I just read an article that dealt with the psychology of overeating. It told about a couple of studies I’d like to share with you. One was conducted by researchers with extraordinary credentials from prestigious educational institutions, but the article concluded with this quote: “Ultimately, all this research shows we need to understand the brain chemistry behind overeating a lot better. Until we do, there won’t be any really significant advances in medications to help people lose weight,” Dr. David Herber, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles.
- You have the power to change your brain chemistry
You have the power to change your brain chemistry with your thinking and feeling. In one of the studies young women were asked to sit in a brain scanner while drinking a chocolate milk shake. Half the women were told that the yummy treat was a regular shake; the other half were told it was a low-fat version. In truth they all got the same shake.
As the researchers watched their monitors, the reward centers of the shake drinkers’ brains lit up when the women consumed the shakes. But the women who thought they were getting a low-fat shake had much less activation. In other words, “knowing” that the shake was low fat took a lot of the fun out of the experience. Low-fat labels may backfire by making food seem less tasty, according to scientists at the Oregon Research Institute. Nelly (my inner child) can attest to that! She hates those words “low fat” on a label!
Because of these fancy scanners we now know that we have a “reward center” in our brains! I know we can activate that center by having positive and loving talks with ourselves. Here’s an example before I tell you about the other study.
2. You can activate the reward center in your brain with thought
When my grandson underwent very serious, open-heart surgery a few years ago, I could easily have let Nelly be out of control. I wasn’t eating regularly or drinking the amount of water I needed and one evening when I came home from the hospital I wanted a glass of wine. Nelly was definitely behind the desire and I recognized her “voice” which had an entitlement edge to it.
“This was a hard day and I don’t have to follow the rules after a bad day, I don’t want to fix dinner and I want wine.”
My rule is no wine except on Saturday and then just one glass with dinner. Because I recognized “Nelly,” I said, “Let’s have a big glass with ice water and sit down in the living room and talk.” I’ll paraphrase what I said to her:
“Oh sweet heart, I love you so much and I know how hard it’s been to see all those tubes in Jacob and to see him suffer and not be himself. I know how much you love him and his mama and how worried you’ve been for both of them, but we have to stick to our rules we both agreed on and I’m so proud of how well you’ve been doing! You are just the best! Oh, wait a minute, I know what we can do while we relax and look out the window at the birds and the river; we can pretend this water is wine! Let’s sip it and savor it and breathe and pretend. Common it’ll be fun!”
As I sipped the water and enjoyed the beautiful scenery out my living room window I know I lit up my “reward center,” because I could feel it! A glass of wine would not even come close to that “happy” hour (really 15 minutes) I had in that chair. If you can take the time and focus on giving your inner child love and attention you can activate that reward center whenever you want to.
3. Control what you see and you’ll control your behavior
In the other study, researchers rounded up 53 college students and asked them to judge a bunch of posters promoting exercise. After the students rated the exercise posters, they were then asked to evaluate some raisins. (They were told they could eat as many as they needed to make their evaluations.)
Then researchers ran the same experiment but substituted posters that promoted friendship and togetherness in place of the exercise posters. Again the students were asked to rate some raisins after evaluating the posters. The group of students who evaluated the exercise posters scarfed down more raisins than the group that evaluated the friendship posters.
The author of this experiment, Delores Albarracin, a professor of psychiatry, suspects that the exercise posters simply inspired the students to do “something” and because food was available, eating became the thing to do.
NOT! Even though I didn’t see the posters of the exercise people, I’ll bet they were hard bodies, all buff and beautiful. It would make Nelly, my inner child want to eat more raisins. I can just hear her say, “We’ll never look like that and besides that doesn’t look fun! Oh goody some raisins!”
The research community is really in a quandary about how to motivate people to eat healthy and exercise. Delores said, “We need to be careful about when and where we encourage people to work out. We shouldn’t be showing ads touting the benefits of exercise when people are sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips in their hands. The study brings up the intriguing possibility that these ads could be doing more harm than good if they are not targeted correctly.”
If I could talk to Delores
Delores, your ads should show real people, with thirty pounds to lose, all sweaty but happy, because they’re THROUGH exercising and now they’re feeling that glorious feeling of having it OVER WITH and being proud of what they’ve done, while they laugh and hug each other on their way to the showers. In other words, make your ads real and quit telling people to eat a low fat diet. That’s why people are fat, they’re eating foods high in carbohydrates under the guise of low fat, and if they’d restrict carbs and eat more food high in fat they’d never be hungry or crave those deadly high carb foods which are the culprits behind weight gain.
If you want to kick the cravings, stop yo-yoing your weight and lose weight for good, I suggest embarking on a low-carb, Paleo lifestyle. In my book, The Mouth Trap: the butt stops here! I take you on my journey from being an avid Weight Watcher with its calories-in-calories out theory (which I’ve never been able to maintain) to eating a restricted carbohydrate, high fat diet and enjoying the healthiest body I’ve ever had.