In April, The New Yorker had a very fascinating and insightful article entitled “Why Do We Eat and Why Do We Gain Weight,” which examined the interplay of psychology, physiology, evolutionary biology, and habits that determine why we eat, how much, how frequently, and the resultant weight gain. I highly recommend this article to anyone who is interested in this topic or has struggled with any of these issues (i.e. everyone!).
In case you don’t have time to read the whole article, I wanted to highlight a few sections that really stood out to me.
Reward v. Trigger
Lowe and his colleagues [at Drexel University, studying hunger for decades] observed the brain both when it’s anticipating tasty food and when the food is consumed, and found a disturbing pattern. The first few times people eat a new, pleasurable food, their brain’s reward systems light up—both when they are about to eat and after they’ve done so. Over time, however, something shifts. “If you keep doing this repeatedly, over days, what starts to happen is the strength of the reward response to the actual consumption of the food slowly diminishes, but the reward response to the signal, the cue predicting the food, grows stronger,” Lowe said. In other words, our pleasure centers get excited by the promise of a delicious morsel, but no longer by the consumption. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Lowe said. “The more delicious food you eat, the harder it is to resist. But the actual hit, the reward you get from the food, diminishes, so you want to eat more to get the same reward—but when you do that, you further reduce the value of the food and further strengthen the signal for the food.” Environmental cues get stronger. Physiological responses get weaker. And the cycle of false hunger and very real eating grows harder to break.”
So what does all that mean?
It means the second bite of cake is never going to taste as good as the first, though you expect it to be better. While you’ll crave a donut or chips or cookie more each time you think about it (or are exposed), it’ll never taste as good or give you as much pleasure as that very first encounter. And, each time you give in to the temptation and cravings, the reward experienced diminishes.
Therefore, the very first time you try a new indulgence (cake, pie, tort, chocolate), treasure the very first bite, knowing full well it’ll never taste that good again.
Second, the first bite of the dessert is the best, and from there you get diminishing returns. Thus, whenever you order dessert, you should always split with someone.
I do believe, though, that going for extended periods of time–say weeks or months–(or accelerating that with total sugar and junk food detox), you can return to a place where the new first bite is just as magical as the original first bite. (However, it’ll never match up to the memory of the original first bite, which tends to get magnified in the memory overtime.)
This next part of the article I also found particularly relevant, especially when you consider the role Belight Tea can play.
Each time we give in, we increase the amount of self-control we need not to eat the next time. In an environment in which food is a perpetually available temptation, the costs of constantly resisting are high. There are only so many times that you can let a platter of pigs in blankets pass by before you take one. (emphasis added)
Because we have limited self-control and giving in once usually means continuing to eat, I advise people to drink Belight Tea immediately at the onset of temptation to avoid succumbing to tempting foods in the first place.
If temptation won out initially, it is never too late to drink some Belight Tea and avoid the slippery slope of ongoing indulgence.
Stepping back and looking at it from the perspective of routines, habits also play a role. If your habit is to reach for a cookie every afternoon, or always say yes to dessert, or to resist-resist-resist only to stumble into a dark hole of overeating, forming new habits earlier, when willpower is stronger, is critical.
For example, on days when stress is lower and the urge to eat a cookie is more mild, drink Belight Tea instead of reaching for that cookie. Practice the healthy habit every time the trigger occurs, such that when stress is higher and the urge to eat the cookie is overwhelming, you’ve already started to develop a healthier habit. As you continue to strengthen your healthy habit muscle, eventually it will replace the unconscious habit causing the weight gain.
Likewise, if your response to ‘do you want dessert?’ is always yes, perhaps because social situations make you anxious and sweets are calming, or because, like mentioned above, you’ve allowed yourself to be conditioned by temptation to say yes, its time to build a new healthy habit muscle. Before the next dinner party or holiday rolls around, when you’re in a good place, perhaps at home, become conscious of whether you have an urge for dessert. As soon as you notice that urge, or even immediately after a meal, begin boiling water. Get the Belight Tea ready, and once the water is hot, steep the tea. When the kids or the TV commercials are screaming about dessert, you already have your own fix–and a much healthier alternative! Build the healthy habit muscle in the weeks leading up to an event so that when conditioning would otherwise take over, you have something that suits you (and your waistline) better.
I hope those examples make sense. If you want to learn more about habits, triggers, and how to change them, check out the book: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
As you look to making healthier food choices, overcoming false reward centers, and losing weight, add Belight Tea in to support you in your journey.