The Psychology of Diet
How food impacts your life - In every way!
Starting a diet to get healthier may be one of the most difficult battles a modern human faces today. People today are constantly inundated with unhealthy options, making it an uphill battle. One can feel very overwhelmed, especially if you are surrounded by people not accepting of your diet. First, you must establish your why? Why are you doing this? Do you want to feel better 10 years from now? Do you want to be tired all the time or have the energy you had during your teen years? Questions are important as you must establish goals that correlate to a specific diet. This will be easier on the mind to accept the short term pain and discomfort of starting a new diet.
Sugar is everywhere and many are addicted. According to researchers at the University of North Carolina, 60% of foods and drinks that are purchased in American grocery stores include some form of added sugar. According to some scientists, sugar addiction is similar to other forms of drug addition like heroin, due to high dopamine levels in the brain. During sugar consumption, the body’s insulin spikes, glucose levels plummet, causing the body to get tired. The body responds by asking for more sugar to offset this imbalance, creating a constant cycle of dependence. This dependence creates obesity, diabetes, and chronic inflammation. This “tax” on the body means less energy to put toward living a productive life, and more energy toward fighting off the negative effects of sugar. Known as “crashing”, the bodily response to sugar will always be negative, rather than a positive response like eating meat for fuel. The saying, “you are what you eat”, rings very true when it comes to a one’s energy and well-being.
How important is food? Food is what fuels us. It keeps us strong, level-headed, and focused. Without food, our body withers away. According to Abraham Maslow, a human’s hierarchy of needs plays a pivotal role in living a successful life. Food, along with water, shelter, sleep, clothes, and health are the core foundational needs a human has in order to live. An individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher level needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization, follow the core Physiological needs respectively. An un-healthy person may find it difficult to advance to the next stage if basic needs are not met. Understanding the direct impact of food on brain function can help lead an individual “level-up” through the stages to self-actualization.
Food fuels our brain. It enables decision making, interpreting situations, and planning. Our brain must be fueled with fatty acids in order to be in an optimal state. It is essential to have optimal Omega 6-3 ratios. Most Americans on the Standard American Diet have extremely high ratios of 15:1, compared to our evolutionary, 1:1 ratio. High ratios create inflammation in the body and impair brain function. Eating more animal fats and wild caught fish, while reducing inflammatory foods, will improve your ratio.
Emotional eating can happen due to the brain interpreting situations in a fear based state. Food can be comforting and fear-suppressing due to “old ancestral programming” of food being the number one key for survival. When emotionally stressed our mind and body revert back to these antiquated ways in a modern, “food at any time” society. In order to fight against these tendencies, the gut-brain axis must be aligned in order to remain emotionally stable. When the brain interprets situations or thoughts in a negative way, this typically causes a fear-based response. Whether out of loneliness, dissatisfaction, perfectionism, embarrassment, humiliation, shame, lack of control, anger, or grief, the brain may interpret that as fear and respond in a negative way with food or other negative coping mechanisms. To combat this, one must link each situation and thought to a more positive reaction. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is built around an ideal person (free of stress, anxiety, fear). A stressful person will find it difficult to climb Maslow’s ladder. Limiting and erasing all thoughts of fear and uncertainty from the mind is paramount to achieving Self Actualization. One can pre-program their brain to reacting and eating optimally when faced with perceived pressure and stress. For example, one could prevent gut bacteria disruption during perceived stress by eating pastured, 100% grass-fed, chemical-free beef. Many people report feeling more calm and grounded after adding in more high-quality meat to their diet.
Common gut disruptors include glyphosate (herbicide), food with antibiotics, all forms of sugar, GMO food, artificial sweeteners, and gluten. The core science behind food and decision-making starts with gut microbes. The phrase “trust your gut” is said for a reason. The human gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (150 times more than human genes). Microbiota, in total, can weigh up to 4.41 lbs, with 2/3 of it being unique to the individual. According to Scott C. Anderson in Psychology Today, “A new study in Nature found that gut microbes are essential for extinguishing the fear response in mice.” Mice that were born and raised without any bacteria (germ-free), have an unusual response to stress. The study found that germ-free mice cannot unlearn fear, whereas normal mice can. The fear-response was initiated through a small foot shock right after a signal tone. After learning this association, the scientists stopped the shocks, but not the signal tones. The germ-free mice remained frozen in anticipation of a shock, whereas the healthy mice showed no reaction, no indication of fear. When the germ-free mice were given healthy microbes, the fear-response was quickly extinguished. This study shows that resistance to stress directly coincides with a healthy gut microbiome.
A starting point for people starting a diet includes setting goals, surrounding yourself with supportive people (such as Green Owl) and remaining focused by properly documenting your food choices and thoughts in a journal. Poor food patterns can be broken by adding nutritionally dense food that includes all forms of animal food.
At Green Owl, our pastured meats will satiate you and give you an abundance of vitamins and minerals. We understand how difficult is to adhere to a diet and stop eating detrimental foods. A healthy, planned-out, long term diet is much more conducive to contentment, happiness, and self-actualization, than an “eat whatever diet” of processed, chemically-ridden food. The change you make with your food choices will directly impact your future. It’s an essential human need that plays a major role in your life outcome. We are here as your pillar of life to support you on your life journey!