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Are you a food addict? Most of us are! But did you know that our brains are actually biologically driven to seek high-calorie, fatty foods? The good news, however, is that we can all learn to control those primitive parts of our brains. Anyone can do this…..if they learn how.
Why do our brains (and our bodies) want us fat? Simple answer: Calories = Survival. The brain’s desire to seek out rich food is a genetic holdover from the days of hunter-gatherers. It’s quite simply a survival mechanism. Eating as much as possible, as often as possible allowed our ancestors to store excess calories as fat and survive lean times. This approach actually worked out well for about 2 ½ million years, but today, it is making us not only fat – but it is making us sick.
The problem is that our brains haven’t evolved as fast as our food environment. With the exception of the last 10,000 years, people only ate animals they could hunt and wild plants that they could gather. Imagine if you could only eat what you caught or picked. The variety of foods that were available is nothing compared to the 40,000 different food items that we can buy in the average grocery store today! Certainly, there were no powdered donuts available back then!
Over the last 10,000, years we have seen the advent of both agriculture and industrialization and very quickly (at least in evolutionary terms), the human diet got turned upside down. Today, 60 percent of our calories come from things that the hunter-gathers wouldn’t even recognize as food. The bulk of these items – cereals, sugary drinks, and refined oils – are simple carbohydrates. The primitive brain sees an endless supply of easy energy –and our bodies, and our health is paying the price. We are facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in this country.
At the heart of the problem is the “Blood Sugar Cascade.” When you eat simple carbohydrates, sugar or starch, they pass almost instantly from the gut into the bloodstream. Very quickly, blood sugar levels start to rise. To deal with this rise in blood sugar, the body releases insulin. Insulin’s job is to allow sugar to enter the cells and therefore the amount of sugar in the blood declines back to normal. An abundance of simple sugars in the diet causes insulin to lose its ability to its job. This is a dangerous condition called insulin resistance, which is at the root of diabetes. It causes you to gain belly fat, raises blood pressure, messes up cholesterol, makes you feel depressed and tired….and even causes cancer!
3 Ways to “Reprogram” your brain to help reduce cravings: