I read an interesting article on WebMD yesterday about a study done at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL. According to the article the researchers came to the conclusion that there are three brain processes that promote eating behaviors that can lead to overweight.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that some people you know are impulsive – they do what feels good immediately and often don’t think about long term effects of their decisions. Or you may know someone with an “addictive personality”. This person is probably the one who becomes obsessed with one thing or another or actually suffers from an addiction of some kind. Well, the same brain processes that make these people the way they are may also contribute to overweight in some individuals. Try this on for size.
According to the article the three brain processes are food reward, inhibitory control and time discounting. Read on to learn what all that actually means.
Food Reward – This is the same as the addictive personality. It’s the pleasure we get from eating, some are more sensitive to this pleasure than others. These people, if not eaters might be addicts in another way. Some people are very sensitive to the pleasure centers in their brain and constantly seek out the pleasure they get from food, whereas others aren’t so sensitive and can take the food or leave it. Which do you think is going to be the average weight person?
Inhibitory Control – According to the article this is “the ability to eat in moderation”. Some people exhibit inhibitory eating, which means they can limit themselves to proper portions of food, they can stop when they’re full even if there is more food in front of them. However, others are not so good at inhibitory control and they eat with dis-inhibition. Meaning that they eat without abandon, they are not inhibited by things such as fullness or whether or not a food is good for them, these folks simply continue to eat what they want as much as they want. These individuals might struggle with self-control in other areas of their life as well.
Time discounting – I had no idea what this was, so I learned a lot here too. Time discounting describes people who prefer short term rewards. Now who doesn’t? But in this case these folks will consistently prefer short term rewards even if it means suffering long-term consequences. For example, the person who continues to eat fast food everyday despite the health dangers they face by doing so.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, the writers of the WebMD article have given you some suggestions.
- Get rid of what you can’t resist. If you are a reward oriented person you need to remove the stimulus in the first place. Get rid of all the high-fat, “junk” food from your home and workplace.
- Have a plan for dealing with tempting foods. The researchers suggest sticking to a shopping list to avoid temptations when grocery shopping.
- Avoid places that promote and even reward over-eating such as buffets and all-you-can-eat restaurants.
- Make short-term goals for yourself. Such as, “I will substitute fruit for my usual bag of chips every afternoon”. Or, “I will lose 5 pounds,” not “I will lose 30 pounds” (too long-term).
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