The feel good things all have one thing in common – they trigger a splurge of the chemical dopamine, in an area of the brain known as the Nuclear Accumbens.
All pleasures do it
Everything that feels good does it…………
- Rock ‘n Roll
- Chocolate ice cream
Of course, the level of pleasure shows a great deal of variation, but we are wired for PLEASURE.
Getting PLEASURE is not a physiological nicety, it is a physiological necessity.
Sex deprived flies turn to booze
Now when it comes to birds and bees, the “Not tonight honey, I have a headache” excuse is seldom evoked .
But in the laboratory all things are possible.
Researchers from University of Missouri-Columbia, tormented one group of male fruit flies by depriving them of a little lady love. Another group enjoyed the embraces of multiple females.
Afterwards, both groups of flies were offered the opportunity to chow down on a fruity snack. Some of the fruity snacks had been spiked with alcohol, a whopping 15 %.
Spiked fruit – PLEASE !
Sex deprived fruit flies found solace in the spiked fruit snacks, but the flies that had been hob knobbing with female company, were content to enjoy plain fruit treats.
The research team speculate that the sex deprived flies needed a little dopamine boost, to feel better about life the universe and things. Sipping a little alcohol gave them that dopamine lift. Flies that had been enjoying the PLEASURE of female company, were already feeling pretty good, so they did not need a pharmacological boost.
If the humble fruit flies needs a little pleasure, then as humans ……..
We need a little PLEASURE
It can be
- a little nookie or
- a glass of wine or
- a slab of chocolate or
- a bubble bath etc.
But it is a NEED, not a WANT.
Satisfy your needs
The first thing to say is – you need to satisfy your PLEASURE need.
Depriving yourself of ALL pleasure, sets you up for BAD BEHAVIOUR.
This is why diets fail – lettuce leaves don’t give any kind of dopamine spike, EVER. The foods that lift your spirits are high sugar and high fat items – combining the sugar and the fat at the same time (think ice cream), blows dopamine levels out the water. This is why a bowl of ice cream leaves you feeling fabulous – until the calories land on your hips.
Dopamine spikes come in different packages
For the fruit flies – the choice was sex or alcohol, it did not matter which, both gave the flies a “feel good feeling”. The dopamine spike with its resultant feel good feeling, can be evoked in a multitude of ways. Some more healthy than others.
If you find yourself craving BAD foods – try satisfying the physiological need for a dose of dopamine in a more healthful way. You do have more options than the fruit flies, although both sex and alcohol can work for you too.
- Sex can be a good option, it will burn a few calories, but it needs to be done SAFELY – think ABCs i.e. Abstain, Be faithful and Condomize.
- A glass of wine can also be a healthful option, as it helps you chill a little, but unfortunately this does come with a dollop of calories.
Other options to “distract” yourself and satisfy your need for pleasure
- An exercise session
- A good laugh – courtesy of a joke, a u-tube video or a movie
- Listening to a symphony, possibly while taking a bubble bath ,
- Hugs and kisses or a rub down by a masseuse
- Actively “killing” the bad guys in a computer game or passively doing it in front of the television etc.
- A cup of coffee and a novel or if you want to avoid the caffeine rush, a spot of tea with or without a weed or two
Bait and switch
Make a list of the things that give you a lift and when you feel overwhelmed by that PLEASURE need, satisfy it without the Twinkie.
PS. Reining in insulin and getting enough sleep will also help tame the sugar gremlin.Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila. Science, 2012; 335 (6074): 1351 G. Shohat-Ophir, K. R. Kaun, R. Azanchi, U. Heberlein.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry of reward ?
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