If you are planning on doing the dopamine challenge I recommend having a plan for how you are going to deal with food. I only had a vague plan the first time I did it and kept changing my ideas the whole way through.
There are a bunch of things, mostly to do with refined sugar, that I did just say were not allowed the whole time. These included pop, baked goods, and candy. I also said no deep fried food like chips and french fries and no super fatty foods like cheese and butter.
After that I used three main principles to plan what I ate.
Satisfaction over Pleasure
In the developed world, meal and snack time has turned into a bit of event. By contrast, it is interesting to see how people eat in the developing world.
Food is simple and often repetitive. They will still have a meal as a social event, but for the most part food seems to be eaten with an awareness of the need for energy and a high priority is just feeling full.
The dopamine system is heavily responsive to novelty so it makes you think that you need to eat something different every day. This is true up to a point but it is proven to make you less satisfied after that point.
.Too many choices lead to high expectations and the constant possibility that a different choice could have been better. This results in the feeling of never being satisfied. I highly recommend watching this TED talk by Barry Sholtz
For my the fast this January I am just going to have a few meals to choose from for breakfast, lunch and supper. It is won’t be a strict rule that I can only eat those meals, i.e. if I go out for dinner with people I’ll eat their food, but I think it will be a helpful guideline as opposed to just staring blankly into the fridge.
As Natural as Possible
One of the main ideas behind the dopamine fast is to try and get your dopamine levels to a natural state, so it follows that eating natural foods is a good idea.
If you can, try and eat only things you could go out and grow or hunt for yourself (at least in theory). This isn’t always possible so check labels on packages to see if the things you are buying are at least made up of things you could grow yourself.
These types of foods are a bit harder to make but really help make you feel more satisfied. They also make you feel healthy, and I even lost weight.
It might be a good idea to brainstorm all the natural meal ideas you can think of before you start.
Schedule your Meal times
For the first few weeks of the fast you will feel bored, and if you are like me, you will randomly find yourself just looking into the fridge.
For the first two weeks I will just put myself on a pretty normal schedule: breakfast at 8am, lunch at noon, and snack at 3pm, and supper at 6pm.
I know from the last time I did the fast that you become substantially more intune with what your body needs and get very specific cravings, so after two weeks I will reassess how much I am eating, if I have lost weight (which is one of my goals), and when the times that I am feeling hungry are.
A note on drinks
I was lucky to be in Cambodia the first time I did the fast so there were a few options for all-natural juices (coconut water and mango shakes that were just blended mangoes and ice), but most fruit juices in North America would be considered refined sugar.
I would recommend just sticking to water for the full 40 days. Green tea with no sugar is also a good option.
At the end of the day, keeping it simple is what it is all about. If you look at these suggestions and wonder how you will survive, remember that it is only forty days and it will give you information about yourself that you can use for the rest of your life.
If you still think that you won’t have the time to eat like this or that it is too much work, try and use these guidelines to come up with something that you can manage.
The idea is to spend the 40 days trying to find the joy in life without being distracted by the pleasure of food. There can be general contentment and satisfaction with life whether or not you are having pizza for dinner.