- Not entered
About 12 years ago, a chronic exposure to an environmental poison caused a series of disabling physical and cognitive issues that went misdiagnosed for 2 years. I then worked hard to lose the weight I'd gained and, in the process, became fascinated by the way different foods, exercise, water, and certain supplements could affect brain function and decision-making.
At the same time that I was trying to lose weight, I was struggling to overcome cognitive issues that were causing me to have difficulty concentrating, to walk with things in my hands and lose them, and to not be able to consistently integrate new techniques, like writing post-it note reminders for myself about important things like where I parked the car.
I had heard that the frontal lobes shut down a few hours before we actually go to sleep, and that this could affect decisions about eating at night -- but what I didn't understand, is that we can enter this state throughout the day if our brains get tired, and we might not even notice it.
This can happen from processing too-much information (a stack of paperwork, some movies), exposure to a lot of distractions (kids, traffic/emergency lights) or even stress from subtle things like mild dehydration and lack of essential nutrients.
Eureka! I wasn't looking at two different problems, just one really complex one that required a whole range of tactics to outsmart the body-brain communications that left me vulnerable to less-than-conscious behaviors.
Among these are the requests by fat cells for foods high in carbs and fats. If a regular person works out, the muscles send signals asking for proteins. If a heavy person works out, the requests by both fat cells and muscle cells can become an overwhelming blur of undifferenciated hunger feelings. If the brain is tired, the conscious decision making part is not going to work and a simple "EAT NOW!" can take over, making it seem perfectly rational to head to the drive-through.
We are more than the sum of our biochemical signals, and smarter than our fat cells. We have consciousness, and, when our brains are fully conscious, we can make conscious decisions to change our lives.
We can figure out what times we are at our best, and schedule a day at that time for planning, grocery shopping and prep for evening snack (stored separately from any other food).
We can boost our brains by figuring out a schedule for naps to enhance brain function and decision making. (20 mins, tops), or mark times on our water bottles so we will get the right amount of water throughout the day to keep the brain hydrated.
Using even one peak functioning window, can do a whole host of other things to make success more likely during periods of low-functioning, and increase peak level functioning, setting the wheels in motion for success through to the next window.
With that secret in hand, I lost 86 pounds in a little over a year and kept it off for 9 years.
Life happens. Setbacks occur. Stress and upheaval, interference in dietary and exercise habits outside of my control have put on 30 pounds in the last 3 years, but I know it would have been worse if I wasn't employing the tactics to the best of my ability. I also know, that now that I can get back to the pool and the gym regularly, I am back on my way to a healthier weight again.
I also was able to finally start using the stupid post-it notes more effectively, and my AAA driver and the local meter maid miss me.
The things I learned about food and brain function have gotten me thinking though, about the other aspects of brain function that are affected by foods, nutrients, water and sleep.
People tend to think of things in terms of "good" and "bad" -- but is the partial shutting down of the frontal lobes always detrimental?
I know that sometimes I am better able to make simple lists at night just before bed. And in playing the brain games recommended by a speech pathologist, I find my approach sometimes changes in more effective ways that I cannot mimic when I am fully awake.
For example, I play computer Sudoku because a visual disturbance makes the lines vibrate and it is generally extraordinarily frustrating to try to process numbers framed in the lines of the boxes.
When I am at a certain point before bed, I can sometimes simply look at one 9-box square and instantly know what numbers are missing, without having to think about all the numbers that are there.
The thing that directed me to the IONS site was a show about brain function on the History channel where researchers were conducting experiments in blocking certain brain signals so military personnel could find specific targets much faster.
It occurred to me that perhaps, when tired or otherwise depleted to a certain point, the human brain just samples certain signals, rather than address all of them, causing the same effect.
And would it be to crazy to think that there could be a psychical-spiritual connection to brain function and the manipulation of dietary and stress-related factors as well?
Fasting, dance, music, sounds, ritual. Anthropologists talk about these things as exciting people into what they call a "trance-like" state, but what if this is present to some degree in normal-range states that fluctuate throughout the day?
And if things like the combination of fatigue and bio-chemical communication of fat cell needs can affect our brain's ability to make decisions about the food we eat, can other things interfere with our ability to properly process (and accept/act on) psychic-spiritual reception?
I like that there is a place where all these things can be explored scientifically without close-minded ridicule.
What a wonderful website!