All About Dinner Plate

Would you like to join me on a journey – a journey that goes “beyond the dinner plate?” It’s an exploration of food alchemy. By food alchemy I mean the transformation of food into energy that the body can use. You see, food is not what it seems. In fact, food is very secretive and keeps its secrets well hidden from view.

Let’s start our journey…

Since everything in the universe vibrates with energy it follows that food too contains energy. However, unlike the energy we get by breathing in negative ions (charged particles) from the air, food energy is not readily available.

The release of energy from food requires chemical reactions to occur in the stomach and ultimately in the body’s cells. The reactions in the stomach are also needed to break down food into nutrients and building materials for repair and maintenance.

But I want to focus on energy in the context of our vitality or life-force. We need that energy to perform the daily operations of our body – without it we die! So a key question to ask is “how do we convert food into this life-force energy?” Well, as I said we need to get some chemical reactions going in our stomach (primarily). The key to those processes are enzymes

Basically enzymes are catalysts and that means they help make chemical reactions more efficient without actually changing themselves. Enzymes are involved in every biological and physiological process in the human body. There are many types of enzymes but the only ones of interest for our journey are: food enzymes and digestive enzymes.

From our energy perspective we are interested in digestion as a means to produce glucose and/or the materials to produce glucose. But once that has occurred we are still not finished because glucose in itself is not energy so we have to transform it into energy in order for our body to be able to use it to maintain our vitality.

Okay, let’s follow up on what happens to glucose and how it gets transformed and stored in the body’s cells. The easiest way to do that might be to start at the end and work backwards. The body’s cells stored energy in packets (really called molecules but I think packets describes them better) known as ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate).

So where does ATP come from? We have already discovered that one result of digestion is the formation of glucose or blood sugar. As blood circulates through the body the cells take in glucose. They do that using ‘catchers’ (for want of a better word) that transport glucose into the cell body.

But there’s still more that needs to happen – as I mentioned the glucose has to be transformed into usable energy. The main way that is done is through the mitochondria of the cell. Mitochondria are sites on the interior walls of cells where chemical reactions can take place. They take up glucose and oxygen and use them to produce ATP in a process called cellular respiration. Right, so we’ve this ATP stuff loaded up and waiting in the body’s cell waiting to spring into action but how do we actually release the energy so we can use it?

I hate to say it again… but there’s still more! To release the ATP energy we need to break one of the chemical bonds that hold it together. Imagine you have a coiled spring tied up tightly with string. It can’t uncoil until the string is broken… then wow, look at it go! It works much the same way with ATP except that the string is replaced with a high-energy bond between its molecules.

But, of course we can’t simply cut the ATP bonds with scissors – it’s a bit more sophisticated than that.. In fact, it requires a special enzyme to facilitate a reaction that converts ATP into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) – can you see how we’ve gone from tri- (3) to di- (2)? That result is important since breaking one of the bonds is what is required to release energy to help maintain our life-force.

However, a cell can only hold a small amount of energy and although we have millions of cells, they need to keep producing ATP and to break it down to release its energy. Fortunately, it is not necessary to rely solely on producing brand new ATP since reversing the chemical reaction that transformed ATP into ADP will reconstitute ATP – a bit like recycling/recharging a battery). That ATP is then available for breaking down and releasing energy. ATP can also be formed from other substances in the body but that is not addressed here.

It seems a long time since I first mentioned enzymes… but I haven’t forgotten them. In essence, enzymes assist in the digestion of food by making the digestive process more efficient. As I said previously, the two types of enzymes we need to consider are: food enzymes and digestive enzymes (produced primarily by the pancreas).

