How our food affects our thoughts and how our thoughts affect our food choices.
I think we all can agree that our thoughts may affect our food choices. I’d like to introduce that our food choices can affect our thoughts. And thus, we can find ourselves on a downward spiral of poor food choicesàpoor thoughtsàpoor food choicesàpoor thoughts and so on down to the “pit of despair.”
First, let’s talk about our thoughts. When our thoughts are predominately critical of ourselves or others, or when our thoughts are worried, fearful, angry, depressed, anxious, and just downright no good, we will tend to make bad decisions in general but today we’re talking about food. Food is our fuel. High quality food that is nutrient dense, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, legumes, fruit, etc. is not the first craving we may have when our mind is stressed in thought. It will likely be sugary, salty and/or fatty. It happens to the best of us. We naturally seek out the high calorie and sugary foods to give us the dopamine hit that is legal and will make us feel good temporarily. To borrow from the Pleasure Trap by Dr. Alan Goldhamer and Dr. Doug Lisle, as creatures of nature we are all driven by the Motivational Triad of seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and energy efficiency. The main pleasure available for every creature is food and sex. And we want it in the most energy efficient, pain free way as possible. Thank you, drive-thru restaurants of the world. Now, when our thoughts are just downright no good we have a legal, cheap, efficient way to feel good with a burger, fries and milkshake. That dopamine skyrockets and we feel good…for a little while and then we feel awful and gross. The negative thoughts pick right back up where they left off and once again we find ourselves having potato chips while scrolling social media. And so the downward spiral goes.
How do we turn it around?
Let’s start with an example of my friend. She learned the hard way that she could not have sugar. It would skew her thoughts and cravings that every time she had a sugary treat she couldn’t help herself and she would seek out a sex partner for the night. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it is a powerful example of how food affects your thoughts and desires. What tool did she have now? Awareness. She could not have sugar because it led to dangerous situations. If she did have sugar she locked herself in her house for the night. Get a sense of your thoughts after eating junk food and you’ll more quickly be more aware of how it affects you. Now, that was an example of poor food choices leading to poor thoughts. Let’s look at good food choices leading to good thoughts and actions.
In Appleton, Wisconsin a school district has gone from many expulsions and other disciplinary problems with their students to zero in a short time. What did they change? The food. They eliminated vending machines and for lunches, instead of burgers, fries, pizza and burritos they eat fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy meats. The kids became aware of their increased focus, better physical health and overall well-being when given the healthier foods. This is a prime example of a large population benefiting from healthier foods to improve thoughts. All actions begin with a thought and if those thoughts are good and focused because of nourishing and healthy foods, then disciplinary problems go away. Awesome! See these articles to read more about this extraordinary change.
From this school district we learn to change the foods available to us in our home. Eliminate the ease of junk food from your home like this district did by removing the vending machines. Replace all the processed SAD foods with Whole Food Plant Based and as efficiency drives us it is much easier to eat an apple and almonds from the counter than it is to get in the car, drive to the Sonic, buy a milkshake and then come home. If you know you’ll be somewhere and your mood may turn for the worse while out, or you know you’ll simply be stressed and may be hungry, bring the apple and almonds with you.
To address the thought being the first problem you can refer to my previous blog post “Pump Up Positive Thinking.”
Now, it’s not a bad thing to not feel positively about a situation, but here’s another tip, ask yourself “Why do I feel that way?” Such as “Why am I feeling so impatient with my kids right now” or “Why am I feeling so angry toward my wife right now?” You’ll be happily surprised, I hope, like I was when the reflection on feelings reveals real reasons that are easily dealt with. And this all happens in your head and you can talk about the resolution soundly with less aggression, frustration or whatever it be.
My experience was just this last Saturday. I set an appointment to do acupuncture on a couple patients around 11am. Prior to that, my wife and I went to a birthday celebration of our friend’s daughter, turning five, thus a 10am party. We got there early to get something from her, loaded it in the truck and hung out a while before I had to get to my appointment. As time was coming to leave, I noticed my frustration building. I was having fun watching my little one play outside with all these kids. I should not have set those two Saturday appointments. I couldn’t reach the two patients to say, “Let’s wait until Monday,” etc. Finally, leaving from the party at 11:30, sending messages to the patients that I’d be late, I found myself very angry in my head and my mind started searching for answers in food. I thought of every fast food restaurant from my house to the office. Then, in my mind I asked myself, “why am I so angry?” It hit me. Back at the party they had an awesome spread of food we were going to miss out on. That was the biggest reason I was upset. I was hangry. As soon as I realized all my anger building up wasn’t towards my wife or these two patients and that it was simply caused by hunger, I rationally thought, “We have good food at home, I’ll grab something to eat and get on to my appointments.” I instantly felt a lot better. Think about your thoughts. Do not let them rule you.
Next, we must find ways to combat the poor food choices. Here are some ideas to help you stay on the upward path of healthy eating. Exercise raises endorphins and makes your body and mind more easily resist empty junk food and enjoy nutrient dense healthy food. As mentioned before, get rid of all processed, refined, junk food in your house. Meditation can help you ease your appetite for junk food. Juice cleanses can make eating healthy more enjoyable because after 2-3 days of juice you’re just happy to chew on the food rather than drink it. And finally, to quicken the process of switching from a SAD eating style to whole foods, rich with plant-based foods, you can fast. That’s right, go a day or two without eating, only drinking water, and your body will reset, your taste buds will be keener to flavors in healthy foods and it becomes a mindset of healthy living. Fasting has many healing qualities which I will touch on extensively over the next few weeks.
You CAN take control of your eating. You CAN take control over your thoughts. The first step is to become aware of each then CHOOSE to make that change. That first step is the hardest, but it gets easier the more you practice.
For more tips on how to improve your thoughts and food choices, reach out to Compass Health Clinic at 928.985.0242 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.