What Makes You Happy?
Happy New Year, Everyone! This year my vow is to celebrate happiness, or health with less stress. Many of you who followed my posts this year may recall this one in particular. It’s an account of the most difficult day of my life… getting shot. Having survived, I have redoubled my pledge to thrive and be happy.
So, here’s the tricky part…How do you get to that happy state? Is it through food? Well, doesn’t that just open Pandora’s Box of nagging uncertainties. What is the right food and the right diet for each of us? We certainly know it’s not a one size fits all — just ask anyone following a special diet. Not even the experts agree. Witness these three “healthiest” Paleo, Mediterranean, Non-Diet opinions. We listen too! According to Nielson, globally, nearly two out of three us say we follow a special diet omitting certain ingredients. That could translate to low or no fat, sugar, sodium, carbs, meat, gluten and more. No wonder we’re so confused! Is any one of these the right choice?
Should I continue eating those “happy” carbs?
Some of these pack a double edge emotional sword…sugar…why do I feel giddy and miserable at the same time? Are carbs my friend or foe? Should I mainline bananas because they’re serotonin-rich? Ultimately, what we eat really can impact our happiness. At least that’s the case made by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD. In her Food & Mood and Eat Your Way to Happiness Somer advances that what we put into our bodies has a profound, holistic impact on our emotions.
Dr. Laura Pawlak, in her book Hungry Brain, points out our brains are hardwired to focus on survival. The “pleasure-seeking circuitry” of dopamine-producing neurons are constantly primed for activation by any sign of food (smell, sight, memory). Innately, we’re pleasure-seekers, I know I am. Studies like this one show certain foods—such as sugar, salt, and fat—are potent natural reward-drivers. They trigger the release of key “pleasure” neurotransmitters—such as dopamine—more than their healthy counterparts. Ever felt your mouth water at the sight of pizza, but not kale?
The True Meaning of Hyperpalatable
Former FDA head David A. Kessler, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite has a name for these calorie-rich, easily digestible foods: hyperpalatable. They not only go down easy, but they’re engineered to make you want more of them by triggering a powerful reward conditioning stimulus. Uh, oh! So, does pleasure not equate to happiness? Could that mean foods that cause pleasure are maybe not the right ones to bring us happiness? How hard is it to swallow that sobering idea?!
Given all that weighty discussion, this year I’m only going to focus on healthy food knowing happiness will follow. Keeping our bodies healthy we’re better equipped to handle illness, aging and stress, and won’t that all make us happier in the long run? I have my own special diet in mind too. It will include protein-rich meals with lots of healthy green veggies and perhaps some healthy fats too. I’m also going to eat lots of natural fruits for healthy carbs to keep my blood sugar at a normal level. Lastly, I will focus on fiber and eat foods that contain some elements of fiber. In conclusion, I am going to eat well for a happy tomorrow.
How about you? What are your #happy diet secrets this new year? Don’t wait for tomorrow! Share them with us @Kitchology and @Kitchenchick.
Happy New Year, Everyone!