As you might expect food enzymes are found in food. Nothing very profound there, but the question to ask is why are they there – what do they do? Okay, a warning here that we are about to enter potentially hostile territory. Raw food advocates claim that food enzymes assist in food digestion in the stomach. They also claim that the body uses less of its digestive enzymes which they also believe are limited to a finite supply

Personally, I don’t subscribe to those views, but don’t let me stop you. I believe that the primary purpose of food enzymes relates directly to the particular food in which they are found..Basically, their role in that food is to facilitate chemical reactions that commence under favourable conditions the transformation of the composition and nutrient content of that food. So as I see it their role is primarily outside the body. What I’m saying is that they render the food more readily digestible and more nutritious but it’s an external process.

Examples would include the sprouting of seeds which renders them more readily digestible and significantly increases their nutritional content and the ripening of bananas during which starch is progressively transformed into sugars.

Because I think primary role of food enzymes lies outside the stomach, in my opinion, it follows that they have little value as an aid to the internal digestive process. In fact I can’t see why food enzymes shouldn’t be considered by digestive enzymes as proteins and treated accordingly.

Nor do I support the claim that there is a finite supply of digestive enzymes with the implication that once that’s used up – well, it’s goodbye! I think there may be some confusion in that the efficiency of the pancreas may become impaired through abuse and that may inhibit the production of sufficient digestive enzymes.. Keeping the pancreas healthy should help maintain the necessary supply of digestive enzymes throughout life.

Raw or cooked?

Another area of debate relates to the relative nutritional value and enzyme content of raw versus cooked food. Raw food advocates claim that cooking destroys all food enzymes and significantly reduces its nutrient value.

It is true that cooking can destroy enzymes. It is also true that cooking can reduce the nutritive value as measured, for example, by vitamin and mineral content. However, it is not quite as black and white as raw food advocates claim.

Why? Well the amount of reduction depends very much on the method and duration of cooking. The method of cooking determines the temperature to which the food is subjected and whether the process is moist or dry. There is a marked difference, for example, between the effects of steaming and baking. The former maintains a temperature of boiling water and ensures a moist environment while the latter requires higher temperatures, takes place in a dry environment and for a longer duration. My preferred methods of cooking in order of choice are: steaming; poaching; and stir-fry.

Charcoal/flame grilling potentially introduces additional concerns that relate to the nature of the compounds formed on the food during those methods.

I am not at all keen on microwave cooking. Maybe it’s my ignorance but it seems to me to be an unnatural way to cook. I think I can understand how conventional cooking excites food molecules and weakens their bonds through the application of external heat. That is, heating from the outside in.

It seems to me that microwaves heat the food from inside out by beaming straight into the food molecules. What happens then is anyone’s guess but I suspect that such drastic action bursts open the cell walls and out pours all the nutrients and they too get bombarded. As I say maybe I avoid microwave cooking out of ignorance – but I’m glad I do!.

Some reports suggest that a reduction of about 20-30{bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} in nutritive content can be expected from careful cooking of vegetables. But that’s still not all the story…

Cooking of some vegetables actually increases nutrient availability – in other words makes the nutrients more readily available in the digestive process. So we need to weigh up the potential loss of nutrient content against the gain in bioavailability. Still further, we need to recognise that the mineral content is not significantly affected by cooking.

My raw versus cooked food balance. As a general rule I aim for about 40-50{bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} raw and 50-60{bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} cooked depending on the season.

Summary

All this talk of food is making me feel hungry, so let’s sum up what we’ve discovered on our journey “beyond the dinner plate”.

