A Junk Food Diet Can Change the Brain in a Week

22. Change what you eat, change your brain. You can’t control your unique genetic makeup, your history of dieting, nor your physiological response. But you can… Rina - April 27, 2020
changes in the brain. Shutterstock.

22. Change what you eat, change your brain.

You can’t control your unique genetic makeup, your history of dieting, nor your physiological response. But you can control your behaviors. Here are three simple (but not necessarily easy) steps you can take to help your natural appetite regulation system get back online and do its job better:

Step 1: Eat more whole, fresh, minimally processed foods. This means stuff like: Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and/or plant sources for your lean protein. Fruits and vegetables, ideally colorful ones. Slow-digesting, high-fiber starches such as whole grains, starchy tubers (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, etc.), beans and legumes. Nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, fatty fish and seafood for your quality fats.

a half healthy plate. Shutterstock.

23. Change your brain

Step 2: Eat slowly and mindfully. No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your brain and gastrointestinal tract coordinate their activities. It will help you feel more in control of choosing what and how much to eat. Plus, since the signals are getting through properly, you’ll often feel satisfied with less food.  Step 3: Eat fewer processed, hyper-palatable foods. Step 3 can be tricky. We get it. After all, this whole article is about how appealing those foods can be. Step 1 and 2 will make Step 3 easier.

If you get more of the “good stuff”, and stay mindful as you eat it, there’s often less room (and desire) for the other stuff.Over time, if you do these 3 steps consistently: You’ll probably notice you crave highly processed foods less, and feel more in charge of your food decisions in general. You’ll feel fuller for longer as that leptin loop returns to normal (at least to some degree, keeping in mind that each person’s body and the situation is a bit different). You may lose body fat. You’ll probably find you feel, move and perform better, too.

complexities of the brain. Shutterstock.

24. Food intake is complex

Physiology plays a big role. But so do psychology, relationships, and our larger society, our culture, our lifestyle, our individual knowledge or beliefs about food and eating. This means you aren’t “doomed” by physiology. You can use other things to help your body do its job.

A meal of whole foods, properly cooked and seasoned, and enjoyed at the dinner table with your family or friends is going to be much more satisfying than eating in your car next to the drive-through window. You don’t have to live in a world of bland and depressing “health food” just because you aren’t carpet-bombing your taste buds. Throw a little butter and salt on those veggies. Make them taste good — just not “too good”, too often. Your brain will love you for it.

our food effects out brian functioning. Shutterstock.

25. What to do next

Recognize that your body is a system. Think long-term. What you do today can affect what happens tomorrow. Your breakfast can change your dinner. If you restrict food and nutrients with a fad diet that “starts on Monday”, you might find your body aggressively taking back its energy by Friday.

Eat mostly whole, minimally processed foods. Whole, minimally processed foods are not hyper-rewarding or hyper-palatable. It’s harder to over-eat them. They don’t cause hypothalamic inflammation and leptin resistance. They have lots of good stuff (vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, phytonutrients, disease-fighting chemicals, etc.) and are usually lower in calories.

consider healthy options. Shutterstock.

26. Choose whole foods that you enjoy and will eat consistently

Eat enough lean protein. Protein is a satiety superstar. We’ve seen in both research and our clients: When people eat more lean protein, they eat fewer calories overall. But they feel more satisfied. Sometimes even like they’re eating “too much”! For most men, this generally means consuming 6-8 palm-sized portions of protein daily. And for most women, this generally means consuming 4-6 palm-sized portions of protein daily.

Eat plenty of vegetables. Vegetables — especially colorful ones — are obviously super healthy. They give you a lot of volume and nutrients for very little calories. And many of them are fun to eat (think crunchy carrots, baby tomatoes, etc.). For most men, this generally means consuming 6-8 fist-sized portions of vegetables daily. For most women, this generally means consuming 4-6 fist-sized portions of vegetables daily.

a healthy brain. Shutterstock.

27. Get quality carbs and healthy fats

For carbohydrates, look for whole grains, beans and legumes, starchy tubers (such as potatoes and sweet potatoes) and fruit. The combination of resistant starch, fiber and water content will help you feel fuller, for longer. When it comes to carbohydrates, for most men we recommend 6-8 cupped handfuls of carbohydrates daily. And for most women, we recommend 4-6 cupped handfuls of carbohydrates daily. For fat-dense foods, look to high-quality oils and butter, nut butter, nuts/seeds, avocados, and even a little dark chocolate. Fat tends to be digested the most slowly of all the macronutrients, especially sources that are less energy-dense and higher in fiber (e.g. nuts, seeds, avocados).

For most men, itis recommended to have 6-8 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats per day. For most women, it is recommended to have 4-6 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats per day. Consider how you eat. Work on eating slowly. Pay attention to your own internal satiety cues. Eat without your smartphone, TV, or computer in your face. Eat from smaller plates. Create an environment in your home and workspace that makes it difficult to overeat or be tempted with highly-processed, highly-rewarding foods. Remember Berardi‘s First Law: If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it. This also leads to the corollary of Berardi’s First Law: If “a healthy food” is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it.

ideas for a healthy brain. Shutterstock.

28. Be flexible.

Recognize that it’s OK to have some of those highly-rewarding foods. Completely avoiding them, or demonizing them as “bad” or “poison” usually does the opposite of what you want: You feel like a guilty failure, and you often end up overeating or bingeing on those “banned” foods. Instead, choose (in other words, decide in advance) to indulge in some occasional cookies, brownies or ice cream. Eat them slowly and mindfully, until you’re satisfied. Enjoy them. And then move on, back to your regular routine like it’s nothing. Keep in mind that how often you choose to indulge should depend on what you’re looking to achieve. Be aware

Cultivate an awareness of how you feel before, during and after your meals. Do you eat because you’re truly hungry, or because the clock says it’s time to eat, or because you just “feel snacky”? Do you feel overstuffed at the end of a meal, only to find yourself staring into the fridge two hours later? Where do most of your meals come from? Consider keeping a food journal for a couple of weeks, making note of what you eat and how you feel. You can also jot down stuff like what you’re thinking, and what else is going on in your life (e.g. stress at work). Simply becoming more aware of your body’s cues — and how these relate to other factors — will help you better regulate your food intake. Awareness helps you make decisions that are more in line with your body’s actual needs.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: