Are you one of those people who would live off chocolate cake and hot chips if it was as good for you as steamed broccoli and rice? It is strange because we are not born loving junk food, or preferring it over healthy food, it is something that happens over time. Maybe it happens after repeatedly eating the unhealthy options easily available to us, or from childhood when eating it as a ‘treat’ puts it into our minds as something special. Or maybe it is just all the chemicals, fats and sugars put into junk food to tempt our taste buds! Whatever it is, most of us have some type of junk food that we would eat all the time if it was healthy.
The habit of enjoying unhealthy food usually starts from a young age. Think of it this way; you have a young child who loves their Weetabix in the morning. You give it to them with milk and maybe some sliced fruit and they love it, just as it is. Then one day you sprinkle sugar on it and from then on they are likely going to be asking for it that way all the time! Even though they loved it before, the refined sugars excite their young taste buds and from then on that is the only way they like it. Food can be addictive and we can fall into the trap of unhealthy choices quite easily. The problem is that having an addiction to unhealthy food can be hard to kick and this is where a lot of overweight people struggle.
It is not as though we can just take back all the unhealthy foods we have eaten and grown to love, so that we don’t miss them (and maybe we wouldn’t even want to!) - What we can do is work on training the brain to enjoy the healthy foods we eat as much (if not more) as the unhealthy foods we have available.
So how can we help train our brains?
Implement positive habits - It is incredible how addictive the brain/body can be. Sugar for example actually has such an impact on the body that if you have a large hit of it (say you eat a chocolate bar one evening) your body will actually crave it again at the same time the following evening! So by consciously training the body, through abstaining from late night sweet treats, you are reconditioning what it expects and reducing your cravings. It might take a few days to a week to retrain it, but it does work! The same thing applies to wanting sugar in your tea/coffee… If you have it without for a few days, it might not be as enjoyable as you normally like, but over a week or so you will no longer crave the sweet kick you once did!
Learn about nutrition - Learning about nutrition, and how your body uses both nutritious and less nutritious foods, is an excellent way of retraining your brain. Actually knowing all the good things those healthy choices are doing for you, as well as understanding how the body struggles to digest the less healthy things, can actually help change your whole perspective of what you put into your body!
Feel the difference - Pay attention to how you feel after a healthy meal choice as opposed to an unhealthy choice. It is amazing the differences you can feel energetically, mentally, emotionally and of course physically after eating a bag of hot chips, as opposed to a healthy vegetable soup, salad or sandwich! As you tune into how your body and mind react differently to different types of foods, you will find that you might opt for a healthier option over an unhealthy one, just to help you get the most out of your day!
Of course as with everything, a little bit of naughty is good for the soul, so I am not trying to encourage you abstain from everything you enjoy. However through educating yourself, understanding how your body reacts, and implementing some positive changes in habits, you can help retrain the way you think about food!