· Our focus has been on vitality (life-force) – the energy we need to be able to do anything.
· There are 3 sources of life-force: that which we’re born with; the air we breathe and food.
· The energy from the air we breathe is readily available, that from food is not
· Digestion is only part of the process by which we transform food into available energy
· Energy is stored in the cells and has to be released before it can be used
· A product of digestion is blood sugar or glucose.
· Glucose is not energy, it has to be transformed into energy
· The transformation of glucose into energy occurs in the cells through a process called respiration and the result is ATP.
· A high-energy bond in ATP has to be broken before the energy can be released.
· Enzymes are catalysts in that they make chemical reactions more efficient without changing themselves
· The most important enzymes contributing to maintaining life-force are: food enzymes and digestive enzymes.
· Food enzymes contribute very little to the internal digestive process and act externally on the particular food that contains them.
· We can continue producing digestive enzymes as long as the pancreas is in good working order – the idea of a finite supply doesn’t ring true.
· Cooking food does destroy food enzymes but they are not really needed for the internal digestive process.
· Cooking also reduces nutrient content by about 20-30{bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} but may increase nutrient availability.
· Around 40-50 {bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} raw food in the diet is suggested, depending on the season.

Well, after all that I’m off for a charcoal chicken, bucket of fries and a chocolate chip sundae heaped with cream. Only joking!!

I trust you found some food for thought on the journey exploring the hidden mysteries of food or as I like to call it looking “beyond the dinner plate“.

 

List of Raw Foods

The foods list that is a part of the popular raw food diet is immense. It contains an almost unending variety of unprocessed and uncooked plant food items that will improve your health and your lifestyle.

The List

The list of these foods contains fruits, vegetables, sprouts, and a few processed food items. You can enjoy fresh foods like:

  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Greens
  • Squash
  • Tangelos
  • Kumquats
  • Washington cherries

This is just a short list of the interesting foods that can be included on this diet. There are so many more!

You can enjoy processed foods made with items from the list. Fermented food items like kimchee and miso, nut butters made with raw nuts, milks from raw nuts, pure maple syrup, and other raw prepared food items.

Improve Your Health

Items from the list will immediately improve your health once you begin the this diet. Science has shown that heating food above 116°F, when it is warm to the touch, destroys healthy nutrients.

The most important nutrients destroyed in the cooking process are the digestive enzymes. These enzymes work to break down and help the body absorb the food you eat.

You are born with a supply of digestive enzymes which are depleted over time. These foods replace these enzymes. If your body does not have enough working digestive enzymes the food you eat will not break down properly and when stored in your body it can become toxic. This eventually leads to disease and other physical and mental illnesses.

Exciting Food Choices

There is a common misconception that foods on this list are boring. Not so, say raw foodists. You can combine raw foods and use various preparation methods to create exciting and delicious meals.

One perennial favorite with everyone is pizza. If you like traditional pizza you will love a pizza made from raw foods. The Living Pizza contains a crust made from sprouts, seeds, veggies, and grains. The sauce is made from fresh tomatoes that have been dried in the sun, garlic, and other herbs. For the topping you can create a luscious cheesy mixture from nuts, vegetables like mushrooms and avocados, herbs, and spices.

Even tempting desserts can be made from the this foods list. A to-die-for cannoli is easy to prepare. The outside shell is made of wheat berries, (sprouted), and dates. A sweet and tasty center is created using a mixture of nuts, lemon juice, and fresh honey.

A new vegan raw food diet suggests very specific diet choices. Dr. Douglas Graham urges followers to eat 80 percent carbohydrates, 10 percent fats, and 10 percent proteins. This diet mimics the natural makeup of your body which makes it one of the best and healthiest raw food diets.

Prepping Raw Foods

There are several preparation methods that raw foodists employ when preparing meals. You will need a dehydrator, a juicer, and a food processor to begin creating delicious and complete breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

A dehydrator absorbs all of the moisture from foods on this foods list. This important piece of equipment is used to give a different texture to raw foods. In the above recipes a dehydrator was used to create both the Living Pizza crust and the cannoli wrapper.

A juicer can be used with any of the fruits and vegetables on this foods list. You can make standard juices or juice food items to use as a binder or a sauce when creating meals.

Many of the items on the list of raw foods require chopping. A food processor makes this a simple process. It will shorten your food preparation time and give you nice textures and an even consistency.

