How many times has this happened to you? Monday morning you arrive at work, fully resolved to turn over a new leaf, stick to your diet and put your health first.
But then your co-worker brings in a platter of leftover cheese cake slices from a dinner party, drops it on the break table and tells everyone to help themselves.
Why is it so hard to resist that cheesecake? Even when you are down the hall, fifty feet away from the break room, you can’t stop thinking about that cheesecake. How is it that something like food can have such power over us?
The reason is your brain.
You see, food habits are very strong because they are hard wired into the neural circuitry of our brains. When you taste food (cheesecake, for instance) that is very palatable, your brain literally releases opioids into your bloodstream, and the effect is similar to the pleasure one gets from using morphine or heroin. It is an intense pleasure.
That in itself seems harmless enough. But here is the catch: your brain remembers the high and it wants to experience it again. So the next time that food is around, you want it, so you eat it and get the same pleasure. And the next time, you do the same thing.
What is happening is that a habit is being built that is hardwired into the physical circuitry of your brain. The cycle of eating and pleasure is mapping a neural pathway that is very powerful, very hard to break and it drives you to seek out the particular foods that bring the pleasure.
Rewire your brain.
But don’t despair. You do not have to spend your life being a helpless victim of your brain’s neural circuitry. You can literally remap your mind and break the cycle. You can reduce the power that those pleasure-producing foods have over you.
The first step is the hardest. But once you do it a few times, it will get easier and easier. What you have to do is stop. You have to summon every ounce of willpower you have and just say no to the cheesecake, the donut, the French fries—whatever your personal opioid-producing foods are, you have to resist. And the first few times you do this, you will feel like you are going to lose it! It will be very difficult.
But eventually it will get easier and easier. As the food stimulus “cools,” it will exert less and less power over you. The neural pathways in your brain will weaken as you begin breaking the habit. Once the habit is broken, you can enjoy a piece of cheesecake every now and then, but you will consciously choose to eat it with full control; it will not have the same power that it used to.
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