We are naturally wired to pursue pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. That looks a lot different today for us than when our ancestors were trying to pursue pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy.
In our modern day society we sometimes have so much going on that we don’t pursue the right pleasures because we confuse our bodies with conveniences, excess, and fast food.
In the book, The Pleasure Trap the co-founders of the True North Wellness Center say that this TRAP is real and when we consume foods that are highly refined and chemical laden that these chemicals are made to ARTIFICIALLY stimulate dopamine in the brain and the cycle continues.
Dopamine acts as a messenger between brain cells. It relays signals that help us begin movement and talk, but it also tells the brain when it is expected to receive a reward or reinforcement. It’s key in motivation, productivity, and focus because of the signals that get transmitted.
Because dopamine deficiency can make us feel unmotivated, tired, and hopeless our bodies will try to get it in anyway possible as quick as possible.
This is especially important to our topic today of emotional eating because when we are under stress we are looking for a way to balance the body and most of the time we turn to foods that will give us a QUICK way to be rewarded so we can breathe again by getting that ‘dopamine’ fix.
It’s the survival mode of pursuing pleasure, avoiding pain and conserving energy that are bodies are naturally wired to do.
There are great ways to increase Dopamine in the brain naturally. We can eat foods that boost Dopamine such as Almonds, Apples, Avocado, Beets, Green Leafy Vegetables, and Beans. You can create a good environment in your gut with a good probiotic such as PB8 because bad bacteria can leave toxic byproducts which can lower Dopamine.
Exercise can also help by producing new brain cells, slowing down brain cell aging and improving the flow of nutrients to the brain. It can do all that and increase your levels of Dopamine and Serotonin which are both needed to feel less stressed and happy.
Even meditation has been shown to increase Dopamine. If you haven’t tried some our meditation strategies I share three of my favorites in this Stress Busters Episode. You can join our facebook group and learn more from all the episodes!
It is the ARTIFICIAL stimulation with the chemicals in our foods that are affecting our happiness and health by being the cause of people being overweight and the diseases of dietary excess like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune.
The authors call the ‘Pleasure Trap’ foods to be highly refined:
The list will be scary, you will say so what can I eat! I know I live the same struggle but lets be real if we want to be on this journey together and bust the stress we have to understand the traps we get into.
Pleasure Trap foods are foods containing added oil, salt, and sugar (SOS)
Foods containing refined flour products including bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies.
Foods containing dairy products including cheese, butter, and yogurt.
I don’t know about you but even knowing this information, several of these were consumed by me just yesterday! 93% of all the food consumed is either animal foods or processed foods. 93%!
93% of the time most people are eating foods that are adding chemicals to the body and forcing us emotionally be in a trap. I didn’t hit the 93% average but I would say I was about 50% of my foods yesterday had a form a refinement. A very high number for someone that knows better.
Sugar in its refined form is a big culprit with the average person consuming 150 pounds per year. Think of a 5 lb bag of sugar, now think of 30 of those on your kitchen table being consumed by you this year. The typical crystallized sugar is refined and doesn’t appear in this form in nature, it is created and put in food to make it taste so good and our brains LOVE it because it artificially spikes the Dopamine.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is another commonly used culprit because its so cheap is used in almost all processed foods. HFCS actually has to be processed by the liver just like alcohol so imagine that day after day.
The way this translates to the brain and Dopamine is that our body is seeking the reward. It wants to be feeling good so it will remember what it ate last that filled it up quickly and gave it the best ‘good feeling’ boost.
We are designed to be sensitive to foods. We are wired to determine caloric dense foods that give us pleasure, avoid us pain and conserve our energy.
So if we are hungry our minds go to the most dense foods with this boost that it remembers. Because we are eating foods that have a lot of artificial stimulation of Dopamine the brain will remember that food and seek it again.
We could eat salad at 100 calories a pound, but we wouldn’t feel FULL Our body will not seek a salad because it knows other foods that will do the job quicker and bring more pleasure. We would have to eat 20 pounds a day of lettuce to get to the 2,000 calories our body is seeking.
We sometimes turn to fruit. A little more sweeter and at 300 calories a pound, our brain knows it can do what it needs to do by eating only 7 lbs. of it.
We could eat potatoes, rice, and beans at 500 calories a pound. We would have to eat 4 lbs. to meet what our body is seeking.
What if I told you could eat a food that was 1200 calories a pound? Do you think your body would seek it to get the fix it needs in calories? Well we do eat this food, ice cream is 1200 calories a pound. Much more calorie dense than the other foods I already mentioned so is it making sense why our brains are going for the ice cream to get the quick fix?
Our brains don’t get excited about salad because its not stupid. It knows it would need to eat 20 pounds of lettuce to meet our needs so it goes to the other foods that it memorized to fill us quickly and give us the dopamine fix we need-artificially or not. It can’t differentiate that between the two.
What if you could eat 1500 calories a pound? Do you think your brain would go for that?
It does everytime you sit down at a restaurant and the fluffy bread gets delivered. Bread is 1500 calories a pound before the butter dip is added.
Our course we would like it, our bodies remember and are designed to search for the calories that would make us feel the best the fastest and that’s why we normally ask for a refill to the bread basket.
We could get the same amount of calories before dinner by eating 3 POTATOES but who the heck thinks to order 3 potatoes before dinner.
We wouldn’t because a potato in the beauty of its natural form would mechanically fill our stomachs and we couldn’t eat the LASAGNA we ordered!
The bread is refined and the molecules are so small and doesn’t fill our stomachs so we can eat it, feel good, and still eat the lasagna.
Even the lasagna in its non-nutritious combination will fill us calorie wise but not nutrient wise so we will eat it, feel pleasure, and then shortly thereafter seek more pleasure because it didn’t supply the cells and brain with the nutrients it really needs. This is the TRAP the authors in The Pleasure Trap try to warn us about.
We know potatoes taste good and will do the job if we eat 3 of them, but our brain remembers that potato chips at 2500 calories a pound will do the job better and increase our dopamine by 5x because of the oils.
Can you see the trap mentally and emotionally we are in? We have to work at escaping this trap and because we may not like to work at it or because we are already so overworked we can’t think of another thing to do it is not an easy process.
We have to fill our bellies with nutrient dense foods and tell ourselves that we don’t need 2500 calories from potato chips, that we will live if we eat the potato.
Since we are in a sense addicts to this artificial stimulation sometimes we have to go cold turkey but that will take a little planning. The authors compare it to alcoholics getting the same Dopamine fix from alcohol. We don’t tell them to fix their addiction by drinking moderately but yet we tell overweight, sick people to just cut this out or cut this out and they can improve.
If you really want to conquer this you have to stop fooling your brain by eating refined junk food ladened with chemicals that are tricking you into thinking you feel good.
I know that is A LOT to digest. I know that because as I was preparing for today’s post and remembering the 50% I had yesterday. I know I even have a lot of work to do in this area to implement what I know to be right if I want to curb my stress eating and live a healthy, happy life.
Co-Founder, Simply More Plants
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