As you can see, this foods list can be used to create exciting menus. It is so extensive and inclusive you will even find raw foods such as salads and raw vegetable platters on restaurant menus. Switch to this diet and enjoy a colorful and fresh variety of living foods.

 

How To Make Healthy Food Can Taste Better Than You Think

I believe that virtually everyone wants to eat healthier, but there are a number of things that seem always get in the way. One of the biggest problems for people, especially those who generally eat unhealthy foods, is that healthier foods typically don’t taste as good as the foods they are used to eating. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people try healthy foods and say things like, “This tastes like sawdust” or “I might as well be eating cardboard.” Obviously, this is problematic, because if you can’t stand the taste of healthy foods, you will probably continue eating unhealthy foods.

First, I want to say that while healthy foods have a stereotype of being bland or tasting bad, they have come a long way over the years from a taste standpoint. Also, many herbs and spices can be added to healthy foods to add more flavor without making them unhealthier, so there are definitely options. On the other hand, some people still do not like the taste of these foods or do not have the time or want to spend the effort to mix in herbs/spices or cook meals themselves in order to make the food taste better. If this is the case for you, don’t worry, because there is an easy way to make healthy foods taste better, especially if you currently eat a lot of foods high in fat and sugar.

Before moving on, I should make sure that you don’t get your expectations too high. If you love chocolate, it isn’t realistic to think that natural healthy foods will taste as good as chocolate, but they will probably taste significantly better than they do right now. They may even end up tasting better than you ever thought they could. If you are serious about improving your nutrition and want healthy foods to taste better, the thing you should do is simply eat more healthy foods and cut back on fat and sugar, especially refined sugars such as sucrose (basic white/table sugar).

I know that probably wasn’t the advice you wanted to hear, but bear with me. When healthy foods “taste bad” or “have no flavor,” the issue is often not the food itself, but rather your taste buds. When you eat a lot of sugary and fatty foods, your taste buds become accustomed to the high level of sweetness/richness, which actually changes the way you taste less flavorful or unsweetened foods. As a result, healthy and natural foods generally end up tasting worse than they should.

My guess is you already have some experience transitioning from a richer flavor food to a “less flavorful” version of the same food. Over the years, many people have switched from whole milk to 2{bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} or fat-free milk, regular soda to diet soda, fried chicken to baked chicken, etc. There are many different situations where people stop eating an unhealthy food and replace it with something that is at least somewhat healthier.

At the beginning of this type of change, the new food (with less fat and/or sugar) will probably taste worse to you than the old food. For instance, when people first switch from high-fat milk to low-fat milk, they typically say the lower fat milk has less taste or tastes like water. However, after drinking the lower fat milk for a while, your taste buds will change and it will start tasting like the higher fat milk did before. At this point, if you try the higher fat milk again, you may think it will taste rich or fatty and you may even prefer the taste of the lower fat milk.

This type of change in the way foods taste not only happens with foods that are high in fat or sugar, like whole milk and soda, but it also happens with foods high in complex carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, bread, and cereal. Many people eat more refined carbohydrate products, such as white rice, white pasta, or non whole-grain cereals (usually with added sugar), but it would be healthier to eat brown rice, whole grain bread/pasta, and whole grain cereals with minimal sugars.

As with milk, the healthier products may not taste good at first, especially if you have always eaten the products made with refined carbohydrates, but that will change with time. In some cases it can be a different texture, smell, or perceived lack of flavor that turns people off from these healthier alternatives, but once your taste buds adapt to the new foods, you will notice more flavor and eventually they won’t seem much different from the foods you used to eat.

So far I have only discussed the way tastes change when you stop eating one food and replace it with a similar healthier food, but these changes take place on a more general level as well. Basically, the more you eat foods that are high in processed fats and carbs, the worse natural healthy foods will taste to you. If you are able to decrease you overall intake of unhealthy fats and sugars, you will find that many other healthy foods that you thought were bland actually do have a decent amount of flavor.

