One frequent comment that I hear from my clients is “I cannot stop eating, I think about food all the time.” This constant impulse to eat creates feelings of guilt and shame, and utter frustration that they are not able to control their eating habits, no matter how much ‘conscious willpower’ they exert. Actually what is really happening, is that we are chasing a dopamine fix, the ‘feel good’ chemical that, when released, keeps us coming back for more, again and again.
Our pleasure centre resides in the centre of the brain and its primary job is to make us feel good, or reward us when we engage in any behaviour that is necessary for survival, specifically procreation and eating. Our biology is so amazing that whenever we implement any of our survival mechanisms, the brain produces specialized chemicals that fuel the pleasure centre. So whenever we eat, we experience a chemical high that we recognize as pleasure, our bodies have just received its dopamine hit.
A food and drug fix are the same, our addict is craving the high that only can be alleviated by dopamine. The dopamine reward system is how we feel pleasure, and it is the culprit responsible for compulsive gambling, sex addiction and drug abuse. Heroin and cocaine addicts are more than likely to forget to eat and while they are taking their drugs tend to lose a lot of weight at the same time. That explains why, when we are getting our dopamine fix from other enticing outlets, like falling in love, dancing or exercising, we are less prone to eat compulsively. In some instances we actually forget to eat and lose interest, as long as that dopamine fix is coming from somewhere we are satiated and appeased. So really the addiction is not about our lack of control around those enticing foods like bread, cakes, chocolate and pizza, we are addicted to the dopamine high. When that mechanism is faulty for some reason we become totally preoccupied and fixated on food.
Eating is our biological necessity and our survival is insured by the pleasure we feel when we eat. However, once we become addicted to food we start to develop an elevated tolerance and need larger amounts of food to keep that euphoric high fully active. Exactly like a drug addict that needs larger amounts of drugs to experience that initial hit that keeps them coming back for more and more, regardless of what it is doing to their overall health.
When we are addicted to food, our brains are programmed to use food as a way to deal with anxiety, irritability, stress, depression – any uncomfortable feelings. The longer we use food to feel better, the more likely it is that we associate relief from feeling bad with our addictive substance. Whatever life throws at us, we become conditioned to hanker after our dopamine fix, and we will do whatever it takes to get it. Regardless if the payoff is feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness and frustration. That is why so many diets fail, when we deprive ourselves of the pleasure of eating delicious food, we are ultimately depriving ourselves of our dopamine fix.
Chronic dieting ultimately leads to re-wiring of the brain to that of an addict. Dieting and conscious will power is not the answer, re-programming the subconscious mind is. There are ways to increase dopamine levels, one is meditation (studies have concluded that meditation increases dopamine by 65%) and one is to restore the neural nets in the brain, by re-wiring our brain to increase dopamine levels, by releasing the old negative beliefs and feelings that harbour our ability to gain access to those ‘feel good’ chemicals. Hypnotherapy for Self Esteem addresses all those uncomfortable feelings that entice us to overeat in the first place, once those are cleared we can also instruct the subconscious mind that deriving pleasure from dopamine does not have to come from copious amounts of food. Research had discovered that we can restore the healthy neural nets in the brain and gradually extinguish our old programming. With Hypnotherapy for Self Esteem, we can transform our subconscious conditioning, increase our dopamine levels and in doing so establish a naturally mindful, comfortable and easy approach to eating..