Can You Train Your Mind To Like Healthy Food?
Imagine a world where you never craved pastries, but instead, your desire for carrots was overwhelming. Losing weight would be a cinch, but then... you may not have gained weight in the first place. There may have been a point in history where nourishing foods were a scarcity, but that isn't the world we live in now. So, while at one point the reward system our brain operated was helpful in its excitement at food, it's now driving an obesity epidemic.
The convenience of fast food and processed foods make it too easy to give our brain a high by overeating junk. Don't you just wish you could train your brain to love healthy food instead? Well, you can.
The Scientific Study
Researchers from the University of Harvard and Tufts University published their findings in Nutrition & Diabetes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183968/). The participants, all overweight adults, were split into two groups. One group (the controls) was given no guidance on how to lose weight while the others were assigned to a weight-loss program that was behaviorally based. Each group underwent an MRI brain scan before and after to determine how the reward center in the brain would react.
They found promising results in the brain scans from those who had been assigned to the weight loss program. Over time, the unhealthy foods were less appealing to the brain than they had been at the beginning of the study, while the healthier options were suddenly creating more activity in the brain's reward center.
The weight loss program itself encouraged participants to reduce their calorie intake to stimulate steady weight loss (the healthy rate of a pound or two each week) and were taught about portion control, recipes, filling meals, and they were also given tip sheets. Quite simply, the plan revolved around high fiber foods to reduce hunger levels and keep energy high as well as high protein to keep hunger at bay and balance blood sugar. Obviously, the group that lost weight was those who received guidance.
The findings go beyond that, though, what's clear from this study is that you can train your brain to crave healthy foods instead of the typical junk food we want. Choices like sweet potato instead of French fries, and bran flakes instead of a sugary cereal, are easy wins that can help contribute to healthier living and will provide your body with nourishment, rather than a temporary sugar high that leads to weight gain and sugar crashes. For every naughty food, there is an adequate replacement that will leave you feeling good after you finish eating, rather than experiencing guilt.
Tips & Hints
Now, here are some helpful tips on how you can start training your brain at home.
Habit Breaking – If your habits are causing you problems, it's time to create a new one. If you traditionally made a late afternoon trip to the vending machine for chocolate, instead take a walk or make a cup of herbal tea. It shouldn't take long for you to create a new habit.
Three Colors – There have been studies that found people respond well to having three colors on their plate, so aim to create a plate that features three colors and do the same for your snacks. It's not as difficult as you think – nuts, dried fruit, and a square of dark chocolate is the perfect option.
Health On Hand – If you really want to ditch junk food, you need to have healthy food on hand at all times. It's the most efficient way to keep yourself on track – you should also know what types of foods are most likely to lure you in so that you can keep them away altogether.