I don’t know about you, but food culture within ethnic culture has me flipping!

My parents and I used to spend evenings with some Greek family friends. Every time we visited, without fail, I’d sit on the ottoman directly facing a large crystal bowl, overflowing with Greek chocolate and biscuits. My frontal lobes would engage in a workout of epic proportions as I spent the majority of the night justifying my choice to take just one, “how much carbs have I eaten today?”, “can I make it fit my macros?” if I don’t eat dinner can I have two?”, “what about if I train legs tomorrow and do 3 hours of cardio?”… And the spiral continued.

If you, like myself, have found yourself in this thought spiral, stop it! Right now! It may be a sign of what we call, COGNITIVE DIETARY RESTRAINT.

Cognitive Dietary Restraint (CDR) refers to the extreme conscious effort to restrict yourself from certain foods. People often refer to this as self-discipline. I, on the other hand, refer to it as self-sabotage, and I’ll tell you why.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about healthy, balanced, nutrient dense meals specific to your goals. But unless you are prepping for a competition, I don’t believe people need be so excessively strict on themselves if they were presented with an opportunity to relax and enjoy a cheeky treat. The physiological implications, stemming from the series of questioning i exemplified above can stimulate increase in the stress hormone cortisol, especially in women where CDR effects 25%. Cortisol does have it’s place however exposure to the hormone in excess and long term, can cause implications such as:

– Increased abdominal/visceral fat and reduced muscle;

– reduced growth hormone and testosterone output which are crucial for building lean muscle and burning fat;

– impaired learning and memory, and;

– osteoporosis.

When the body is put under duress cortisol provides it with glucose by taking it from protein stores. However, if elevated for a long period of time will eventually increase blood sugar levels leading to what we know as Diabetes.

A study conducted by Dr. Barr of the Canadian Institute of Health Research found that ‘normal-weight women with high restraint are more likely to have menstrual cycle disturbances, affecting their chances of becoming pregnant..’ as well as high cortisol levels which not only affect body composition, but also impact on bone density and promote hypertension.

So ladies, stressing over your food is actually counterproductive to, not only fat loss but your health!

Having said that, I believe it’s still very important to educate yourself and your clients on nutrition and how to eat. Being conscious of what you put into your body is important. However, be aware of the moment it changes from being health conscious, to excessive restriction.

Remember, every sense we have can change our biochemistry.. Not just taste, but sight, smell and touch.

Food for thought.

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