As we come approach the fifth month of homeworking for many, conversations have started around comfort eating and weight gain, and the monotony of the new normal. And these things are all connected by dopamine
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (or chemical signal) that is released when we experience something pleasurable and satisfying and works as part of the reward system. It boosts mood, motivation and attention. The brain releases dopamine when we eat something we enjoy, when we are having sex and when we experience recognition. Dopamine can also be triggered by the ping of a text message, or a “like” on social media – explaining the hold that our phones can have over us. It is very much linked to addiction, with dopamine deficient individuals being more likely to become addicted to food, drugs or unhelpful behaviours.
When we are in our normal routines we will get dopamine hits from social interaction with colleagues, when we receive praise from a boss, and when we hit our goals or meet deadlines. And outside work from being with loved ones and enjoying rewarding experiences.
When our mood starts to drop (as it could now with the monotony of working from home) the brain will seek out ways of getting a dopamine hit – and the easiest way is through the consumption of sugary foods. And as we know sugar consumption is a major cause of weight gain.
So what can we do to keep our dopamine levels high?
Here are my top tips:
- Keep your blood sugars balanced so that a blood-sugar low doesn’t drive you to reach for sugary foods. (Read my blog post on cutting down on sugar)
- Make sure you consume plenty of Tyrosine rich foods. The body makes dopamine from the amino acid Tyrosine which is found in beans and lentils, soya products, cheese, eggs, seeds, nuts, chicken, meat, fish.
- Have an antioxidant rich diet. Free radicals can lower dopamine levels and antioxidants protect the body from free radicals (from pollution, oxidation, UV light). Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as berries, pomegranates, spinach, rocket, peppers, tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants.
- Build rewarding moments into your day if you are working from home. Take regular breaks and do things that bring you joy: walking in nature, sitting in the sun, reading a chapter of a book, watching a funny video, calling a good friend
- Diarise events to look forward to: a trip to the seaside, a social distanced meet up with friends, a drive-in movie, a walk in the countryside.
If you are interested in a personalised approach to nutrition and would like to find out how I work please contact me to book in for a free 20 minute Discovery Call.