Philip Boucher Hayes in his RTE television program “What’s Ireland Eating” recently visited a range of scientists and doctors enquiring about how we react to food and arrived at the question of ‘how we can get self control to limit our consumption of food containing sugar, fat and salt.’

>Skip down to discover how to get self control>
During the show he as shown was undergoing a Functional MRI while being shown pictures of non food items and foods. When shown the pictures of food certain areas of his brain were seen to be activated.
The research doctor who is carrying out research using the FMRI told us that there was a biological reaction to food and Philip posed the question how can we develop self control to deal with cravings and over indulgence?

The doctor explained that since time began we have had to hunt and gather to find our food but now we are surrounded by an abundance of food and it is readily available all day long and throughout the night.

Another researcher explained that it was at night when we are tired that we become weak will. Participants at a Weight Watchers group confirmed that it was at night that they over indulged. They admitted that it was at night that they dropped their guard and over-ate especially on foods rich in calories, fats, sugars and salt.

Self control is essential in business, communications, education and sports. It is essential if we are to overcome our basic reactions to stimuli, rise above our primitive state and engage the possibility to be responsible for our actions and for how we respond to the stimulating triggers in our environment.

In our environment we are bombarded with information and our biology and neurology is setup to see every stimulus as belonging to one of four categories. Each stimulus is categorised as something to be fought, run away from, mated or bonded with, and finally as something to be eaten.

Once we are relaxed, feel comfortable and we settle in for the evening and we feel safe then the fight and flight primitive reactions are diminished. Stimulation with pictures of food on television, movies advertising etc, adds to the memories of sounds, tastes and smells of these foods and act as stimuli which trigger the reaction matching the category food and we feel the urge to eat.

Once the initial stimulus is sorted into one of the four categories in the primitive brain, the pain and pleasure centres are then activated.

It was interesting to hear from the weight watchers group and from the researchers that the sight of food, the memory of food and its preparation led to an anticipation of food which set off the pleasure triggers in the brain. They reported that it often happened that the anticipation was more rewarding and fulfilling than the actual eating of the food.

Researchers revealed to us that as the people anticipated the eating of the food their dopamine levels increased creating a strong pleasure feeling. They found strong association between seeing food and rises in dopamine levels in the brain. Philip then went on to interview an expert exploring the addictive nature of junk food. Another researcher had carried out tests with rodents who were fed junk food and found that they grazed on it incessantly and refused to eat healthy food at all for days after the junk food had been withdrawn.

A strong link was forged in the program between the pleasure derived from anticipating food and the inability to control one’s desire to graze on junk foods. A question posed to the Weight Watchers group and to a number of the experts was “why even when we know how bad junk food is for us we still eat it and overindulge in it.”

We are only able to achieve good self control when we can master our primitive reactions which were designed, refined and developed over millions of years while hunting and gathering food.

Now our local supermarket chain brings every type of food imaginable to us, markets it to us in packaging that triggers the pleasure areas of the Brain with pictures of the food and urgings to eat. Smell is used in the supermarkets and restaurants to trigger our most basic reactions and cause us to want to eat

Eating is not the problem. We need to eat but if we are eating in “reaction to stimuli” and our pleasure reactions are switched on by advertising, pictures of foods etc then we are likely to want, crave and feel the need to eat the items most advertised. These are inevitably foods rich in fat calories sugar and salt
To have the self control to chose healthy foods in spite of being bombarded with triggers to eat foods that do not serve us well in excess we need to activate a new strategy of tackling life with our whole brain and body.

We were left with the question of ‘how can we find the self control to stop over eating calorie rich foods that ate merely being converted to fat in our bodies and ultimately lead to ill health?’

My solution:

As a specialist in the area of optimising performance and taking people to their peak of health and ability, my approach to getting that self-control for eating, sports, business, communication and education is to engage the whole Brain in a strategy of responding appropriately rather than reacting blindly to stimuli in your environment.

There are two people involved in self control you and yourself. Yourself as a child and you as a responsible adult. If you are willing to take your role as a responsible adult seriously and take control over the child inside who wants everything it sees and wants to explore and taste everything then you may want to contact me and explore simple, quick ways to change your reactions to responsible actions and your thinking from that of being led to being a leader.

Those wishing to learn my techniques can do so over a weekend when I present a course in taking control of the Brain and body’s reactions and show you how to break the primitive patterns of “stimulus and reaction” and how to make your actions more “stimulus and appropriate response”. Use self control for your wellness, business, education, communications or sports performances.


In a weekend you can learn how to change, simply and easily, by recognising their challenging areas, choosing an Activity to do that pleases them and overrides and distracts the primitive reaction so that they can chose responsibly in spite of being bombarded with conflicting messages.