HEALTH, WHOLE AND HOLY: Even if you eat a burger, you’re still on track

By Christine Carey

You are trying to eat well – salads, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, protein, minimally processed foods and complex carbohydrates.

You are trying, really trying, and manage very well, until one day you drive by your favourite fast food place, and before you know it you are unwrapping a juicy burger as you drive away. For some people burgers aren’t enticing. Perhaps your cheat food is chips or cookies or soda or desserts, or all.

A colleague and I were talking about why people have cravings and why we succumb. What is true for us both is that this lapse in regular and consistent healthy eating is like pushing a reset button. We choose poor quality food that is often high in bad fats, simple carbohydrates, processed cheese, and that leads indigestion and irregular bowel movements as a necessary part of creating dietary balance.

But why do we put ourselves through this discomfort for a rush of pleasure? Food is as much about providing energy as it is about making us feel good.

Steven Witherly is a food scientist who has spent the last 20 years studying what makes certain foods more addictive and tasty than others. Much of the science that follows is from his excellent report, “Why Humans Like Junk Food”.

According to Witherly, when you eat tasty food, there are two factors that make the experience pleasurable. First, there is the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes like (salty, sweet, umami, etc), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. This last quality, known as “orosensation”, can be particularly important.

Food companies will spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip. Their scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These factors all combine to create the sensation that your brain associates with a particular food or drink.

The second factor is the actual macronutrient makeup of the food — the blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that it contains. In the case of junk food, food manufacturers are looking for a perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more.

We all know that we will not eliminate these foods from our diet all together forever. But what we can do is try to create balance with what we eat on a daily basis and reduce the frequency of cravings.

Here are my keys to staying on track and responsibly pressing the reset button:

  1. When choosing your junk food, see if there’s a homemade version of what you want rather than a restaurant or fast food option. Instead of a burger on the road, wait until you get home and make one.

  2. Set a limit to the amount you are going to eat, and stick to it. Instead of four slices of pizza, maybe eat a small salad before or drink a glass of water and only eat two slices.

  3. Keep junk foods out of the house. If they aren’t there you have less of a chance of eating them.

  4. Eat regularly throughout the day. If you become too hungry your brain sends a signal that it needs calories and you are going to reach for the junkier food.

Relax, exercise, eat well 90 per cent of the time and enjoy the other 10 per cent!

• All health content in this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Christine is a board certified holistic health coach (www.christine-carey.com), partner at Liquid Nutrition (www.liquidnutrition.com) and Director of Lifestyle Management at 242 Consulting (www.242consultingcom).

With over ten years of coaching experience, Ms Carey works with individuals and groups to assess and define their health and lifestyle goals with a strong focus on increasing knowledge and implementing tools for success.


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