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Positive Energy 395 - Rat Park and You

Unfortunately, knowing which foods are harmful isn't always enough to stop us from eating them right? I think we've all been there. "I shouldn't, I really shouldn't, oh, what the hell?"

In 2003 I read The Joy Diet by Martha Beck and heard about the "Rat Park" experiment. It changed my whole paradigm of willpower. Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander conducted a study of drug addiction using mice.  He wondered if their behavior to addictive opiates would be different if they were put in pleasant, comfortable surroundings as opposed to unnatural living conditions in small cages. Rats were given two choices of liquids, they had access to plain water and morphine.  Rats confined in small cages preferred the morphine while rats in "rat park" (comfortable, more natural living conditions) preferred the water and resisted the morphine.  

This relates to our junk food cravings. Many psychologists believe that a great deal can be learned about our stress levels, and coping mechanisms by the particular foods we crave. Two main reasons for craving foods that we know can be harmful to us are a desire to change our energy levels (vasoactive) and a desire to change our mood (psychoactive). So instead of feeling bad about your lack of willpower, maybe it's time to look into what your food cravings are saying about you.

To translate the meaning of food cravings accurately, you need to take into account possible vitamin deficiencies, your childhood history with a food and several other factors. Your unique food craving blueprint will take into account smells, textures, whether you crave salty or sweet and the whole spectrum of spices. However, here are some general clues connected with popular foods according to the book "Constant Craving":

1) Crunchy foods like popcorn and chips can be a signal that you are trying to cope with overwhelming anger, tension or anxiety.  It can feel good to bite down on crunchy food to ease accumulated jaw tension.

2) Coffee may indicate a desire for more excitement, energy, or an attempt to avoid burnout. It can keep you artificially focused and energized.

3) Chocolate may be an attempt to boost energy, balance hormones or feel loved. Having chocolate cravings close to your menstrual cycle can be a clue that you are using chocolate to adjust to hormone fluctuations.

4) Carbohydrate cravings may signal a desire for comfort and nurturing.  Does fresh baked bread smell like home?

Learning what your cravings say about you can be a powerful tool for gaining mastery over your eating habits. Instead of trying to muscle through them or even ignore them, you might notice that you have an uncontrollable urge to eat sweets when you spend time with your in-laws.  Perhaps you hold back speaking your mind and then crunch on chips or pretzels all day at work.  Maybe you find it impossible to say no to cookies because you long for a simpler, carefree life that is closer to what you experienced as a child.  

The goal isn't to hyper-analyze everything you eat but to take back control and connect you with your true hunger signals. This "knowing" takes place in your whole body not just in your head. Most likely, when you become aware of the difference between your hunger and emotional triggers, you may still enjoy a cookie.  The difference will be enjoying a few cookies as opposed to eating a box of cookies and still feeling unsatisfied and out of control.  If tension is making you want to crunch on chips, you can also add carrots or other crunchy vegetables to the list of things to eat. This is about "right sizing" your hunger, addressing your emotional needs and respecting your health. You are worth it.

fun online food quizzes:

Online quiz/Doreen Virtue

Psychology Today Quiz

Rat Park Study:

rat park experiment

"Even the smallest shift in perspective can bring about the greatest healing."- Joshua Kai

All the best,

Bodywork, Movement & Holistic Lifestyle Design

It's not your age, it's your lifestyle.

Want to take your health to the next level?
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