Retrain the Brain to Stop Overeating
While many would claim to have a love/hate relationship with food, for obese individuals, this relationship is far more chaotic, abusive and painful then most healthy people can imagine. Diet and exercise are the most commonly prescribed solutions to combating obesity, but the real cure might be in retraining the obese brain.
Brains of Obese People
Mounting researching is beginning to unravel the incredibly delicate and complex chemical reactions that communicate hunger and fullness to the brain. As the epidemic of obesity continues to stagger the healthcare systems of the western world and inflict emotional and physical pain on a growing percentage of its citizenry, scientists are discovering that the brains of obese individuals function differently than their normal weight counterparts.
A normal brain clearly receives signals that the body is hungry. You’re probably familiar with the deep ache or the burbely groans of an empty stomach. That’s the brain asking for food. Once the body receives sustenance, it will alert the brain that enough caloric fuel has been consumed. Your brain will send you that nice, cozy feeling of fullness.
The brain of an fat individual is not such a happy, functional place, at least not when it comes to food. That’s because humans are extremely emotional creatures, and emotions have the power to strongly affect bodily processes. A noise in the night can set your heart pounding, the glance of a secret crush can send blushes up your neck into your cheeks.
Obese Brain and Portion Control
Likewise, researchers theorize that strong emotions related to food may drown out the natural chemical communication process in the brain of an obese subject. Without clear communication, the brain can’t tell when it is hungry of full. Proportion becomes meaningless, and unhealthy eating patterns become entrenched. Rather than relying on the body to communicate hunger, an obese person may learn to eat in reaction to stress, boredom or anxiety.
This is when the relationship with food can start getting abusive. Most obese people hate the amount of control food gains over them. They think about food all day long, crave it, eat it and then immediately want more. They recognize what it is doing to them, but as they get heavier and heavier, they come to rely even more on food as a refuge from the pain.
So how can an overweight person make right their floundering relationship with food? Diet and exercise focus on the physical body, but before those methods can be successful, the individual must learn how to separate emotions from the eating process. Just like rebuilding any other unhealthy relationship, re-learning how to live with food requires that an individual confront the emotional reasons for over eating and slowly retrain their brain to listen to the body’s signals of hunger and fullness. With time, commitment and lots of small steps in the right direction, an abusive relationship with food can turn into a healthy, supportive and beautiful partnership.