Food is a fundamental part of human life.
It is not only essential for survival, it is also used as a pivotal part of celebrating and social gatherings with family and friends. Due to this there are no surprises that food is regularly on our mind, however for those of us who are trying to lose weight these thoughts can become frustrating and over powering, we start questioning ourselves and our mental/physical health.
Why do we think about food
Our brain uses two separate but interrelated pathways to navigate hunger and our food intake. Once one of the pathways are activated it'll cause us to think about food.
Homeostatic Pathway. This pathway regulates our appetite and is stimulated when your body experiences a calorie deficit. That's because your body needs calories to produce energy and maintain basic metabolic function.
Hedonic Pathway. This pathway may override the homeostatic pathway and cause food cravings - particularly for hyperpalatable foods - even when have enough energy to maintain its metabolic functions.
Hyperpalatable foods; are foods high in fat, salt and simple sugars, such as sweets, puddings and fried/takeaway foods, foods that tend to set off sensory receptors linked to feelings of pleasure and reward.
The Homeostatic Pathway is prompted when our body needs energy by the release of two hormones Leptin and Ghrelin, our hunger hormones.
Leptin suppresses hunger and thoughts of food, this is released when we are full of the energy required. Where-as, Ghrelin is released when we are low in energy causing hunger cues and thoughts about food. (Physical Hunger)
The Hedonic Pathway is generated by various things;
Our immediate environment
Accessibility of food
Hearing conversation about food
Note; Research is reporting that hyperpalatable foods encourage addiction like behaviours, such as thinking about food more than usual.
Another hunger generator is emerging through research, that our gastrointestinal sensors might trigger an appetite for certain foods, even though we are not conscious of these reactions within our brain and body, they can manifest as craving of thoughts about food.
How do our food thought and behaviours work, what activates them and can we control them.
We are all individuals and have a unique, personal and often complex relationship with food. It takes time to understand our food relationship and its process, and its easy to allow feelings of guilt, blame or frustration build when you can't deter your thoughts from food.
In fact, studies reveal this response can cause overeating, as a result of comforting, making wanting to lose weight harder.
Rather than looking at our food thoughts negatively, try to understand why we are having these thoughts.
Are you having these thoughts due to depravity, are you restricting certain foods or food categories from your diet causing you to think of the foods more.
Are you eating enough calories, undereating and being low in energy will cause us to think of food, also regularly undereating may lead to greater health problems.
By eating meals that have a healthy rich balance of nutrients and taste delicious helps to suppress excessive food thoughts through out the day.
Always question thirst if you know you have eaten and still feeling hungry, as often our bodies and brain confuse the craving.
Try and identify patterns and stimulates in your life that activate the Hedonic Pathway causing you to think about food, even through you are not physically hungry, common elements that provoke food thoughts are;
Seeing others eat
Being around hyperpalatable foods
Talking about food
Commercials and advertising
By being aware of provoking thoughts we can maybe avoid or limit our exposure, or learn how to distract ourselves and navigate around them, for example planning lovely nutritious tasty meals when under a heavy workload using a slow cooker so the meal is ready once home, not requiring a takeaway as haven't the time to cook.
Letting the thoughts pass as some hunger thoughts are short lived/temporary. Use a distraction method;
Pause and take a break from what you are doing
Stand up and stretch
Take a walk
Drink a glass of water
Read something that interests you
Work on your favourite craft or hobby
Meditate for a few minutes
Journal about how you are feeling
always eat mindfully, being fully present and aware of the experience of eating, embracing taste, texture, smells, visuals and feelings, do not allow yourself to be distracted by technology or working.
Its also important to know that sometimes you might need to ask for extra help in learning to control your thought, and please reach out and I will help and if its requires seeking out further support I will navigate you to the right professional to advise you, you are never alone.
Thinking about food often is a normal part of life.
If you find you are always thinking about food and feel unable to stop, it could simply be the Homeotic Pathway saying you need energy. Or it could be another factor like stress or advertisement triggering the Hedonic Pathway.
If you are concerned that you are always thinking about food, assess what is happening in your life and try the different activities we've mentioned, not forgetting physical activity is always a great distraction especially in the countryside or with our pets. Remembering keep hydrated.