How to Stop Being Controlled By Your Reward System

EATING BEHAVIORS AND THE BRAIN PART 12

So we’ve discussed the reward system, and it’s important to understand that, along with palatability or really good taste, some foods and substances will just give us a bit of a rush. We’ll go out of our way to get those foods.

What’s interesting is many foods and substances that can give us that rush don’t taste good the first time we encounter them. Here’s a couple of examples: black coffee and beer. Most people do not like those the first time they try them. Most people don’t like their first inhale of a cigarette. But coffee has caffeine. Beer has alcohol. Cigarettes have nicotine.

Our brains like caffeine, and alcohol, and nicotine. So even though we didn’t like them when we first tasted them, we learned quickly that they’re “good” things, and we learned to tolerate their taste so we could have more of them. We actually override our aversion to the taste and the experience because we want more of the substance they contain.

What’s interesting is many foods and substances that can give us that rush don’t taste good the first time we encounter them.

Over time, we even believe we cannot live without them. We will go through extensive efforts to get them. We’ll wait in lines, spend our hard earned money, and expose ourselves to unhealthy environments just to get more of them. We’ll even consume more of them than we possibly thought we could even when we’ve had enough. That’s true for drinking, tobacco, and for food.

I’ll tell you, I like caffeine. I enjoy it, but I limit my portions, and I don’t always have it. Caffeine can be healthy for many people, but it does trigger the reward system. Coffees and teas have polyphenols, which are really good nutrients. Again, everything in moderation. But you have to pay attention to the reward system.

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Know What You’re Up Against

The goal is to feel good and be healthy, not to be controlled by a substance. So essentially, when you combine something that tastes really good and creates high reward value, you’re not going to be able to control yourself. That’s what we’re dealing with when it comes to the foods we eat. They’ve been engineered to taste really good and trigger your reward system. And they contain minimal fiber, meaning you can eat a lot of them before you ever know how much you’ve eaten.

I’m going to list one more time the types of foods that are causing this problem, so you can make sure you keep this in your mind. Be wary of foods:

  • High in calories

  • Loaded with fat, sugar, and salt

  • Containing high levels of glutamate or “meaty” flavors (hence bacon being in everything)

  • Made of refined starches that break into sugars very quickly

  • Consisting of a pleasing and specific texture, such as creamy or crunchy

  • Containing drugs, such as caffeine, alcohol, or theobromine, which is found in chocolate

  • Packed with flavor enhancers, or additives, to improve the feel of these foods in your mouth

You do not find this magical mix in nature. It is found in highly processed foods like:

  • Cakes

  • Cookies

  • Pastries

  • Pies

  • Pizza

  • Chicken fingers

  • Ice cream

  • Fried foods

  • Fast foods

And so on.

The goal is to feel good and be healthy, not to be controlled by a substance. So essentially, when you combine something that tastes really good and creates high reward value, you’re not going to be able to control yourself.

The more of those elements we encounter, the more we cannot control our eating behavior, and the more our body will change its internal regulation and allow us to become overweight and obese and sick. We will spend our money and our time finding these things, and consume them to our own detriment as well as our children’s detriment.

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The Doctor’s Conclusion

It’s important to understand that we’re all dealing with this problem now. If you love these foods and feel like you cannot stop eating them, you’re not alone. You’re not bad or weird. You’re just like all of us. All that’s happening is your brain is doing what it was adapted to do. Ultimately, it thinks it’s keeping you alive.

But now, the system has gone awry and it’s time for your higher mind to kick in. It’s time for the real you to step in and take control of the situation. It’s time for you to make the decisions consistent with the life you want to have. You can do that. Today, you can start by eliminating just one of these foods, and replacing it with a real fresh, whole, natural food.

It will work. You will feel better. You will get control of the situation.


For more information about Eating Behaviors and the Brain, read the entire series! Please keep up with us on Facebook.