PJ's Fitness Blog

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Use Thanksgiving to Train Your Brain

turkey_cartoonMost people think of food when the word Thanksgiving is uttered. Their next thought is usually about family and who they will be with. Unfortunately, most people surveyed have negative associations with holiday family gatherings and focus mostly on what they can do to avoid conflicts, uneasy dynamics and tension. These associations are also tied to food patterns, so family gatherings can cause an unhealthy emotional chain of events that result in unhealthy eating and overindulgence.

The reason for such a reaction is because food is medicine. We medicate our brains with food. Certain foods (i.e fast carbs, sugar and starches) do make us feel better in the moment, but cause us to feel worse soon after. Food is the most powerful drug there is, and some foods are even more addictive than cocaine.

The good news is that food addictions have a physical component that last only 3 days or less, so as far as your cells are concerned, they don’t crave it for long after they stop getting a certain food. The psychological component on the other hand, takes longer to break, especially if it is tied to patterns associated with family, established over long periods of time.

This psychological aspect can easily be overcome though. One extremely effective technique is to crowd your mind with thankful thoughts. When you catch yourself stressing about family dynamics, switch your thoughts to what you are thankful for. You will notice this isn’t easy, because you are asking your brain to go to a completely different place and switch modes.

This mode switch is the whole idea however, because that is what causes the rewiring process to happen. When you switch modes, you are switching nerve pathways and this causes the old family eating pathways to atrophy from disuse because you are using the thankful nerve pathways instead. This technique is a skill too, so the more you do it, the better you will get at it, and pretty soon, your brain will be a new brain, able to resist those ingrained family patterns that controlled you for so long!

Speaking of switching gears, here is a fun game to play at holiday dinners. Follow these 7 steps and notice how much less you eat, how much more satisfied you feel, and how much more you enjoy the food.

1. Drink 2 full glasses of water before the meal (16 oz.)

2. Put small amounts of lots of different foods on your plate.

3. After every bite, put your silverware down and chew thoroughly. While you are chewing, think about the taste, texture, smell, and feelings you get from the food. Talk about this with others at the table.

4. Swallow each bite and take a sip of water before the next bite.

5. Cycle through the foods on your plate with something different every bite.

6. LAUGH! Find a reason, or just be funny yourself.

7. Fake a drink of wine. If you feel obligated to drink alcohol at the meal, fake it. Just touch the liquid to your lips but don’t open them. Everyone else will think you are drinking like they are.

These seven steps will raise your metabolism, aid digestion, burn more fat calories, and cause you to eat just enough – instead of too much. In fact, studies show that eating fast triples your chances of being overweight (Maruyama, K. et al., BMJ 2008 Oct 21;337:a2002.), so following these steps will slow you down and combat that effect.

Don’t worry about cleaning off your plate either. You may be too full to do that, and seconds won’t have the usual appeal. If you do find yourself reaching for seconds, grab more meat! It’s the starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pies that will spike your blood sugar and trigger the release of fat-producing insulin.

P.S. for great alternatives to carbs and starch, check out the “low carb stuffing” and “mock smashed potatoes” recipes on the X Gym recipe page!

P.P.S. for a video explaining many of these concepts, click below: