Emotions role in eating.
There are many factors related to weight gain; genetics, social environment and even media through advertisements, however recent studies have shown that emotions have the greatest effect on your ability to lose weight and even keep it off. Why is that? Your body has been shaped through thousands of years of evolution to keep you alive and healthy through a process called homeostasis (to maintain balance with in the body). This feedback loop that the body has developed is great for survival but in an environment where food is readily available and abundant, it becomes a double edge sword. When this balance is thrown out of alignment, your body will do anything and everything to bring you back to homeostasis. This is evident when looking at emotional eating, you feel down or sad which throws your emotional balance out of whack, causing your body to elevate your mood and make you feel happy again, to maintain emotional homeostasis. So, what's something that's easy to get and makes you feel goes right away? Food.
Your hormones play an important role in your emotions and therefore you're eating habits, causing you to feel happy, sad, angry or stressed. The same can be seen with your hunger, hormones will have a powerful influence over your will power to stay on your diet. Hormones such as Cortisol, a stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands, signals the body to store body fat into your abdomen region. Another effect of cortisol is the breaking down of your protein reserves into glucose (sugar) to store as body fat. All in all, cortisol is released in response to high stress levels and causes the body to store more body fat in your abdomen and break down your protein. Now the easiest method to not release so much cortisol would be to say "stop being stressed" … however, stress is a natural part of life and sometimes isn't avoidable. There are however, natural ways you can reduce stress the amount of cortisol being released and as such, reduce your body fat and increase muscle mass. Here are just a few examples; getting enough sleep, exercise, taking care of an animal (I can hear the excitement already) healthy relationships and a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals. As I'm sure some of you might be thinking, not all of these are easy to achieve, we all can't just go buy an animal or just turn unhealthy relationships into healthy ones… but all I can recommend is to be more mindful of the things in your life causing you high levels of stress and try your best to minimise them, it will help greatly with your ability to lose/maintain weight but to also improve your overall health.
It's time to talk about carbs and their enormous effect on your ability to lose or manage your weight. Now why is this? I mean, I'm sure we all know that when we eat carb heavy foods, we just feel a lot better. It seems to have this magical affect to make us happy. I'm going to discuss a little bit of the science behind the why and then show how we can better manage our foods and thus our emotions around them. The connection between carbs and our emotions comes from tryptophan, an essential amino acid that synthesises the feel good hormone serotonin, and can only be obtained through your diet. This amino acid is primarily obtained through most protein based foods, however, carbohydrates can also increase the levels of tryptophan entering your brain, causing you to feel better thanks to the increase of serotonin. So, this is the science to why you feel so good after eating carbs, it releases a feel good hormone, the only issues, as a result you can become hooked to the great feeling you get when you have high levels of carb/sugary food. So, let's discuss how we can manage this, now the boring science is out of the way. Well we now know that tryptophan is a precursor to the release of serotonin, so instead of getting this from high carb low protein foods, lets discuss the other options we have, that are essentially better for you; oats, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meats, seeds & nuts, soya foods, fish and eggs. As you can see you have a huge amount of choice when it comes to foods that are high in tryptophan, which will make you feel good the same as high carb foods can.
Sports Psychologist Jennifer Carter speaks highly of the healthy relationship between exercise and the elevation of mood. The research between the links these two share, is becoming more impactful on those who wish to achieve their best when losing weight. I think most people would agree, that when you're in a feel good mood, things like meal prepping and watching what food choices you make, becomes a lot easier. Well it only takes roughly five minutes of moderate exercise to get that feel good enhancement, this benefit is also seen in long term effects too, with those consistently maintain an exercise focus lifestyle decrease the risk of heart disease. As discussed earlier, exercise also decreases the amount of cortisol released, meaning you don't store as much body fat around the abdomen region. This is why exercise has such a panicle roll when losing weight. Yes, diet may have an 80% effect on your physical ability to lose weight with, however, exercise makes your diet a lot easier to maintain and just simply makes you feel good. So, start exercising. Even if you're exercising during the week, see if you can ask your trainer to get some extra sessions in, you'll feel much better because of it.
We all know that there are many factors to losing weight, some out of our control but many that are. Emotions are complex and by no means is this article proposing that simply changing your diet or increasing the amount of exercise you do each week, can change your emotions. What this article is suggesting is that there are ways to naturally alter the hormones affecting your ability to lose weight, giving you the best opportunity to achieve your goals. Eating well balanced, nutritious meals filled with the right vitamins and minerals coupled with regular exercise, will see you lose weight. I know you've heard this, many times before, I hope however, that seeing a bit of the science behind why this is recommended might change your outlook on how important psychology is for weight loss. Stay consistent.
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