The Brain in Your Belly

The brain in your belly

Have you stopped listening to your body signals that naturally tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full? If you get into the habit of ignoring them, the outcome is typically weight gain.

I have found this to be the number one reason why I may gain weight – emotional eating & not listening to my body.

Learning to listen to and appreciate your body’s inner wisdom can help you get to a healthy weight and stay there sustainably.

The Gut Brain 

Did you know there is a network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our “second brain”?

This second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.

Equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the second brain can control gut behavior independently of the brain.  In fact, scientists were shocked to learn that about 90 percent of the nerve fibers in this region carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around.

A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut. For example, butterflies in the stomach is signaling in the gut that is part of our physiological stress response. And have you ever received really shocking and unpleasant news and literally felt like you were punched in the gut?

The Brain–Gut Connection 

Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it seems to take about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness while eating. For this reason, if you eat too quickly you are more likely to overeat.

Who’s the Boss? The Brain in Your Head or the Brain in Your Belly? 

Essentially the brain in your head is the boss, because even when we’re full, the big brain can overrule signals from the gut brain. Some messages that can cause us to eat even when we’re not hungry:

  • Cultural or social expectations, such as “it’s dinnertime”
  • The aroma or visual appearance of food
  • Psychological compulsion such as “stress eating”

To help you gain better control of your eating and to lessen the chances of what is called “mindless” eating, try using a hunger scale.  Here’s how it works:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “ravenous” and 10 being “stuffed”, rank your hunger right before you start to eat

Halfway through your meal, rank your hunger again using the same scale of 1 to 10. If you’re at a “5”, “6” or “7” put your fork down and stop eating.

Be honest with yourself. The purpose is to reconnect to your body’s wisdom. There is no judgment; overeating or bingeing does not make you a bad person. There is simply an underlying problem to uncover and the overeating is a symptom.

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