If you've ever tried to ignore a box of doughnuts at work, you know how hard it is to keep your hands to yourself and walk on by.
And once you walk on by, the battle isn’t over. Even if you are in a different room and down the hall, you can’t stop thinking about those doughnuts.
Why is it so hard to resist something as small and seemingly innocent as a doughnut? It has to do with habit—and mindset.
The draw you feel from that doughnut goes way beyond just a mild interest: you are wired to want it, and resistance is hard. In his book, The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler MD explains the breakdown:
When you taste foods that are highly palatable (such as foods containing excess sugar, fat and salt), your brain releases opioids into your bloodstream. Opioids are brain chemicals that cause you to have intense feelings of reward and pleasure, as well as relieving pain and stress.
The pleasurable effect is similar to the feelings that morphine and heroin users experience. The desire may be so intense that you keep taking one bite after another: it can be hard to stop.
That explains why you keep eating. But why do you give in and approach that doughnut box in the first place? Why not just refuse to take that first bite?
The answer is another brain chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine is responsible for motivating you to seek out the doughnut so you can get the opioid release.
You remember how good it tasted and how great it made you feel. Dopamine energises you to work for that doughnut. It causes you to concentrate on it and drives you to seek it out.
Once this process happens a few times, the whole cycle becomes a habit that is very reward focused, very ingrained and very hard to break.
Your brain’s circuitry has become mapped and wired to want the doughnut.