On the other hand, if you keep eating higher amounts of sugary and fatty foods and only change one specific food, such as white bread to whole grain bread, you will not get the added benefit having other healthy foods taste better. This is especially true with sugar consumption, because when you eat a lot of sugar, things without sugar just do not taste as good. Your taste buds essentially become addicted to the taste of sugar, similar to the way your body can get addicted to caffeine. In these situations, the only way to get your taste buds back to normal is by drastically cutting back on your sugar intake.

If you have been having trouble eating healthier foods, because they don’t taste good to you, I hope this information helps motivate you to keep trying. Sometimes it does take a few weeks or even months, depending on how much unhealthy food you eat, but eventually healthy foods will start tasting better. Admittedly, switching from unhealthier foods to healthy ones is not a fun process, but once you get through it, you never have to do it again (assuming you continue eating healthy).

After this process, many healthy foods you once considered tasteless or unpleasant may actually become things you like to eat. More importantly, your body will certainly feel better, you will be healthier, have more energy, and have an easier time losing fat than when you were eating unhealthier foods. There are so many upsides to eating healthier that it is certainly worth going through a few weeks of eating foods that don’t taste very good. In any case, you will have to go through it at some point, so it is better just to get it over with so you can start enjoying the real taste of healthier foods.

 

Food Craving and Emotional Eating

Why Do We Have Food Cravings?

One important factor which may influence appetite control is the notion of food cravings. This overwhelming urge to consume a particular food appears strong in overweight dieters, and many theories has posited why this is so. The nutritional and homeostatic role of food cravings is described by physiological theories and explains why cravings might be more present in people who are deprived of food. The psychoactive abilities of certain foods to trigger cravings are likened to a self-medication behaviour and thought to relieve a central serotonin deficits. Psychological theories stress the role of negatives emotions (e.g. anger) as triggers for cravings and learning theories claim that cravings are a positive learnt response to cues (sensory, situational) and giving into a craving results in a pleasurable consequence. What is evident here is that food cravings are a multi-dimensional and complex occurrence, one which possibly involves aspects of all of the proposed theories.

Whatever the reason, it is suggested that food cravings frequently lead to consumption of the craved food and elevated Body Mass Index is associated with food intake and preference for high fat foods. Even in non-clinical samples, food craving has been found to be related to body weight, suggesting the significant role of craving in food consumption. Early identification of elevated body mass indexes (BMI), medical risks, and unhealthy eating and physical activity habits may be essential to the future prevention of obesity. One crucial question is the role food cravings may play in maintaining excessive eating patterns observed in other problems with eating behaviours: binge eating, bulimia, and obesity.

Food Cravings and Weight Gain: The Missing Link

There is thorough and outstanding evidence regarding the increase in worldwide rates of obesity and the projected outcomes if this is not addressed. Children in particular are noted as being especially at risk of future long term health problems. While dietary restraint, more nutritious eating habits and physical exercise have always been purported to be the answer to the obesity crisis in adults, adolescents and children, long term meta analysis and follow-up studies indicate that weight loss is not maintained (and indeed the more time that elapses between the end of a diet and the follow-up, the more weight is regained). Unfortunately, several other studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.

A recent study conducted by Patricia Goodspeed Grant (2008) involved investigating the psychological, cultural and social contributions to overeating in obese people. She found that eating for comfort for the morbidly obese is rooted in using food to manage experiences of emotional pain and difficult family and social relationships. Her participants reported that what had been missing from all treatment programs they had tried was the “opportunity to work on the psychological issues concurrently with weight loss”.

It appears that a missing link in the treatment of overweight and obesity is this concept and issue of addressing the psychological contributors or emotional drivers that are leading people to overeat. Relying on willpower and education is clearly not enough.

Motivation Issues

Humans are only motivated by feelings (i.e. sensations). There are basically three types of feelings; pleasant, neutral and unpleasant. The motivation we get from the unpleasant feeling is to move towards a feeling we do not have, but do want. We move away from the unpleasant feeling by replacing it with a different pleasant (or neutral) feeling.

