You must be wondering why eating healthy comes easy to some, but is extremely difficult for others. If you ever feel as though you are failing at your diet, and constantly caving into your sugar and junk food cravings throughout the day you must remember not to blame yourself.
These pathways are built when you are young and continue developing over time. Developing a habit occurs when a real and physical pathway is made in your brain. The neurons in your brain fire up every time positive or negative chemicals are released, this causes you to repeat behaviors that inhibit the release of these positive chemicals that make you feel good.
The chemical responsible for this process is called myelin, after the age of 20 it drops, this is what makes it difficult to rewire your habits. However, it is not impossible. Here are some steps to help you train your brain into eating healthier:
1. Know your cravings.
Your brain is wired to help you survive, so when you eat something which is dense in calories like a cookie or ice cream, the dopamine produced in your body gives way to a feeling of happiness and joy.
“Foods that give a rush of calories from carbs and fats like chips and cookies set off a whole cascade of brain changes: They become strongly liked, then they start boosting addiction circuits for anticipating eating them. It’s a predictable sequence,” says Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., senior scientist at the USDA Nutrition Center at Tufts.
This means that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. You will slowly start to associate feelings of joy with other healthier foods. So, the more you cut out sugars and processed foods, the less your body will become dependent on them for satisfaction.
2. Keep Healthy Food in Your Home
Human beings by nature are designed to find the easiest way to do something, this can be linked to the food we eat as well. This means that we often go for the food option most easily available to us, especially in our homes. This is why it is important to fill your home with healthy alternatives to foods so that you will have no choice but to snack healthier, and over time you will develop the habit of reaching for these foods.
Consider putting out a colorful fruit bowl on a table to drive your healthy eating mindset, or keep easy-to-eat veggies like carrots, sliced peppers, and cucumbers pre-chopped and ready to go in a Tupperware for an easy, healthy snack.
3. Eat Mindfully
We all know how easy it is to mindlessly eat food without even thinking about or savoring what we are eating every day. Rather than doing that when you think about what you eat, look at it in terms of texture and flavors. Pay attention to every bite and every morsel of food that you eat so that you savor it. When you are eating something healthy, focus on the nutrients your body is about to receive, focus on the intense flavors and enjoy each bite, knowing that you are giving your body the energy and nutrition it's craving.
4. Add More Variety
Adding variety is the easiest way to keep your palette engaged and excited for healthier meals. When you incorporate new textures, spices, and recipes into your meals you keep your brain and taste buds entertained, this will, in turn, help you associate food with excitement and pleasure. The more you are able to make healthy meals pleasurable the more your brain will associate them to the reward center of your mind. There is a vast variety of vegetables and fruits in the Indian market which makes it easy and fun to experiment with new flavors and recipes, which are all easily available online.
5. Make Healthy Food a Treat
The fruit is nature’s candy, so go ahead and treat it that way! Stash red grapes in the freezer for an easy treat, or enjoy mashed frozen bananas as a creamy dessert. And, of course, allow yourself that square of dark chocolate every now and again.
6. Know Your Triggering Foods
The most helpful thing you can do for yourself in order to break bad habits is to focus on developing healthy new ones. The best way to do this is to develop a consciousness about what you are consuming. Be present constantly, and question the food choices you make. Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or am I just eating because I’m bored?” or identify your mood before you are eating, as yourself if you are feeling stressed, sad, or angry, if the answer is yes, grab a glass of water, go for a walk, talk to a family member or loved one. Identifying the cause of your negative behaviors will help you cut them out of your life. Several large-scale studies have proven consciousness to be the most significant predictor of obesity.
7. Visualize Your Goals
Constantly remind yourself why you are trying to break these habits and negative behavioral patterns. Visualize yourself and how you will feel when you achieve your goals. This will be a great motivational tool for you on this healthy eating journey. Visualize yourself at your ideal weight, feeling energetic, feeling social, feeling vibrant and healthy. It is also a great way to teach your mind delayed gratification as well as dedication in order to achieve your goals. Next time you crave junk food, imagine the negative feelings about yourself you will have shortly after succumbing to your cravings. This will help get you back on the right track.