Motivation Psychology Diet

Whether your goal is weight loss or weight gain, motivation and diet goals are inextricably linked. When we eat high-fat, high-sugar foods, our bodies have a response to these substances similar to that of an addiction. Maintaining a healthier diet becomes a matter of breaking this “food addiction” and learning to listen to what your body really needs. If weight gain is your goal, you may need to work to overcome your brain’s response to food and learn how your eating habits affect your health.

Unhealthy eating habits are extremely difficult to break. Your motivation behind changing your behavior towards food is essential for the success of your weight loss or weight gain plan.

The Importance of Motivation in a Changing Diet

Why is changing our eating habits so difficult? Countless theories exist on the matter, but they are almost all linked to brain chemistry.

When it comes to overeating, eating high-fat, high-sugar foods triggers a chemical response in our brains, linking those foods to pleasure. These foods condition us to want them more and more, triggering a response similar to an addiction, which can make weight loss very difficult.

If you’d like to change your eating habits to gain weight, you may experience an entirely different set of problems, especially if you’re struggling with an eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia. These conditions have been linked to over-activity of certain brain chemicals linked to how people make choices and learn from their experiences (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 2005).

No matter what your eating habits, changing them is often so difficult because you need to “re-wire” the way your brain responds to food.

Changing Your Food Motivation to Gain or Lose Weight

If your goal is to gain weight, you may need to overcome feelings of repulsion around food and rethink the way you view your body. This isn’t easy, and you’ll likely need the assistance of a medical professional (such as a psychiatrist) to change your views of food, weight gain, motivation and diet. Beginning with small amounts of high-calorie foods, like chocolate, may help.

If you want to lose weight, quitting foods that have an addictive effect on the brain — such as those that contain high-fructose corn syrup and high amounts of salt and white sugar — can help you break the cycle of wanting more.

Quitting addictive foods is no easy feat. Here are some tips that can keep you from falling off the wagon until your food motivation switches gears:

  • Avoid tempting restaurants or convenience stores. If you tend to stop at certain fast food restaurants on your way home from work or a grab a candy bar from a convenience store, take a different route. If you don’t see these places, you’re more likely to successfully avoid them.
  • Change your routine. All addictions respond to habit. By altering your daily routine, you can avoid the common pitfall of your brain suddenly sensing, for instance, that it’s time for a sweet snack.
  • Exercise. Exercise speeds up your metabolism and rebalances your blood sugar-regulating hormones, making it easier to lose weight and keep food cravings at bay.
  • Set realistic short-term weight loss goals. Nothing is more motivating than success. Set a goal to lose a pound every week. Weigh yourself to see it happening and your motivation will begin to compound itself.

Resources

American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism. (2000). Effects of fructose and glucose on plasma leptin, insulin and insulin resistance in lean and VMH-lesioned obese rats. Retrieved September 23, 2010 from http://ajpendo.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/278/4/E677.

LeMoyne College Psychology Department. (2010). Internal regulation: Hunger. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from http://web.lemoyne.edu/~hevern/psy340_10S/lectures/psy340.10.3.hunger.html.

University of Maryland Medical Center. (n.d.). Weight control and diet – Causes. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_biologic_medical_causes_of_obesity_000053_2.htm.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (2005). “Specific regions of brain implicated in anorexia nervosa, finds Univ. of Pittsburgh study.” Science Daily. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com