One of the most powerful components of how your metabolism works is not about what you eat, it’s your relationship with food. It’s the sum total of your innermost thoughts and feelings about what you eat.
If a group of us were looking at the same plate of food, no two people would see the same thing, or metabolize it the same way.
People have different beliefs about what food is ‘healthy’, and those beliefs have a large impact on what that food is going to do for them.
Caroline Leaf does a fantastic job explaining the science behind the mind and how to rewire it.
From Mind -> Brain -> Body
Here is how it works:
If you’re about to eat an ice cream cone. The image of that ice cream occurs in the higher center of the brain first. Then, information is relayed to the limbic system or the “lower” portion of the brain. Within the limbic system is the hypothalamus, which takes sensory, emotional, and thought input and translates this information into physiological responses.
Amazing! Basically, whatever you are thinking sends the signal to your brain, and your brain sends the signal to your body which creates a physical response as to how to digest the food!
If the ice cream is your favorite flavor and you consume it with a full measure of delight and pleasure, the hypothalamus will take this positive input by sending signals to the salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Digestion will be stimulated and you’ll have a fuller metabolic breakdown of the ice cream while burning its calories more efficiently.
If you’re feeling guilty about eating the ice cream or judging yourself for eating it, the hypothalamus will take this negative input and signal the digestive organs leading to a poor break down and burning of its calories.
Thoughts Change Your Body’s Functions
Any guilt about food, shame about the body, or judgment about health are considered stressors by the brain and the brain sends stress signals throughout the body. This puts the body into ‘fight or flight’, which turns OFF your digestion!
You could eat the healthiest meal on the planet, but if you’re thinking toxic thoughts the digestion of your food goes down and your fat storage metabolism can go up.
Mind Over Metabolism
- The following is the conclusion of a study performed in 2011: “The effect of food consumption on ghrelin may be psychologically mediated.” Ghrelin is a peptide and hormone that stimulates hunger. When ghrelin levels rise, we feel hungry, and when they fall, we feel satiated. The study found that ghrelin levels dropped steeply after subjects consumed shakes they thought were 620 calories, while ghrelin levels stayed relatively steady after the subjects consumed shakes they thought were 140 calories, even though all of the shakes were 380 calories. That means the subjects were all consuming the exact same types and amounts of nutrients and calories, but their bodies’ responses differed depending on how they perceived the shakes. Those who thought they were drinking an indulgent, high-calorie shake experienced satiety, and those who thought they were drinking a healthy, low-calorie shake were not as satiated.
Mind over Weight
- This study took 84 hotel attendants with cleaning responsibilities and told half of them that their daily work satisfied the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle as exercise. They told the other half nothing.
“As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.”
Mind over Hair
- Perhaps one of the most well-known cases is the research in chemotherapy treatment. One group of cancer patients received the actual drug being tested while another group received a placebo – a fake harmless, inert chemical substance. Pharmaceutical companies are required by law to test all new drugs against a placebo to determine the true effectiveness. 31 percent of the patients on the placebo chemotherapy – an inert saltwater injection – lost their hair! Such is the power of expectation. The only reason that those placebo patients lost their hair is because they believed they would. Like many people, they associated chemotherapy with going bald.
Take Away: How Mind Effects Metabolism
So if the power of the mind is strong enough to make our hair fall out when taking a placebo, what do you think happens when we think to ourselves “this cake is fattening,” or “this food is bad” or “this will make me break out”.
Can you see the importance of your inner world when it comes to metabolizing a meal? Are you ready to bring your happier and more relaxed self to the table?
We might as well take the power of placebo and use it intentionally:
Whatever you are eating, eat it like it’s the best thing you have ever tasted. Fully enjoy it. Take pleasure in it. Bless it. Be thankful for it. Think thoughts of only good it is doing for your body.