My Recent Brain-Healthy Diet and Self-Control
Poor nutrition is catastrophic for brain health. Sugar, food dyes and other artificial ingredients wreak havoc on attention and cognition – and not to mention your metabolism, contributing to diabetes and other problems (which in turn, mess up your brain as well).
Conversely, different dietary patterns are reported to lead to far better brain health, and are said to improve things like hyperactivity, attentional issues, brain fog, chronic pain and more. As such, I’ve revamped my regular diet a bit recently to help me toward the goal of a better brain.
I was discussing this with my good friend Jordan about my nutritional habits recently. A few months ago I switched my eating habits to follow something resembling a ketogenic diet since the tenets of it are heralded for improved brain function and energy, two things I strongly desire.
Surprisingly to me, it’s given me a lot more self-control as a side effect. This has some major implications for achieving the brain health goals I’ve set for myself.
I’ve kept the rules simple on my end:
- Low carb, high healthy fat, medium protein.
- Avoid sugar as much as possible.
- Low or no processed food.
- Good ingredients: in-season veggies, wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats.
- Far less booze than I normally drink.
All of which is super tasty, easy to prepare, and if I occasionally cheat I haven’t noticed an effect. All requirements for me to be able to change my eating habits effectively for a sustained period – otherwise, I’d be miserable, and wouldn’t be able to stick to it.
I love food, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But often that’s a one-way love, and I was sick of that part. I want to feel better from what I eat!
Besides other benefits, I’ve noticed something great which I’ve heard could be a result of diets like this: reduced cravings, and more self-control.
Which is huge, since I’m someone who says ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ to things like desserts, a great cocktail, or another glass of wine (and maybe one more).
It’s quantifiably different. Usually when I pass the legendary Peter Pan Bakery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, there’s no avoiding bringing home a half dozen. Today marks the third time I’ve walked by without an issue passing it right by. Those who know me well might not have thought this possible.
My tendency to overeat has dropped significantly. At meals, I would sometimes keep going until I can’t anymore, and 15 minutes after a meal feel bloated and miserable. That’s happened far less lately (though this is helped a lot by consciously reminding myself, and receiving gentle reminders from my wife).
More interestingly, my tendency to stress eat has been reduced. Often when having high-stress days, I’d suppress anxiety with something sugary – donut, muffin, cookie, whatever was available and tasty – and sometimes, all-out binge on them. Today, however, I had a number of stressors hitting me at once to the point where I had to lay down with my eyes closed and breathe for 20 minutes to settle down – but the thought of eating the stress away barely exists in my mind now. And I’m only a few minutes walking distance from Peter Pan as I write this!
Why do I write all this? It’s more than just to share a cool story with you. This is a fantastic example of improving your brain with one of the oldest bio hacks known to humankind – the food you put into your system. And as it turns out, self-control is one of the more challenging things to improve. The sheer number of cases of diabetes, nicotine, and other drug addictions are a testimonial to how hard it is to resist tempting things. If you could press a button and magically resist your own personal kryptonite, who wouldn’t do it?
It’s not as easy as pressing a button – but if it works (like it seems to have done for me), then you’ve put one of the things slowing you down on autopilot. You’ve now freed up a bunch of energy for other things that you want in life – things that are way better for you.
What’s your diet like? Has changing your diet helped or hurt you? Let me know in the comments.
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