Timing is Everything

The brain works in funny ways. It works in cyclical patterns in that it needs a break about every 30 minutes. The cigarette companies knew this from very early on and this is why a pack of cigarettes is usually twenty. Have you ever thought about why there are 20 cigarettes in a pack? We are programmed to focus for a certain amount of time and then we need to take a break. And when you take that break, you feel better. The endorphin system is basically a recalibration of the brain. Smokers need about 20 cigarettes a day based on the timing of how many breaks that we need to take in a day. This works out to about every 20 to 30 minutes during daylight. Cigarettes are often kept within close reach. Even if you don’t go for that cigarette, they are always on your mind and you have easy access to them in your front pocket.

Carb addicts function much in the same way. They often snack every 30 minutes with easy access carbohydrates. Often in someone’s work place, the bag of M&M’s or sodas are kept in the office where they can’t be seen, but access is easy. In this way, the carb addict can’t be judged. Even if you only take a sip of a soda every 20 minutes, it adds up. And realize that people use something like Coke or Pepsi to relax between situations, between meetings; when they take that drink, it feels better. Chronically performing these activities leads to problems and eventually obesity and addiction.

France has some of the best museums regarding the history of human evolution. They have great exhibits of the Neanderthals as well as homo sapiens that existed many tens of thousands of years ago. Humans spent about 1.8 million years as hunters, farmers, and gatherers. We have never eaten carbohydrates to the extent that we eat them today. Addiction just could not have been a possibility. Between the fact that killing a woolly mammoth was very difficult and fruits were seasonal (and there was no way to ship them 1000 miles away like we do today). It is pretty obvious that we have spent the last 80 or so years eating more and more processed foods and growing obese as a species.

Let’s take a healthy behavior vs an unhealthy behavior

The child that eats, then goes out and plays, and will only come back to eat or drink if they are thirsty or hungry. This is how it has been for many centuries. What we see on the medical side is that obese children are often near the kitchen, eating little bits of food, having open access to refined carbohydrates since these are the easiest foods to consume. They are eating for pleasure and emotional needs. It is interesting in France and some other parts of Europe, not many children ever snack. They are taught from a pretty young age that snacking is not acceptable and that food is to be eaten at the table. The meaning of “à table” (to the table) is a very powerful metaphor in French culture.

Part of getting somewhere with eating disorders is learning how the brain works. Understanding that our brains are asking for something at certain time increments is critical in the success of modifying any behavior. Substituting a coffee with heavy cream, nuts, or cheese are very good alternatives to packaged refined carbohydrates. Timing really is everything.

Next time we’ll get into the surprising answer of binging on carbohydrates