Hunger, is an unpleasant sensation (for most people) and is relieved by the pleasant sensation (for most people) of eating and the taste of food. Like other basic functions, this is so that we can survive, individually and as a species. Most of us prefer pleasant sensations over unpleasant sensations. But pleasant sensations are not always matched with the outcome that they were designed for. Many people eat, not because they need nutrition, but because they feel an unpleasant emotion, like rejection, loneliness, distress, depression, fear, betrayal, worthlessness, defeat, helplessness or hopelessness. This emotional over-consumption of food often leads to fat-gain and other health problems. This can then create a vicious cycle of more emotional eating to manage the emotional consequences of becoming overweight and unhealthy.

For children, excessive eating and binging are often a consequence of boredom and habit behaviours. Food or drinks are used to relieve the monotony. They can also be used as a coping strategy to deal with problems arising from anxiety, depression, stress and conflicts. Although they may feel comforted after consuming an amount of food, the person has not dealt with the underlying cause of these problems. This sets up a reward cycle of using food to get a better feeling. Consequently, there is no reason why they will not reoccur in the future. This can become a vicious cycle.

If a parent deals with their own emotional issues by eating and or over eating it is highly probable that the child will also do so. This pattern for coping is being modelled. Parents often find it difficult to tolerate their child’s disappointment or pain and are motivated to take this away. If food is used regularly as a means of doing this, for example, “Never mind not getting invited let’s go get a chocolate sundae,” a parent can be setting up a cycle of soothing uncomfortable feelings with the pleasure of food. This again can set up a pattern of eating to manage feelings. This is particularly a problem when there is no real discussion of the child’s pain or disappointment and instead food is just offered.

Have a think right now: why is it that you want to stop emotionally eating? You might immediately know, or you might have to think for some time. Finish this sentence out loud:

When I stop eating in response to my emotions, I will…

Your answer/s will give you some insight into how you are motivated.

If you are motivated towards pleasurable outcomes, you might have said things like:
• When I stop eating in response to my emotions I will be able to buy clothes ‘off the rack’ in the shops
• When I stop eating in response to my emotions I will be happy

If you are motivated away from negative outcomes your answers may reflect:
• When I stop eating in response to my emotions I will not be uncomfortable in my clothes anymore
• When I stop eating in response to my emotions I will be able to throw away my ‘fat’ clothes

You have probably noticed the patterns here. Moving towards pleasurable outcomes or away from a negative one, affects how we think, feel and behave. You might find that you have a combination of moving towards some outcomes and away from others. This is fine too. More often than not, we are primarily subconsciously motivated in one direction.

Motivation has also been shown to exist either as an internal characteristic or as an external factor in people in general. Internal motivation is linked to neurological circuitry in the left prefrontal lobe; the feelings of accomplishment, passion for work, excitement in our day all link to the left prefrontal cortex. It is this area of the brain, which governs motivating behaviour. It discourages pessimistic feelings and encourages action. The reality is that some people naturally possess a high level of this internal motivation; those who focus on the internal feelings of satisfaction they will attain despite any difficulties they face along the way. However others require more than this.

External motivation is any external influence or stimuli to generate positive behaviour. These might include monetary rewards such as bonuses, tangible recognition or honour, prizes, or other incentives. The reality is, despite such rewards motivating behaviour in the short term, it has been shown that no amount of bonuses or acknowledgment will inspire people to use their fullest potential to keep moving towards their goals. So what does it take?

You might have already noticed with exercise that no matter how many personal trainers you hire, how many motivational exercise tapes you purchase or classes you attend, eventually you lose interest and go back to your old behaviour. This is because all of those things are forms of external motivation. There is nothing wrong with them – some people thrive on external motivation and do very well with it. However, sometimes your behaviour does drop off when you cease getting the drive from an external source. Let’s face it, if you had a personal trainer at your door every single day for the rest of your life and a personal chef in the kitchen preparing nutritious balanced meals forever, then yes, you would be motivated to lose weight and become fitter. Such full time assistance is not a reality for most of us.

