It’s all in your head — the research proves it!
Not to call you a fathead. I just read an article about a study done at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, published in the August edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The lead author, Brad Appelhans, PhD, clinical psychologist and obesity researcher, said that traditional diet counseling — telling people to use self control and make better choices — doesn’t work. Guess we strugglers knew that already, didn’t we?
For years heavy people have been stigmatized as having poor self control. If only people used will power, they wouldn’t have a problem, the naturally thin people say. And we believed them and felt twice as bad about ourselves. But now researchers say that three specific portions of your brain determine how you respond to food.
One of those is food reward. That, Appelhans says, is controlled by the mesolimbic dopamine system, a neural pathway in the brain known as the reward circuit. To some people, food just tastes better. They have a greater sensitivity to sweet and fatty foods and it gives them a greater pleasure reward.
Then there is the ability to suppress food cravings which is controlled by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. (The authors called it “inhibitory control.”) That part of the brain handles the self-control, planning, and goal behavior. The dorsolateral (back and side) part of that area of the brain comes to life when the conscious you begins to make decisions about what you eat.
A third area that affects our ability to stick with the plan is called time discounting. That means you would rather have the pleasure of the food now than the pleasure of feeling fit later.
So how can you succeed when your brain is sabotaging you? It’s another case of your autopilot managing your body without your conscious consent — and you have to learn to manage it. Click here to learn about your autopilot.
Start by activating that prefrontal cortex and make the conscious decision to do what is healthy for you in the long run — in spite of what your autopilot is telling you. Tell it, “That is just neurotransmitters talking. I don’t really want that, and I don’t have to eat it.”
Make it easier on yourself by not having high glycemic foods around to use as rewards. If it isn’t there, you don’t have to resist it. I had a much easier time with my plan when our refrigerator broke down. Getting food involved a long walk out to another building to fetch it. Generally, it wasn’t worth the effort and I had no trouble resisting temptation. If it is handy, though, that’s another story! So don’t buy it and don’t even go down those aisles in the grocery store.
Applehans suggested learning better stress management techniques, since stress makes us want to eat to feel better. He also suggested avoiding situations that challenge us — like all-you-can-eat buffets.
And if waiting for a reward is a problem, start rewarding yourself sooner. Celebrate every victory — even the small ones. Sticking to the plan for a perfect day is a victory, even if the scale doesn’t move. Making your step goal is a reason to celebrate. Pat yourself on the back and focus on your accomplishments rather than how far you still have to go. Give yourself non-food rewards for successful behavior all along the way. Buy something new when you have gone down one size. Don’t wait until you are a size six.
And you thought it was your stomach that was the problem! Learn to control your brain and your stomach will cooperate.
Eating to live and living for Christ,
Susan Jordan Brown