Hedonism is a term used to describe eating for pleasure. Like animals, humans used to eat for survival and growth. Due to the sheer availability of food, we now eat for enjoyment, distraction and pleasure.
TV commercials, social groups, hormonal cues and sheer pleasure causes some of us to over feed. This is not to fill physical energy needs but to satisfy our reward systems.
The brain is heavily affected by feeding. When carbohydrate foods are ingested, they initiate a dopamine response. In other words, a happy neurotransmitter floods the brain, making you feel good. It’s the same neurotransmitter that is released when recreational drugs are ingested; however, food is not as potent.
As you can imagine, due to this dopamine circuit, foods we associate to be pleasurable, like sugar and processed foods, are things we enjoy. There are many other things in your life that also activate this circuit such as; listening to music, sex, patting a dog, smiling, attractive faces, mother to child recognition and love.
The stronger the brain’s reward, the more pleasurable the food becomes. This makes it extremely difficult to restrain from eating high energy foods, as we can become addicted to the behaviour of eating.
What can we do to help?
- Firstly, remove temptation. Try not to keep sugary food in the house, to limit the amount of times you eat fun foods during the week.
- Find natural substitutions to lollies and chocolate Eg dried fruit and nuts which contain fibre, minerals and vitamins.
- Distract yourself and your mind, so you forget to eat. This is especially important, if you find yourself grazing throughout the day.
- Start exercising. It can act as an appetite suppressant in some people and it makes you feel great afterwards.
- Think about what you’re actually eating. Sounds simple, but most people eat subconsciously and automatically. Before you start eating, ask yourself why you’re eating.