The Key to Weight Loss Lies in the Human Brain

I've been reading an amazing book the past few weeks called, Bright Line Eating, and its a revolutionary way of looking ay why some people are able to stay thin, happy and free and others are on the constant rollercoaster of dieting, self sabotage and bingeing. I asked the author Susan to write for me a short piece to give you an overview on the book, and what she teaches her thousands of clients that have successfully once and for all beat the bulge and gained back their health.  I hope you enjoy x

The Key to Weight Loss Lies in the Human Brain

When I was obese, it totally baffled me that I couldn’t lose weight—because I was capable in so many other areas. I had earned a Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. I had good friends, was happily married, and had run a marathon. And still, I found myself many nights in the grocery store paying for food I knew I shouldn’t eat, had vowed not to eat, and, yet, was about to sit in my car and eat. And for years nothing I tried worked.

In the United States alone,108 million people are on a diet, according to The U.S. Weight Loss and Diet Control Market. But among the obese who try to lose weight, and try hard, the failure rate is 99 percent. Literally. 99 percent do not succeed at getting -- and staying -- slim.[ii] The vast majority regain whatever weight they lose over the next few years.

But what obsessed me as a researcher -- and an overweight person -- is that the problem itself doesn’t make any sense. There’s no other field of endeavor where intelligence, determination, and capability have so little bearing on the outcome.

So what was really happening??

Well, it turns out that our common understanding of the problem -- and thus, the solution -- is flawed. For they fail to take into account this little-known scientific fact: the seat of our body’s weight loss function is not in our thighs or fat cells, but in the brain.

As a doctor of brain and cognitive science I can tell you the research proves that the foods we consume today, and the way we consume them, quickly trigger changes in the brain that ultimately block weight loss by creating insatiable hunger and overpowering cravings.

Our brains have been hijacked by diets high in sugar and flour to block every attempt at dieting. The science is clear: someone who has had the pleasure receptors in their nucleus accumbens down-regulated by sugar cannot just “quit” because an article tells them to, any more than a smoker stops once someone points out it’s bad for him. The addiction is stronger than that.

And the two most common proffered solutions, calorie restriction and exercise, don’t work. Here’s why:

Exercise drains the cognitive mechanism of self-regulation known as willpower, that thing overweight people are told to just “get more of.” In reality, willpower is a finite daily resource, not a dimension of character. And if you drain yours by pushing yourself to the gym you are more likely to succumb to a high-calorie food choice later. That food choice will be more harmful than the workout was beneficial.

And the other popular suggestion: calorie restriction without a daily framework to help us resist our culture’s endless cues also fails us. Again, the hijacked brain demands what it thinks it needs, and it will win.

What does work? It all has to do with - you guessed it - the brain:

Lowering insulin levels

This allows the brain to recognize the hormone leptin. Leptin cues us to feel full and get moving, but high baseline insulin blocks it out, leaving us feeling insatiably hungry.

Moving food choices out of the brain’s prefrontal cortex and into its basal ganglia.

In the prefrontal cortex, choices can be debated. In the basal ganglia, which is a lot more primitive, they become automatic - like brushing your teeth. Popular diets right now have people eating six small meals a day. That is too many opportunities for the saboteur in our brains to run the conversation about whether you “deserve” it and “just this once” and “it won’t hurt.” That voice sounds like you, but it isn't. It’s the hijacked parts of your brain trying to talk you into giving them a fix. Multiple small meals also undermine automating healthy choices so they take zero willpower. Three meals a day can be automatized. Snacks can’t.

Have a program that expects you will run out of willpower daily.

Because you will run out of willpower. Constantly. We all do. So you need a plan that acknowledges this, and incorporates strategies to keep you on track with your weight goals regardless.

It’s clear what we want—we want to be slim and healthy. But everything we want for our bodies begins and ends with our brains.

Susan Peirce Thompson- Checkout the website to take the quiz and see where you sit on the susceptibility scale

Comments (1)


Lara Hutchinson

Apr 11, 2017 07:13 PM AEST

thank you of some of the articles I find this is one of the very interesting article to read,

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