How are bad eating habits formed?

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Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Habits are the mind’s way of establishing a behavior without having to think about it. On a cellular level, it comes down to your brain chemical: dopamine. Dopamine teaches your brain what you want and then drives you to get it, regardless of whether it’s actually good for you or not. So once you eat ice cream at eleven every night a few nights in a row, it becomes ingrained in your brain and you automatically want it the next night. 

However, the formation of good habits and the elimination of bad habits work best when you focus not on formation or elimination, but on substitution. So next time you’re craving that ice cream at night, really savor a small piece of dark chocolate or a juice piece of fruit.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

Habits are formed when we repeat certain behaviors so often that they eventually become a learned behavior or a program within the brain. In fact, habits actually reflect changes in the structure of the brain that is modified with thousands of new nerve cell branches and connections as the habit becomes stronger. In essence, learned behaviors, whether they are a new skill or an addiction, become an easily repeated pattern of brain activity that is literally hard-wired into the brain. The appetite centers located in the hypothalamus of the brain are particularly "plastic," meaning that nerve pathways into and out of this region can be significantly rewired by repetitive eating behaviors. In this way, bad eating habits can eventually become a natural and normal experience that is very hard to stop by willpower alone.

Hunger Free Forever: The New Science of Appetite Control

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Hunger Free Forever: The New Science of Appetite Control

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.