Why a cookie has so much power over us

Why the heck does, say, a cookie have so much power over us? I swear, if someone attributes overeating to a lack of willpower one more time, I'm going to climb up to the top of the Empire State Building and scream.

We used to think of food as something we ate to fill us up. But in fact, much of the food we're eating - this trio of fat, sugar, and salt - stimulates us. And we now know from science - this highly palatable food is absolutely activating the neural circuitry of our brains. We now know the reason we keep on eating is because of this sustained stimulation.

Sugar, salt and fat change our brain. THAT is why we can't stop eating when we're full. Whether we're a healthy weight or over weight - we all think a lot about food. And controlling that urge is often the hardest part.

Sugar is the main driver of our addiction. Then if we layer it with fat, it becomes even more addictive.

But food is love. And when it comes to showing love, we all think fat, sugar and salt. Unfortunately, most people don't celebrate special occasions with a box of broccoli.

Let's explore why we love sugar/fat/salt so much:

Well, first it's evolution. We're already programmed with an attraction to sugar and fat. Then it's neuroscience. Food that contains fat, sugar and salt changes the neuro-circuitry of our brains, and keep us addicted to this trio. It's important to understand (and awareness is the first step) that this stuff messes with our minds. It literally turns off our brain's satiation meter, and keeps us coming back for more.

Here are some pointers for us, so we can break this addiction:

1. Take the bread away in a restaurant. When we reduce the desire for butter or olive oil (even though it's a healthy fat) it's helps us overcome the cue for fat.

2. Eat every 3-4 hours. The more structured our eating is, the better. The longer we go without food, the louder our short term, irrational mind becomes.

3. Eat out less. I know this is tough as so many of our gatherings take place at a restaurant. But when we eat out, we have no idea what's really going into our food.

4. Change our food perceptions. If we change our food stimulus-reward response from, "Wow, that's great!" to, "That's just fat on sugar on fat. Gross!" when we see a plate of french fries, it'll be easier to turn it down.

Most importantly, take baby steps. We shouldn't say, "I'm never going to have sugar, fat or salt again!" That's unrealistic.

Instead, let's aim to cut it out for our next meal. And then the meal after that. Or if we're up for the challenge, the entire day.

And if we're really up for a challenge - let's aim to cut it out for this coming week. Not forever, not for the rest of our life - just for this coming week.

Baby steps.


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