely as you forge your own personal path away from the ploys of the food industry and towards the rewards that come with making self-loving choices as often as possible. There will be set backs. You might as well know that right up front. There is no room here for absolute perfection. We can never be fully cured of conditioned hypereating but we can tame our chews, listen to the important messages our feelings are communicating, treat ourselves with love and respect and celebrate the many times we eat well, ignoring the momentary lapses in judgment. Then we can and will move ahead towards our goal of balance, joy and radiant health.

You are learning now that there are social causes, physical, emotional and spiritual causes as well. You already have a broad understanding of this entire picture. Practice treating yourself lovingly and you will be unstoppable! You will think of food in a different way – as a substance that gives you great benefit when you choose wisely, listen to your bodily cues and see that your real needs are met.

Eating is a personal, individual matter. How, when and what you feed yourself is entirely up to you. When you can choose foods based upon your tastes and desires and weigh the long term consequences of your choices you will be well on your way to freedom. The food industry will no longer be able to manipulate your eating behavior. You will be in charge of you – no longer a victim. And, trust me, that feels really good!

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