Sunday, 28 October 2018

Eat yourself happy and motivated

Feeling low on energy and motivation? Moody and struggling to sleep? Relying on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants to get through the day? Then chances are you’re low on dopamine. 

DOPAMINE is the most powerful of the 'HAPPY chemicals' and is the ‘REWARD’ chemical, the chemical we produce when anticipating something amazing and it’s then boosted by the satisfaction of actually having it. It is also the chemical that is our MOTIVATOR to get out there and achieve our goals. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? So how do we get it?

Daydreaming about cake and then eating it is a popular way to get a dopamine fix. Trouble is, that comes with a sugar spike and sugar low and a whole host of other problems, especially if you're on a diet.

Eating the cake may also be followed by other damaging feelings. 

From a nutritional point of view, the ingredients of cakes - saturated fats, sugar or artificial sweeteners - are believed to deplete our dopamine level, which makes this dopamine kick a bit pointless.

Recent research suggests that people classed as obese may be dopamine deficient and have less dopamine receptors. That's when you find eating the piece of cake isn't so rewarding after all and yet you eat more believing it will eventually make you feel better. And you wouldn't be far wrong if you thought that sounds like an addiction, as it's a self-medicating behaviour trying to boost that dopamine to make you feel good. 

If an increase in weight is linked to a deficiency in dopamine then that would also explain how we struggle to motivate ourselves to lose weight the more weight we put on. 

And worse, when you diet, your dopamine levels drop causing your food cravings to increase … making that cake even more appealing but of course less satisfying when you eat it. And so we end up in a diet and guilt cycle.

And if that's not all bad enough, when the dopamine fix doesn't work, it becomes a trigger to give up. Which explains that heart-sinking feeling you have when you have followed your diet exactly, you’re expecting to lose weight but when you get on the scales you see you haven’t lost anything. Zilch. Nada. No reward for all that effort - so what's the point? Might as well give up!

So how can you get your dopamine fix to keep up your motivation and feel-good factor in a healthy and systematic way? 

The first step is to create a clearly visualised and personally meaningful goal and break it down into small achievable chunks and mini goals, giving yourself lots of opportunities to celebrate winning at your goal. 

If your goal is to lose weight, find reasons other than just weight loss to celebrate, for example going for a 10 minute walk, getting enough sleep, eating nourishing foods. 

And choose other goals to go alongside your weight loss goal so you’re not just focussing on food and have other achievements to celebrate.

Choose small steps that you can anticipate and achieve with relative ease. 

And choose celebrations you really enjoy. Maybe even create yourself a victory dance!

Plan to incorporate in your life any activity you enjoy doing that sets you up for anticipation and for a win. 

So what can you eat to create that feel good factor? 

The good news is that all eating increases dopamine, not just fatty and high sugar foods. The wonderful chef Tom Kerridge used his knowledge and love of food to design his Dopamine Diet that focuses on healthy foods that boost dopamine. 

Eat lots of eggs, lean and unprocessed meat such as chicken, turkey and beef, legumes, high protein dairy (if you can tolerate it), omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, rapeseed oil, lots of fruit and vegetables, particularly banana, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and good quality dark chocolate of 85% cacao. 

Add the spice turmeric to your food as the curcumin is known to boost brain function through the release of dopamine and serotonin.

Drink green tea as it contains the amino acid L-theanine which increases dopamine and is also associated with increasing metabolism which may aid your weight loss which can in turn increase your dopamine by helping you achieve your goal. 

And for movement, try yoga as it is believed to boost dopamine. 

Imagine that, a diet that makes you happy!

Need help to manage your barriers to weight loss? Join my Facebook Group Shift your Mindset Shift your Weight at or book a free discovery call with me at and let’s explore if we’re a match and how I can help. 

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