Ever wondered why a pint of ice cream and heartbreak seem to go hand in hand? Have you noticed how ravenous you feel after a particularly stressful day with the kids or a big project at work? The latest science regarding the brain and food is uncovering why it is that we often feel compelled to eat in ways that do not serve our health and well-being. What we now know is that if you want to adopt a healthy relationship with food that supports physical fitness, it all starts with a workout for the brain.
So, why do we crave the ice cream? Our brains produce an opioid-like drug in response to ingesting sugar. What we have traditionally called a “sugar-high” doesn’t last for long, but it momentarily calms a lower emotion such as anxiety, sadness or unworthiness by producing a temporary state of euphoria. When we don’t have the skills to shift out of a painful emotional state, sometimes we unconsciously medicate with ice cream, chocolate or some carbohydrate that quickly turns to sugar such as bread or potatoes. Given that “stress” is just a lower emotional pattern that we do not know how to manage, we often times find ourselves eating to try to relieve a wide range of daily frustrations through food. Unfortunately, when we crash after that little sugar boost, we once again find ourselves back in that lower emotional state with only calorie consumption elevated.
Given that the underlying cause of our unhealthy cravings is usually those painful lower emotions, acquiring the skill to intentionally shift our emotional state is an essential tool in the pursuit of a healthy body. Thankfully, stepping into states of peace and serenity is actually quite simple once you know a few easy steps and engage this practice routinely. Although the brain is not a muscle, it does act like one, so training your brain can build the emotional patterning to support healthy eating habits as well as a happy life.
Step 1 – Name The Emotion That Is Present: When you feel a lower emotion based in fear such as anger, sadness, shame, unworthiness or anxiety stop and ask yourself, what emotion am I feeling? If you don’t know what the emotion is, just give it any name. Then say to yourself, “In this moment, I feel ______” and identify the emotion that is present.
Step 2 – Shift The Fear-Based Emotion: Now allow yourself to fully feel that emotion. Don’t resist. Just feel the emotion. Don’t react. No yelling, screaming, or throwing things. Just sit quietly while the emotion unfolds inside of you. Sitting with the emotion and feeling it without reacting causes the emotion to dissipate. Researchers at Harvard University have determined that the life span of an emotion is actually just ninety seconds unless you fuel the emotion by thinking about it. In other words, don’t tell yourself why you were justified in having the emotion. Instead, just sit with the emotion without thinking about the circumstance and in a matter of less than ninety seconds, you will feel the emotion begin to lose its grip over you.
Step 3 – Mirror A Love-Based Emotion: When the fear-based emotion has significantly weakened, mirror a love-based emotion. As that lower emotion loses its hold, gently inhale from deep in your abdomen about two inches below the belly button and an inch back towards the spine. As you breathe, affirm to yourself “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale affirm “peace.” Breathe this deep breath of “I am peace” over and over again and you will feel that experience of peace build inside of you.
So the next time you feel the desire to reach for something you know does not align with your health and well-being, take a moment, sit quietly and use these tools before you indulge that craving. Training the brain is an often overlooked element in optimal fitness but if you want to achieve your health and wellness goals for 2015, start by working out the brain!
About the Author: Joey Klein
Joey Klein is an internationally known personal development expert, martial arts champion, and author of the book The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit. He travels the world teaching his technique of Conscious Transformation to support people in living healthy, happy, fulfilling lives.