Have you ever wondered why you sometimes eat to the point of bursting?
Or, how sometimes you aren’t even hungry and yet, you walk into Greggs and walk back out with a large sausage roll, a donut and a sugar coated yum yum…..no……just me there then!
Well I have the answer for you, or more specifically David A. Kessler does, the author of the book “The end of overeating” a really interesting read and I thought I would give you some of the highlights.
I know I have said this before but the human body is frigging amazing.
It can rebuild itself, it can adapt to any stress it is placed under and it has a number of different ways to maintain a constant internal environment. This is called homeostasis and it involves a number of receptors in the brain, central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, GI tract, endocrine system and fat tissue that provide endless information to the hypothalamus in the brain.
The hypothalamus must then decipher this information and decide what to do to maintain homeostasis. This is a highly sophisticated feedback system that is fundamental for survival.
Two of the items under homeostatic control are satiety (feeling full when eating) and body weight.
Unfortunately in today’s worlds we are bombarding the body with so much information from our diet that these two factors are slowly becoming ignored by the body and becoming overweight is the new norm.
So why is this happening?
We have all been there, eaten food and had that amazing feeling of happiness from the taste and feeling that food gives us. This is a reward system, this is the body’s way of surviving by ensuring we seek out pleasurable things.
Food is one of these things and the other involves creating a baby which leads you to speaking nonsense and only going to shopping centres that have good baby change facilities.
We take a bite of something delicious, our taste buds are fired up and a signal is sent to our brain. Our brain then asks for endorphins to be released, these natural hormones have a similar effect on the body to morphine and heroin and allow us to experience pleasure from the food we have chosen to eat and keeps us eating it. This is also why eating certain foods can relieve pain and stress…….COMFORT FOOD!!
Boom!! there we have one side of the overeating coin…the sense of reward we feel when we taste certain foods, this becomes habit and we then seek to relive this feeling time and again. As we expose ourselves to this feeling we then start to react to certain cues in our environment that will give us our next hit.
This is down to the other hormone involved in the game of eating…dopamine.
Simply put, dopamine motivates our behaviour so we become more likely to achieve our reward (food). This again is a survival mechanism, we start to behave in ways that will help us achieve our goal. Imagine that dopamine makes us behave like a highly trained sniper, we ignore everything around us until we get what we want. Instead of shooting some bad guy, we have our sights aimed on that cup cake.
Dopamine can be secreted when we are exposed to certain cues, including:
- A sign for your favourite restaurant
- A certain location (fish and chips by the seaside)
- Emotions (probably the most powerful one)
For example, if I see or smell a ginger nut biscuit I am automatically transported back in time to my grandparents house where my Nan had a little tea trolley she used to give us tea and biscuits. I can easily remember her lounge, the smells and feelings that I associated with back then. I also remember hanging off her zimmer frame which my sister and I did regularly.
These feelings will drive my eating response and if I am not aware what I am doing, I can eat several biscuits without even realising it because I have “bought” into an emotion.
Your not buying food, your buying an emotion!
Billions and billions of pounds are spent on food each year. A lot of that money is reinvested into the marketing of that product and scientific research into the relationships hormones have on our appetite.
They design foods that have a high level of palability, to us, that is foods that taste great on our palate but to the food industry this word means a food that stimulates appetite and makes us eat more.
The aim is to produce food that gives us the maximum dopamine and endorphine hit it can, ensuring that we constantly buy that food, we become addicted!
Companies will use what they can to make us spend our money on their food. Describing foods in a way to stir up emotions that will make us crave and want a particular food.
Coca-cola has its new slogan of “Open Happiness”, McDonald’s have their TV adverts that show loads of different people having a great time in their restaurants. Subconsciously….we are saying to ourselves, I want to open happiness and I want a great time!
With all these signals and our hormones playing havoc within our body it has become easy for our body to dull the signal of satiety and just continue to eat. We are becoming programmed to overeat and we are becoming wired to eat food that we know is not good for us.
We are the product of our hormones, more specifically we are the product of how our hormones behave within our body. If we cheat them and manipulate them we are asking for trouble.
So next time you are being drawn into the cake shop, stop and ask yourself, do I need this? Am I hungry? Or, is it just those clever marketing people playing tricks on me again?