Your brain, cravings, binges, and eating mindfully
As you know different parts of our brain have different responsibilities. You need both the yin & the yang to survive, but understanding how things work and the control YOU have can help you unlock a toolset to reach your goals faster!
The mid-brain (what I will refer to as the 'Animalistic Brain') acts and reacts on instinct and/or without much thought. This Animalistic Brain is where survival impulses originate; think insatiable cravings and binge eating and drinking (yes, this refers to drinking alcohol too). For example, if a plate of food (you may not even like) is put in front of you and you instantly start snacking that’s the Animalistic Brain reacting.
Take a step back:
- In the situation did you ever stop to think if you were hungry?
- Did you register if you like the taste of what was put in front of you?
- Did you ask yourself how eating that will make you feel?
- Did you consider your food sensitivities that you may be ignoring?
Another great example of the Animalistic Brain: have you even been in the situation where you bring the whole bag of chips to the couch, watch TV while you eat, and later realize you mindlessly ate the entire bag? Your Animalistic Brain will grab food without processing or even asking the rest of your body/mind if it is:
- Actually hungry
- Enjoys this type of food
- How eating it will make you feel while/after digesting and in the long-run
Your Animalistic Brain will run wild with cravings and binges if you let it. I have been there—it can be hard to control. We move so fast in life we sometimes forget to check in with our bodies and see how we truly feel. I have been in situations where I have shoveled food into my mouth knowing dairy upsets my stomach, but I never took the time to slow down for a minute and process my next steps, think about what I was doing and the consequences only to later regret the decision I do not even remember making—because it was so fast (animal instinct).
Mindfully checking into our bodies to best fuel them is an incredibly important habit to create.
We now know the instinctual tendencies of the Animalistic Brain—I like to envision it as an entity with a big mouth chomping away showing its teeth and spitting food while it talks. Luckily we do have another part of our brain that can help calm the Animalistic tendencies IF you listen to it. Sitting quietly in the corner drinking tea is the what I will refer to as the Logical Brain—the part of our brain that calmly states it does not favor one food over another, is full after a meal, and makes decisions after considering all other parties involved (hunger cues, stomach feelings, long-term goals, brain power, etc.).
Unfortunately the logical brain is not the type to shout out over a crowd to get your attention. It takes mental strength to listen to the Logical Brain because it is a bit slower to respond and requires a calm state to be heard.
Some tricks to help you listen to the Logical Brain:
- When food is presented, eating at a restaurant, at a friends house take a deep breath
- Do a quick scan of your body and see how you are feeling (mentally, physically, emotionally and what different body parts are feeling)
- As yourself if you are filling an emotional void with food or if you are actually hungry. If it is an emotional void: how can you better serve that feeling (walk, exercise, music, sunshine, shower, self-care, shopping, any non-consumable reward)
- Drink a glass of water - sometimes your mind can miss diagnose hunger for dehydration
- Go through a quick roll sheet of your long-term goals while you sip
- Allow the Logical Brain to speak and listen whether your next actions will help your long-term goals or not
- Try adding meditative experiences to your day like yoga, meditation, quiet time, appreciation, journaling to help you slow down
The fastest way to accomplish anything is to make it a habit. Try at least one of these quick tricks next time you have crazy cravings, are presented food, sit down at a restaurant, or walk to the fridge and open it 5 times hoping something different will magically appear.
I struggled to listen to my Logical Brain for years. Feeling as though I didn't have the power to control this, not slowing down, and not taking a calm approach to eating kept me from reaching my goals for too long. I finally became so fed up with my Animalistic Brain that I knew it was time to change. I do not want you to have to waste any more time, so that is why I am sharing this with you.
I hope that is helps at least one person realize they are not alone, they are wired this way, and now that you are aware of how things work you have the tools to overcome this challenge and reach your goals faster!