Do you remember the Channel 4 programme ‘The Secret Eaters’? The show was focusing on the plight of ordinary people who were secretly overeating.
Secret camera’s were installed in the participant’s homes, and private investigations were held in order to follow their eating habits. Invariably, the participants would claim that they don’t overeat and that they don’t have bad eating habits. They would also express surprise at their declining health and excess weight.
Then they would be invited to the studio to watch footage from the camera’s. What they saw, terrified them. Consuming bags of crisps in front of the TV without even realizing they were doing this; eating sweet snacks while doing household chores; consuming several chocolates while driving their car…the pattern was always similar: these people had much worse eating habits than they were prepared to admit.
Were they lying? Were they playing games in front of the camera’s? I don’t think so. What they lacked, was awareness. They were not conscious of their daily eating habits and how these are shaped by their own cravings, environmental factors and the usual daily stressors. As a result, most of their eating activity took place unconsciously, without any thought given at the quality or quality of their food intake.
Such is the power of daily habits. They can rewire our brains and create new neural pathways. Habits consist of three elements: a cue (trigger), behaviour and reward. The link between these elements in so strong, that given the right cue or reward, you can encourage pretty much any behaviour. What’s more, behaviours such as drinking alcohol in order to relax (reward) can turn into strong habits as our brains create new pathways to ensure continuous reward.
The good news is that the brain can be rewired in similar ways in order to turn a bad habit into a positive one. Both bad and good habits are based on the same principle. All you need to do, is create a positive habit that rewards good behaviour. When e.g. the cue (stress) brings forth the craving, you can choose to have a nice long bath, devote half an hour to playing your favourite video game, meditate or even consume a supplement containing the amino acid GABA in order to evoke the same reward (relaxation).
Choosing a positive habit that works for you above a bad habit which has negative long term consequences, and repeating it consistently over a period of time, will create the desired changes in your neuroplasticity in order to achieve your health goals.
PS Thanks to everyone who came forward and offered to give us feedback on our new programme Your Mind Matters.
We’ve still got space for a few short chats about it with busy female professionals who wish to optimize their mental health through nutrition and develop mental resilience.
If you’re able to help, we’d really appreciate it, so type ‘FEEDBACK’ below and we can schedule a quick call!