Use food as nourishment, not as a reward


It's important to keep finding positivity during these stressful and often lonely times.

A self-congratulatory pat on the back is fantastic and very necessary but its also tempting to use a snack or fast-food-fix as the payoff.

In the absence of hunger, 'comfort food' is often used to alleviate anxiety, stress or boredom.

Weight gain has ben shown to trigger inflammation and is a contributing risk factor for adverse responses to many illnesses, not just Covid 19.

The reward system is actually a group of brain structures that regulate and control behaviour by inducing pleasurable effects.

The mesolimbic pathway in the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine performs many tasks, including reward, cognition, working memory, and motor coordination.

Sugary, high fat foods tend to trigger this reward process in sensitive individuals.

Changes in dopamine production and function may increase susceptibility to cognitive decline, mood disorders, and certain behaviours related to substance abuse and binge eating disorders.

If you have a genetic variation in your dopamine receptors, it would be highly beneficial to avoid all refined carbohydrates.

Processed fast foods and snacks, sugary drinks and pastries as well as pasta and refined flours will lead to overeating and a continuation in this self-defeating cycle.

Distractions could be the answer!

Exercise tops the list. This does not have to be a full intense 60 minute workout all the time. Breaking movement up into manageable tasks throughout the day can work not only as a health tool, but as a meaningful distraction from unnecessary snacking or bingeing.

Reading or flipping through a magazine is another distraction to break the reward-seeking cycle. Gardening, tidying up an inbox or a messy desk or even rearranging a grocery shelf can work as a distraction and in turn will produce a sense of accomplishment.

Listening to music also stimulates dopamine levels.

You do not deserve to feel bad about yourself.

Food should be a pleasurable and nourishing daily process. Essential nutrients required for brain function and physical activity are paramount for coping with a highly stressful and ongoing pandemic.

So go ahead and celebrate all small wins, without resorting to unhealthy snacks as a reward.