Its common that most of our appetites can get the best of us. This is because we let them creep up on us when we are unprepared. The key to converting your appetite from enemy to ally is being prepared, packin heat, especially when you are on the move.
For those of you who are commuters or live in cities; there is food everywhere and it’s readily available. Got 5 minutes while you are waiting for your train? Why not slip in a bagel or a coffee? In instances like this boredom can be disguised as appetite. The key is unmasking boredom and establishing when your appetite is truly present.
Many of us are averse to boredom and we all deal with it differently, some eat, some smoke cigarettes, some listen to music. For those of us who tackle boredom with biochemical stimulation, we need to put in place measures to curb this habit – what!?
Observe when you get hungry each day. When does boredom strike? Does a pattern emerge? Does boredom at work or on your commute make you want to eat? Pack a healthy snack to satisfy the urge to eat through boredom. A small bag of nuts, dried fruit, a granola bar, fruit and of course water.
Staying adequately hydrated promotes a more stable appetite. When dehydrated a desire for water may seem like a cue to also eat.
When measures are put in place to combat urges to eat unhealthy foods or foods that are not conducive to your personal goals, sticking to the straight and narrow becomes easier as time goes on. Self control and discipline become solid once the internal biochemical environment becomes more stable and doesn’t exert cravings so much. A better state of homeostasis is reached.
Once you start observing your appetite you can begin to work with it and heeding it’s call at the right time and not just to shut the voice of boredom out. Boredom could be playing shadow games with you and appearing as appetite.
Eating due to boredom itself is an interesting phenomenon. Boredom can be conducive to negative thought patterns. In order to prevent this, a biochemical intervention is introduced, temporarily boosting neurotransmitters (serotonin) resulting in a short lived high and pleasant thoughts. Stimulating foods fit this role – coffee (caffeine), sodas (sugar, caffeine), chocolate (sugar). Many foods we encounter outside of our own kitchen cupboards contain at least one of these stimulating ingredients.
Watch Your Blood Sugar
The food that you habitually eat and have eaten in a given day will also play a leading role in determining the onset of hunger. I refer here to the glycemic index of foods – the rate and magnitude to which certain foods raise blood sugar and subsequently influence our appetite after meals.
Quick fixes like coffee are stimulating and widely available in a daily interaction with the outside world. Whilst handy as a pick me up, caffeine spikes blood sugar quickly and causes a fall in blood sugar disrupting your appetite.
The low after a caffeine high is underpinned by this rise and fall in blood sugar. Tea is a good alternative to coffee, especially teas with a modest amount of caffeine in comparison. Some teas exert a satiating effect keeping your appetite under control. Green tea for instance. A thermos isn’t just for a picnic, fill er up and keep it on you throughout the day.
Being present in your environment also contributes to how you may consume. Being completely present takes practice and is often easier said than done, but once this can be experienced even to a basic degree it is invaluable. Many of us are caught up in what seems important at the time – bills, errands to run, work. The general trivialities of the everyday existence essentially put the blinders on, so we are unaware of what is having an influence on us.
What I refer to here are triggers. Advertising and branding has an incredible effect on human biochemistry. Just seeing the Golden Arches will trigger the feeling of previously eating there, only just a taste, it’s enough to draw some in. This is somewhat like a knee jerk reaction and often leads to repeat business for those with a strong brand and powerfully satisfying foods, working the dopamine reward system.
Stimulus – the Golden Arches
Response – eating a cheeseburger there
Result – Yum, but I didn’t really want that.
I am going to reference an experiment performed by a Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov to better explain conditioning and response to stimuli. Pavlov used to experiment with dogs. He was particularly interested in measuring the rate at which the dogs salivated in response to being shown their food. This plays on the stimulus response mechanism where the food is the stimulus and salivation the response.
Pavlov began experimenting by ringing a bell whenever the food was given to the dogs. The dogs began to associate the ring of the bell to being fed. He began to ring the bell without giving them food. The dogs salivated before the food was brought them. The bell became the trigger, signalling that food was on the way. This is known as a conditioned response. It is learned behaviour, the bell is a associated with food and thereby reward (Dopamine).
We associate our food with brands – the brand becomes the stimulus.
So when we see brands advertised on the street, magazines, television and notably most other places (there is no escape) this same effect can be felt. We have been conditioned by our environment to respond to these triggers. The dopamine response can be further explored here.
Becoming mindful of when the allure of a brands product may be sweet talking your reward system is a valuable realisation. When you see a familiar brand, observe what your first response to it is. Do you want to eat although you may not be hungry? The key is to address the irrationality of the response – ‘why do i want to eat, I am not even hungry!’ This is because the brand is associated with reward. Slowly reconditioning your response to these stimuli will make you stronger in resisting the pull of undesired urges.