Whilst Intelligent Eating is about food; it goes far deeper and I’ll explore that here.
Food is relevant, however, here you can apply this to ALL behaviour, be it chasing likes on social media or otherwise (spolier – this is a problem), read on…
Let’s be really honest with ourselves, we all have some behaviours that ultimately don’t serve us to develop ourselves to be our best.
And that’s okay, not one single person has everything just right all the time but we should explore this in more detail and what drives these behaviours and why we do what we do.
At times it’s REALLY HARD to not eat what you know you shouldn’t. (For everyone)
Or do stuff… or not do stuff but why?
The answer is you are being tricked for lack of a better word. Most commonly it’s with food but the exact same mechanism applies to alcohol, other drugs, sex, gambling and almost any behaviour that provides instant pleasure, which is VERY different to happiness. And, no it’s not just “dopamine”, that’s the “I don’t know what I’m talking about starter pack..”
The list is absolutely huge, it can be chasing followers, likes, a bigger house, whatever – but there is something more at play driving these behaviours. You can read more about this if you want to explore it in part by searching for ‘attention economy’ that describes part of this.
YOU, are an exquisitely designed machine with a beautiful brain and wonderful nervous system which will always act in your interests to ensure your survival and ensure the continuation of our species.
Absolutely those translate as food and sex but how does this play out?
Well, for our ancestors it was pretty straightforward; our instincts provided signals (feelings) that we were doing the right or wrong thing.
For example, if there was a food source nearby we would move near to it; assuming there weren’t predators or other risks nearby. We would constantly be running a cost:benefit and a risk:reward calculation to make decisions. The same applies if we are close to fast moving water vs a stagnant pond for drinking water. The fast moving water has less probability of harmful bacteria so we gravitate towards that. Notice how every major city has a big river? That’s your answer. It’s not simple for trade, but our very existence.
And we still do exactly that.
For our ancestors this was simple. Get it while it’s good and thou shall survive. And we have. There is a problem though and that problem is our brains work almost identically now to those of our ancestors yet our environment has changed radically. This sounds obvious but let’s continue.
The best is yet to come as they say… You can get it while it good 24/7/365 – yeah even on Christmas day you can sneak off…
You see, pleasure is the end goal and that actually for animals is orgasm. That is peak dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and a ton of other neurotransmitters that signal to us that we are doing the right thing. Remember these signals manifest as feelings.
The road to pleasure is not a simple one, but one of following a guidance system and that system is called happiness. You start conversing with someone, you like them and you experience ‘feelings’ of happiness. These are just signals in your brain that you are on the right track towards pleasure.
Cool, so what? Well, this works in every way that we interact with others. The three primary ways being trade, friendship, and romance.
You have a great day at work, and you feel happy. Have a shit day at work, you feel sad. Happiness is purely a guidance system.
And it’s the same when you start interacting with a potential new partner; if you like each other then you will experience feelings of happiness. Your brain is saying “yo, you’re on the right path here towards pleasure”. It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you have kids or not or your age; our DNA determines our guidance systems through our neural circuitry, nothing else. DNA doesn’t care about your beliefs, it cares about replication.
Happiness is a system put in place to ensure that we make the best possible decisions to continue the species. That’s it.
So, to summarise this part:
Happiness = a guidance system to let us know we are doing the right thing.
Pleasure = the result of typically thousands of data points of happiness.
Now consider throwing in the mix if the data points aren’t accurate, for example super normal stimuli with hyper-addictive food, internet followers and so on.
Going back to some of the above, what if we can go directly to pleasure and/or our signals of happiness are false? What then?
Well, this is exactly what is happening to our species and by doing so we end up increasing the risk of making terrible mistakes because we either become misguided in our choices of happiness or we may go directly to pleasure.
This exquisitely designed brain and nervous system will produce errors; and in some cases, these errors result in diseases, they can result in the most terrible mental health problems and sometimes, the worst outcome.
So, now we understand what happiness is and what pleasure is. What should we do about it?
The key is down-regulation of these reward circuits in our brains and it’s not easy to do this in our modern environment. However, it can be fast.
Let’s take a few examples here. You walk into a coffee shop and you smell coffee; let’s say we remain in the coffee shop for 10 minutes… you no longer smell coffee anymore. Why?
Or let’s say you go to a swimming pool and you dip your toe in the water and it feels cold yet after being in the water for a few minutes it doesn’t feel cold anymore.
What has just happened? Has someone changed the air in the coffee shop to remove the smell? Has the water temperature changed in a few minutes? No.
What this is demonstrating is a process called neural adaptation. Or more simply ‘getting used to it’
Our brains have a regulatory system that operates within certain parameters and works well, when within those parameters. However, if we go beyond those, we have problems; in essence, we break the system.
This is exactly the same with food.
So how do you fix it?
Well, the most powerful way to increase the sensitivity of any organism is through deprivation. Go without food for 24 hours and pretty much anything you eat will taste amazing. Even look at food when you’re absolutely stuffed and you likely won’t be interested. Deprivation is powerful.
The mechanism is identical to all of the above ‘false’ happiness signals and how to reset them. The caveats are unfortunately plural. Firstly, you must change the behaviour immediately after ending the deprivation, and secondly, the period of deprivation may be far far longer than 24 hours. There may also be withdrawl concerns so be careful depending on what the substance is and expect some turbulence along the way!
As a few examples of this, I had a lovely girl called Claire as a client. She’s 26 and couldn’t stop eating chocolate so we run a 24-hour fast and we broke the fast with melon and we kept going through fruits and then onto vegetables, then rice and potatoes and well, that was a year ago. She hasn’t eaten chocolate since. It’s still in her environment but she knows that that period of deprivation was difficult (I remember the texts; they weren’t very nice to me lol!) The other thing though is she lost 8kgs (17lbs) and feels great. It can be simple.
I had someone else with a very different problem; they were having terrible pains in their fingers. They went to their doctor who suggested it would resolve and to come back in a month if it didn’t. It didn’t so she was referred to rheumatology. Scans, blood tests, and a bunch of other stuff. Nothing showed up. What was going on? Well, only after I interogatted her lifestyle did I undercover that she was on her phone about 9 hours a day, bingo. Occam’s razor. So she deprived herself of her phone addiction which wasn’t easy but the pain was gone.
All my love,
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