EATING BEHAVIORS AND THE BRAIN PART 11
Let’s talk briefly about the reward system and food. The reward system in our brain is meant to promote our survival. It works off of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This neurotransmitter is associated with motivation and desire. In addition, when the reward system triggers, we get a bit of adrenaline, which creates a small rush, a feeling of stress, perhaps positive stress.
Once we are able to access whatever the reward system is motivating us to pursue, we get pleasure from something known as endorphins or endogenous opiate peptides. We actually feel that sensation of pleasure for just a moment.
This is meant to call our attention to whatever we just encountered, because generally speaking, it was something that would promote survival. If we encountered it again, we would pursue it. But our reward systems have been manipulated. We now pursue behaviors and substances that actually work against our survival.
How Do We Take Charge?
The marketplace sells us addictions and sickness. However, the same marketplace sells us the opportunity to be healthy and well. Ultimately, we have to take charge of our minds. As long as your reward system is running the show, you’ll have no choice. You’ll do what it tells you to. Again, this is true for me, and it’s true for everyone. Our reward systems respond to different cues, so it’s different for all of us, but if you’re struggling with your eating behavior, then this is what you’re dealing with.
You really don’t have control over your reward system. It has control over you. But you do have control over your higher mind, and you have the ability to foster the desires to be your best self. As you do that, you begin to have some control over your choices, and you can choose to eliminate the foods, substances, and behaviors from your life that actually make you sick, and do not take you where you want to go. You do have this ability, but it takes desire, willpower, support, and accountability. You have to want this for yourself.
The Doctor’s Conclusion
In our series on willpower, we outline a process to deal with urges and cravings. It involves cultivation of mindfulness and your higher mind. We explain this in more detail in that series. I’ve also written a paper that is available on our website that outlines a 4-step process using mindfulness to overcome urges and craving. I would encourage you to read that paper.
Our reward systems are important. They give us pleasure, and they reinforce behaviors that can be good for us. But when they’ve been manipulated by those who want our money and don’t care about our health, then the system is no longer working for us. You have to be aware of this. You have to set yourself free.
I’ll give an example of how strong the reward system is in our next post.