Sometimes people FIND the internal source of motivation they need to lose weight from an external source and this can help them get started. Here’s Mercedes’ story.

Mercedes had tried to lose weight for years. She was a clerk in the local library and thoroughly enjoyed her work and her food. She noticed over years of living a fairly sedentary lifestyle, with little exercise and a whole lot of reading in her spare time that the pounds had crept on. She was an accomplished cook and took pleasure in preparing meals for herself out of gourmet magazines from the library. She wasn’t really worried about her weight but it was always in the back of her mind that she should do something about it. It wasn’t until she noticed a regular visitor to the library every evening that she paid attention.

Jon was studying for his final exams in accountancy and because he still lived at home with his rowdy younger brothers and sisters, he began taking to the library every evening for the peace and quiet. He found Mercedes to be very knowledgeable and helpful with finding him necessary reference programs and they struck up a friendly rapport. Mercedes noticed that she started to look forward to her time every evening chatting to Jon and after the first compliment he made about her hair, she proceeded to take more time with her appearance. Jon was really the first man who had ever noticed her as a woman. Unbeknown to him, Mercedes began watching her meals and even started parking her car further from work to get some exercise each day, in the hope of slimming down.

Mercedes and Jon remained good friends and while nothing particularly romantic ever happened between them, Mercedes felt inspired to continue her grooming routine and eventually met her future husband while power walking on the weekend. He had lived two doors from her for years and they had never noticed each other!

Are you motivated toward a reward? Or away from a painful outcome?

Your subconscious mind is actually equipped to lead you towards something you want, rather than away from something you don’t want.

The same happens when we need to achieve a goal such as weight loss – we need to look where we are going. When focusing on losing weight most people are focused on wanting to move away from what they don’t want, or the negative situation. Rather than focus on wanting to loose weight to move away from your current position, focus on the positives of becoming slim, healthy or fitter. This is moving towards the positive rather than moving away from the negative.

Here is a simple exercise which will prove to you your subconscious is on the alert 24 hours a day: on the way home today, choose a make, model and colour of vehicle- anything will do. Start to think about it consciously. And then start to look around and see how many you can count on the way home. Really look hard – you will find them everywhere! How was it that on the way to work you didn’t notice any? You were not tuned in, that’s all.

What’s Driving Your Eating?

Many people suffer from food cravings at times when they are having a strong feeling. Others report a history of feeling criticized and judged by important others for their choices or the way they look, eat or feel. Feelings of shame and guilt about eating behaviours, looks or perceived lack of control are also common for people. Others report anger and annoyance that to be the shape they want, they have to eat differently to others and feel deprived (victimized/ not normal). Many are afraid to change their shape because this has helped them hide or protected them from hurt or intimacy. Many have tried changing their body shape so many times they do not believe they can succeed, or feel undeserving of success because they have a deeper sense of unworthiness.

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is the practice of consuming quantities of food — usually “comfort” or junk foods — in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75{bc59dac93abfbd27789a4a706f124afee4fd953a0d909d1609d14aaddbe76c73} of overeating is caused by emotions. Many of us learn that food can bring comfort, at least in the short-term. As a result, we often turn to food to heal emotional problems or take away discomfort. Eating to self soothe becomes a habit preventing us from learning skills that can effectively resolve our emotional distress.

Depression, boredom, loneliness, chronic anger, anxiety, frustration, stress, problems with interpersonal relationships and poor self-esteem can result in overeating and unwanted weight gain. There are 2 types of emotional eating in which people engage:

1. Deprivation-sensitive binge eating: appears to be the result of weight loss diets or periods of restrictive eating (yoyo dieters)
2. Addictive or dissociative binge eating: process of self-medicating or self-soothing with food unrelated to prior restricting (have you ever eaten a whole packet of something, before you realised it was gone?)

