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Why is losing weight so hard? One word, desire. Desire is defined as a strong urge or craving by Google. Desire is our response to dopamine (a neurotransmitter) which is released when we see concentrated sugars and flours (cookies, cakes, candies, processed foods) and is conditioned by our primitive brains when we see these items to want them. There is nothing wrong with you. Your brain is doing its job and responding to desire. Desire causes urges which are conditioned responses that our brains have learned from caveman days to seek pleasure and avoid pain as efficiently as possible.
The only problem now is that many foods we eat are so concentrated that the dopamine released in response is over the top and that makes us want it even more. Due to so much practice responding to desire and eating concentrated foods our brain develops strong neural pathways so that overeating becomes a conditioned unconscious response or a habit. The good news is you can interrupt this conditioned response and make new habits. In other words you can reset your brain.
There has been a lot of false information about what is a healthy diet over the years which is the reason for so many of our false beliefs, i.e. low fat diet craze. We are also not taught how to manage our emotions and many of us are taught at an early age to use food to make us feel better. We have also been taught to use food as entertainment. It is actually socially acceptable to overeat and people who want to cut back or eat healthy are considered abnormal. How crazy is that?
This external concentrated desire is really false pleasure. Over pleasure causes over desire and overeating, overdrinking. Concentrated pleasure is anything refined like flour, sugar, smoothies, processed foods and alcohol. The problem is, it does not feel false. Real pleasure includes healthy foods that fuel our bodies like protein, fruit, vegetables, nuts, avocados, healthy fats, non-processed carbs like potatoes, rice, beans. Other real pleasures in our life includes love, connection, sex and success
We don’t need such concentrated pleasure to survive anymore. Most of us have an over abundance of food and alcohol available to us in grocery stores, fast food and other restaurants, at work, home, on TV, social media, etc. Because of our conditioned responses to such concentrated pleasure and the dopamine response creating the urge to eat these concentrated foods, our urges are strong. That means when we don’t answer an urge, the desire gets stronger because our brain is having a fit. It makes us uncomfortable, restless and we don’t know how to handle that.
We have also been conditioned by our society to use food to deal with our emotions. We don’t like to feel deprived. We eat when we are happy, sad, mad, bored, stressed, celebrating, etc. We use food to dampen down our negative emotions because we have also been conditioned to want to be happy and feel good all the time. The real truth is that being human means we will have positive emotions 50% of the time and negative emotions 50% of the time. No one ever said life would be easy.
So how do we break the cycle of concentrated desire? We do not give into the urge to eat the concentrated food. That is the easy part, not putting food in our mouth. The hard part is all the drama that comes from our brain when we do this. What is the worst that can happen? We actually feel our emotions instead of eating them. The goal is not to eliminate the urge but to retrain our brains. Concentrated food and pleasure will always be there; allow the negative feelings that come up when you don’t react or give in to the urge. Urges are harmless and have no power over you.
Pleasure is the reward that creates desire which we used to need to survive. Desire or dopamine is released when we get pleasure from being successful, being with our loves ones, helping others and feeling connected. Where do you want to get your pleasure from? Concentrated food/alcohol or real pleasure? If you want to retrain your brain, come coach with me.
Next week: How to deal with urges.