The brain doesn’t distinguish between a real stressor or an imagined one. If you sat in a room all by yourself, happy and content, and started thinking about the guy who did you wrong years ago, and if that story still carries a charge for you – your body would quickly shift into the physiologic stress-state – increased heart rate and blood pressure, followed by decreased digestive function.
Any guilt about food, shame about the body, or judgment about health are considered stressors by the brain and are immediately transduced into their electrochemical equivalents in the body. You could eat the healthiest meal on the planet, but if you’re thinking toxic thoughts the digestion of your food goes down and your fat storage metabolism can go up. Likewise, you could be eating a nutritionally challenged meal, but if your head and heart are in the right place, the nutritive power of your food will be increased.
Consider some of the foods you’ve given strong associations to:
“Salt will raise my blood pressure.”
“Fat will make me fatter.”
“Sugar will rot my teeth.”
“I can’t make it through the day without my cup of coffee.”
“This meat will raise my cholesterol level.”
“This calcium will build my bones.”
To a certain degree, some of these statements may be true. But is it possible that we are instigating these effects? And if these effects are the inherent result of eating these foods, can you see how we can enhance those results with the potency of our expectations?
The placebo effect is not some rare and unusual creature.