By identifying what triggers our emotional eating, we can substitute more appropriate techniques to manage our emotional problems and take food and weight gain out of the equation. Situations and emotions that trigger us to eat fall into five main categories:

1. Social. Eating when around other people. For example, excessive eating can result from being encouraged by others to eat; eating to fit in; arguing; or feelings of inadequacy around other people.
2. Emotional. Eating in response to boredom, stress, fatigue, tension, depression, anger, anxiety, loneliness as a way to “fill the void” or in response to feelings arising from memories of past negative experiences.
3. Situational. Eating because the opportunity is there. For example, at a restaurant, seeing an advertisement for a particular food, passing by a bakery. Eating may also be associated with certain activities such as watching TV, going to the movies or a sporting event.
4. Thoughts. Eating as a result of negative self-worth or making excuses for eating. For example, scolding oneself for looks or a lack of will power.
5. Physiological. Eating in response to physical cues. For example, increased hunger due to skipping meals or eating to cure headaches or other pain.

Some useful questions to ask yourself that might help you find some of your beliefs or issues include:
• Do you remember any times you were ashamed about your body or had others say things about you that you felt ashamed of yourself?
• When was the last time you were at your goal weight/shape? What was happening at that time?
• What are your attitudes about overweight people? What were the attitudes of important others about overweight people?
• What patterns exist in your family about food? Was it used to show love or as a punishment?
• What statements do you say to yourself that are self defeating, hurtful and holding you back from getting what you want. Some examples include:
– It’s in my genes,
– I’ve never been slim so I can’t be
– I’ll always be fat
– I’m the fat funny one
– If I let anyone get close to me they will hurt me
– My friends/family won’t like me anymore

It is useful to ask yourself:
1. What are the benefits of staying overweight?
2. What do you have to give up to achieve your goal?
3. Do you use food as your main reward either for yourself or your children?

Read these questions out loud then sit quietly and listen to what you say to yourself. Write down your answers. Remember, the more honest you are with your thoughts and feelings, the more profound change you are able to achieve.

Recent Research Tackling Food Cravings!

A recent randomised clinical trial tested whether The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) could reduce food cravings in participants under laboratory-controlled conditions. Ninety-six overweight or obese adults who were allocated to the EFT treatment or 4-week waitlist condition. The waitlist condition received treatment after completion of the test period. Degree of food craving, perceived power of food, restraint capabilities and psychological symptoms were assessed pre- and post- a four week EFT treatment program, at 6- and 12-month follow-up. EFT was associated with a significantly greater improvement in food cravings, the subjective power of food and craving restraint than waitlist from pre- to immediately post-test. At 6-months, an improvement in food cravings and the subjective power of food after treatment was maintained and a delayed effect was seen for restraint. At 12-months an improvement in food cravings and the subjective power of food after treatment was maintained, and a significant reduction in Body Mass Index (BMI) occurred from pre- to 12-months.

EFT as a therapy belongs to a group of therapies termed ‘energy psychology’ (EP) and similar treatments would include Thought Field Therapy (TFT), EMDR, and Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT). EFT was originally designed as a simplified version of TFT. Based on acupuncture principles, Callahan (2000) suggested that a brief tapping procedure may be successfully used to treat almost any emotional disorder. Specific problems have a tailored procedure and after diagnosis, the process involves tapping on specific meridian points on one’s body while focusing the mind on the source of the distressing situation. The tapping is suggested to create energy.

It seems EFT can have an immediate effect on reducing food cravings, result in maintaining reduced cravings over time and impact upon BMI in overweight and obese individuals. This addition to weight loss/dietary programs may result in assisting people to achieve and maintain reduced food cravings and lose weight.