My husband and I agree on most of the important life issues, such as how to raise our kids, family always comes first, and a home without a dog or two is too quiet. However, when it comes to food, that’s where we often disagree. My husband says, “I want food to be a party in my mouth, a celebration!” I say, “I want my body to feel like celebrating after I have eaten my food.” We laugh, as we realize people have a very personal relationship with food, us included. My husband’s “party in his mouth” would be a heaping plate of pasta with a rich sauce, a never–ending bowl of creamy risotto, or the chocolate sheet cake I use to make for birthdays and soccer parties. If I ate that, I would be bloated, tired, cranky and constipated. What kind of party is that? No, my husband doesn’t eat that way anymore, but oh, how his mouth wants him to. I feel there are so many people experiencing just that: feeding the mouth, looking for instant gratification and not thinking of the results afterward. Looking for that immediate “fix.” It can be the sugar/carb rush for energy or trying to calm stressful emotions using their favorite treat and then wondering why they feel so crappy, gain weight, can’t sleep or are depressed. It’s normal to want pleasure – how we choose it is often problematic.

When I work with clients, I often look for pleasure or the absence of it in their lives. Do their eyes light up when they talk about their day, can they get a good night’s sleep, do they have something joyful in their day and what is their relationship with food? Do they enjoy it or is there guilt when they eat it? Stressful thoughts about our food, especially while we are eating, affects our physical body, slowing down digestion, and raising cortisol, which makes it even harder to lose weight or make a better and healthier food selection.

An important part of the journey to better health are our thoughts and emotions about ourselves and particularly about food. Are we looking for something sweet in our life, are we bored, have we been eating the wrong food for our body type and craving the foods we are sensitive to? Are we so burnt-out and sleep-deprived that we need the “sugar rush” and the caffeine jolt to make it through the day? This is where brain chemistry comes in. I often say, “There is no willpower that will win over brain chemistry.” It is tricky though–we need to eat and digest the right foods to formulate neurotransmitters that help us make good decisions, and we need the balanced emotions from neurotransmitters to choose the right foods.

Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that are made from amino acids (proteins). These neurotransmitters are chemical messengers such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA, etc., and these messengers are powerful substances that motivate or sedate us, they help us to focus and feel pleasure or frustration and they can significantly shift our moods. Poor protein intake, excess carbohydrate intake and poor digestion can result in amino acid deficiencies and poor neurotransmitter function.  Chronic sugar or starch consumption can block healthy functioning of neurotransmitters. In fact, most depression pharmaceuticals aim to artificially manipulate those chemical messengers. Even mainstream science realizes the importance of brain chemistry; however and unfortunately, mainstream medicine rarely tries to solve the problem without a large pharmaceutical conglomerate involved in the therapy.

Interestingly, to get into the brain, these amino acid neurotransmitters must pass a protective blood brain barrier and must be escorted through by a certain molecule, (usually vitamins and or minerals) on a specific pathway. Without whole, unprocessed foods and healthy digestion, the neurotransmitters can’t make it to the brain, creating emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and various addictions.

Health is the whole package – our emotional and physical are blended together. It does not work to take a pill to try and fix the imbalance without exploring our diet, digestion, emotions and even our environment. Otherwise it’s just a Band-Aid.

Mark Hyman, MD says in his popular book The Blood Sugar Solution, “What you put on your fork is the most powerful medicine you can take to correct the root causes of chronic disease and diabesity.”

The body (particularly the gut) and the brain interact as one. What you put into your body and how it digests powerfully affects your brain. So, treat your body well and then go party.