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Our pent-up, internal trauma tends to present itself in many profound, external ways. Sometimes, the collective, instinctive way to deal with unhealed trauma is to avoid it, to put it on the shelf, and to turn to unhealthy habits. 

We’ve all heard (and maybe used) the phrase, “I eat my feelings.” Many of us turn to unhealthy food through “stress eating” — to lessen the blow of a bad breakup, to soothe our anxiety, or overwhelming personal and professional life stress. But this only compounds our emotional pain, and can lead to detrimental physical challenges, too.

Simple brain exercises can lead to your healthier mind, body, and soul. When you retrain your brain for optimized health, your entire life can change for the better. You’re more resilient than you think — you’ve got this!

Why we turn to unhealthy foods for stress relief 

A healthy eating mindset can improve your holistic health, but can you retrain your brain for health? Retraining your brain might sound like impossible science fiction, but there’s good news! Even the unhealthy habits that are deeply hardwired in us can be overcome by retraining our brains.

Whether we’re dealing with an overwhelming workload, the daily chaos of life, chronic health issues, or emotional struggles, stress can become a burden for all of us. Our bodies notice, too. Stress produces the hormone, cortisol, which triggers our cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods.

A stressed woman seeks solace in eating ice cream for its calming effect.

More problems with cortisol

According to Harvard Health, cortisol can also create the urge to overeat. We refer to this food as “comfort food” because, initially, consuming it can have a calming effect. A pint of ice cream or a giant order of french fries feels like a soothing balm or a cozy blanket for our stressed-out souls.

You may feel tired of trying to overcome negative eating issues. You attempt to deal with your emotions. You’ve tried every trending diet on the planet. But nothing seems to work. The good news is, this isn’t your fault! Your body is trying to protect you from the detrimental effects of too much stress.

The risks of unhealthy eating habits

The inherent risks of unhealthy, processed foods and foods high in sugar content can negatively impact every aspect of your health. If you’re dealing with exposure to health challenges such as Lyme Disease or mold toxicity, a bag of greasy potato chips or a fast food meal could exacerbate your symptoms.   

According to the CDC, unhealthy eating and overeating can also lead to the following health challenges:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancer (especially breast, uterine, and colorectal cancers)
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Stroke     

The benefits of holistic, healthy eating  

Even when we’re aware of the inherent risks of unhealthy eating, our brains are trained to feel satisfied by cortisol-indulging foods. Initially, super greens and legumes may not hold the same appeal or give us the same cravings. However, as we retrain our brains to embrace a healthy eating mindset, the benefits are bountiful.

Some of the benefits that occur when you retrain your brain to eat for holistic health can include:

  • Digestion
  • Disease prevention
  • Enhanced energy
  • Healthy skin
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved insulin resistance
  • Increased heart health
  • Mood enhancement
  • Reduce chronic gut conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Weight loss

How to retrain your brain and optimize your health     

You may feel tired of trying to overcome negative eating issues. You attempt to deal with your emotions. You’ve tried every trending diet on the planet. But nothing seems to work.  Retraining your brain and intentionally developing a healthy mindset is far from impossible — but it does require intention.

Let’s take a look.  

The psychology behind retraining your brain

Your brain runs on a steady supply of fueled energy that comes from food. When your brain is depleted of positive energy frequencies from holistically healthy food sources, it doesn’t operate as it should. On a daily basis, your brain’s energy can impact your mood, your focus, your physical and emotional energy levels, and your mental clarity.

Your brain also becomes used to the food you feed it. Thus, a steady diet of fatigue-inducing, energy-depleting food will cause it to rewire itself. The same is true for implementing life-giving, soul-nourishing foods into your diet. The healthier the brain food, the better your brain will operate.    

If you begin to substitute sugar-filled, processed foods for foods like berries, nuts, and fatty fish that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, you can retrain your brain to crave healthy eating. You’re replacing free radicals that destroy your brain’s ability to heal and function seamlessly with nourishing, life-giving replacements.  

Brain exercises for healthy eating

You may be thinking, “This is great, but I’ve tried to replace my unhealthy eating habits before, and it never works. I don’t see results. I don’t crave healthy foods. My chronic conditions still remain.”   

This may occur because your brain hasn’t had the chance to rewire or to become fully retrained. But there’s still hope. Here are three simple brain exercises you can try that might make all the difference:

Resonance breathing:

You can incorporate breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises to retrain your brain. Resonance breathing helps to alleviate stress and can become a habit that allows you to avoid instinctive, unhealthy eating. 

Take a few minutes at the time of day when you feel most stressed out and go outside, or find a calming space at home or work. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale.

Pay attention to how many breaths you take per minute. 7 breaths per minute can help to significantly reduce your blood pressure, reduce your stress, and enhance your mood.  


According to the University of Washington School of Medicine, meditation has both spiritual and physical benefits for participants. Meditation helps you to calm your sympathetic nervous system and gives you mental clarity. 

Take a moment to focus on a specific goal (for example, weight loss or increased energy). Incorporate resonance breathing. Allow your mind to calm and your nervous system to slow. Your intentional, consistent meditation on a healthy eating mindset can help to retrain your brain to avoid unhealthy foods.

Intentionally focus on your relationship with food:

Take time to reflect on your relationship with food. When you eat, what purpose does food serve for you? 

Think about the food you consume, and how it fuels your brain and body. This can help you to eat with intention, and can train your brain to get excited about healthy meals that will increase its function.

Selection of food that is good for the health

Healthy foods for a healthy brain

You can find most “brain food” to retrain your brain for health in your local grocery store, natural market, farmer’s market, and specialty shop. These staples don’t need to be astronomical in cost or exotic — in fact, healthy foods such as berries, legumes, and nuts are extremely affordable. 

Foods that can help to retrain your brain include:

  • Avocados
  • Berries (such as blueberries and raspberries)
  • Eggs
  • Fatty fish such as salmon
  • Leafy greens
  • Lean proteins
  • Legumes (for example, chickpeas and lentils)
  • Nuts (such as almonds and walnuts)
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Connect with Primal Trust

Are you ready to retrain your brain for your health? Do you long to develop a healthy eating mindset? At Primal Trust, we’re passionate about the community we’ve created that offers support in compassion, freedom, trust, and unity. We’re committed to sharing the best methods to help you overcome past trauma and current health challenges.

If you feel like your life force is depleted, you’re weary of dealing with chronic pain and trauma, you belong here. If you’re ready to take the first step toward retraining your brain, embracing empowerment, and learning how to self-regulate your nervous system, you’ve come to the right place. Connect with Primal Trust today, and remember, your journey to holistic health and healing is only a step away.

Cathleen King, DPT

I'm an expert on chronic illness, chronic trauma, relationship/attachment repair, and inner child healing. I’ve got the rare combination of in-depth doctoral-level education and training as a physical therapist, and many years of coaching others in wellness and lifestyle education. And, I have been through my own heroine’s journey of spending nearly 2 decades of my life navigating through deep, debilitating illness and finally found my way out!

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