Glucose the toxin Part 3 – You can override your brain

In part one of this short series, sugar was vilified for its unrelenting potentially lethal impact on human health.  In part two, refined grains were exposed as equally culpable in this lethal assault against humanity.

We now turn to what can be done about it.  Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Sadly, fear is a terrible motivator.  Fear of all of those adverse health outcomes – heart disease, dementia, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes – simply does not work to motivate us to effect change.  If it did, all adrenalin addicted, chain smoking, sugar buzzed overweight business executives who survive a heart attack would voluntarily trade in the smokes for a pair of running shoes and a yoga mat, quit their high stress job, move to the quiet countryside, spend their days meditating and their nights in a blissful slumber.

It’s just not going to go over terribly well.

Cut the sugar and skip the flour.  Hmm.  What’s left on the menu?

Thankfully, we live in a global economy and are no longer dependent on our hunter-gatherer skills or the limitations of our local environment.  A huge variety of fruit from all over the world is available year-round.  Same for high quality vegetables.  Ditto for meat and fish.  Lack of choice or availability are not concerns in the 21st century.

We cannot even use a lack of culinary skills as an excuse.  Multiple food delivery services are just an email request away.

However, in the last century or so, we have been conditioned to believe we must eat multiple meals per day and that hunger is dreadful to be avoided at all cost.  Have you ever wondered when (and why) three meals a day became the accepted norm? And when did that norm morph into 6 or more meals or snacks a day?  I suspect three meals a day became the norm with the agricultural revolution, and that norm morphed in the late 1970s with the introduction of the faulty American dietary guidelines and its low fat recommendation.

Secondly, as alluded to in part one of this series, our brain was beautifully designed for survival in a hostile world where food was scarce.  It was specifically designed to seek/crave calorie dense foods and it rewards us (with dopamine, our “Oh nice” neurotransmitter) when we find and eat those calorie dense foods.  Thirdly our body was specifically designed to store excess energy as body fat for future famine, something it does extremely efficiently.  Thank you insulin.  We survived as a species because of these two key hormones – dopamine and insulin.

Fortunately, we no longer live in a hostile world, food is no longer scarce and famine is rare.  But evolution has yet to upgrade our brain or our body to match this hospitable food aplenty world.  The brain continues to crave calorie dense foods and the body continues to store excess energy as body fat.  And this default program in the hospitable food aplenty world of the 21st century, is detrimental to our well-being.

It’s quite a paradox – what historically ensured our survival is now threatening our survival.

So we believe hunger is awful, and dietary fat is bad.  But dietary fat is satiating (filling), and when we avoid it, we feel hungry.  To compensate we eat constantly. Hmm.

Add to that sugar’s calorie dense, addictive qualities, flour’s ability to fuel the fire and our hospitable, food aplenty world.  Hmm.

Add to that our brain’s default program to crave and reward calorie dense foods and the body’s exquisite ability to store excess energy as body fat.  Hmm.

Add to that all the energy saving conveniences of our sedentary lifestyle.  Hmm.

Is it any wonder we struggle?

While we wait for evolution to catch up, we must counter some very powerful brain neurophysiology and body physiology that served us exceptionally well for millenia.  Not only that, we must counter a society that covets the very issues that undermine our health.

Sounds impossible right?

Nope, it’s totally possible, because our brilliant brain has a pre-frontal cortex.  The pre-frontal cortex (PFC) is the part of our brain that directs what psychologists call our executive functions – planning, organization, creativity/imagination, focus/attention and decision making.  And best of all, the PFC can override the brain’s default program.  Unlike any other animal species on the planet, you can choose.  We just have to start to direct our pre-frontal cortex.

  • Your brain may crave calorie dense foods, but you can tell it “no, not today.”
  • You can choose foods that do not flood the bloodstream with glucose (no sugar, no flour, above ground vegetables, naturally occurring fats and go easy on the protein).
  • You can choose to fast (no snacks between meals and fast 12-14h overnight).
  • You can choose eating patterns that rev-up your energy not slow it down (time restricted eating or intermittent fasting).
  • You can choose to eat only when truly hungry (not to console).
  • You can choose to prioritize your own self-care.
  • You can choose to move your body.
  • You can choose to de-stress.
  • You can choose to rest and get sufficient sleep.
  • You can choose your thoughts.
  • You can direct your brain.

In essence, the default program directing the neuro-transmitter dopamine and the hormone insulin, can be re-written under the direct supervision of the pre-frontal cortex and the choices we make.

Manage your dopamine and change your perspective.
Manage your insulin and change your weight.
Manage your thoughts and change your life.

It is utterly and completely possible.
It’s your choice.  And again I repeat, choice is a precious gift.

Buff it up,
Dr Karen