Trying to lose weight is an uphill battle for many people. Despite your efforts to eat healthier and become more active, you still can’t turn off that part of your brain that seduces you into eating unhealthy sugars, carbs and fats. The important thing to remember is you’re not a failure—in fact, you’re quite normal. You can thank your ancestors for your unhealthy hard-wiring, as cravings are a result of our biological makeup.
Medical weight loss programs such as the OPTIFAST diet can help you control the foods you eat, but what happens when those unnecessary cravings start to creep up and your weight loss doctor isn’t there to help talk you away from the dietary ledge? This is where the idea of empowered refusal comes in to play, helping you to take control of your cravings and rightfully refuse what your body is telling you.
Cravings and Cave Men
Life on Earth may have come a long way since the Stone Age, but our dietary cravings unfortunately have not. Most humans aren’t aware that our unremitting love affair with sweets, salts, carbs and fats isn’t just a side-effect of the unhealthy American lifestyle—such cravings are actually hard-wired from our ancestors. Tens of thousands of years ago, such food cravings were a reliable signal to our Stone Age forefathers to seek out certain foods that would provide energy (sugar and fat) and essential minerals (salt).
Unfortunately, we now live in a world where unhealthy food abounds and excuses to avoid physical activity are more than easy to come by, but we’ve preserved our ancestral craving tendencies because evolution is slow. Whether you’re a patient of medical weight loss in East Brunswick or just another Homo sapiens looking to break free from your Stone Age chains, the art of empowered refusal can increase your feelings of control and self-awareness when food is concerned.
A research study conducted at the University of Houston found that when it came to deciding whether or not to eat a particular craved food, saying “I don’t” was nearly three times as effective as saying “no” and eight times more effective than saying “I can’t.” In other words, when you’re trying to help yourself decide whether or not to eat something that isn’t exactly a part of your medical weight loss plan, use the words “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” to practice the art of empowered refusal.
Here are some particularly unhealthy cravings and how saying “I don’t” can help you resist them!
CAVE MAN CRAVING: SUGAR
Before you began your medical weight loss program, you may remember the sheer moment of elation and satisfaction you’d experience upon eating any delicious sweet and savory treat. This undeniably strange pleasure we receive from food is actually due to our brain’s response to eating something sweet and sugary. Such foods trigger your brain to release opioids and dopamine. Such chemicals are neurotransmitters that fortify the body’s reward system when released. You can see how this can become dangerous over time and possibly lead to what some experts believe is a sugar addiction.
Say “I don’t” to Sugar
There are countless reasons to practice empowered refusal when it comes to sugar cravings, such as an expanding waistline, increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, premature aging, a hindered immune system and more. Some scientists believe that sugar addiction can be just as detrimental to one’s health as chronic alcohol or tobacco use. According to one study, rats became dependent on the opioids that their brains produced when fed sugar, leading many to believe the same effect can be applied to humans.
CAVE MAN CRAVING: FAT
No thanks to evolution, it is still a human’s biological drive to seek out fatty foods because of their abilities to sustain long-lasting energy. What’s more, fat naturally enhances the flavor and textural qualities of many foods, causing our bodies to develop such cravings further.
Say “I don’t” to Fat
The truth is, we no longer live in the Stone Age and aren’t experiencing a food shortage, making the biological need to stock up on this unhealthy substance obsolete. Consuming too many unhealthy fats in meats, dairy products and processed baked goods can lead to a never-ending list of detrimental health problems such as obesity, heart disease and stroke just to name a few.
We may be biologically hard-wired to crave unhealthy foods but this doesn’t mean we can’t reprogram the way we choose to respond to them. If you feel yourself craving a particularly sweet treat or fatty snack, learn to tell yourself “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.” Practicing an empowered refusal will help instill a sense of confidence and control over your dietary decisions helping you to resist a craving when it pops up unexpectedly.