Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Your Brain Processes Food

This week on the Biggest Loser, they had a really interesting segment where a doctor who specializes in brain science came in and talked to the contestants about how their brain processes food. He was primarily focused on the pleasure center of the brain in relation to food. He showed them the differences between a lean person's brain and an obese person's brain.

He started with the amount of pleasure from seeing and smelling food. A lean person's brain had a very weak pleasure reaction and an obese person's brain had a very strong reaction. Not very surprising. What was surprising was how their brains reacted to actually eating the food. A lean person had a very strong pleasure reaction, whereas an obese person had a weak pleasure reaction. This in turn, leads the obese person to eat more in trying to reach a higher state of pleasure. It's not just that obese people are more hungry.

They also talked about how your brain can be "rewired." Basically, what they said was that you have good feelings associated with eating healthy and exercising because of the results they produce, so you crave those things, when you never did before. They said it could take months for this "rewiring" to take place. What I didn't agree with was how quickly this "rewiring" could be undone. They said one week of vacation where you eat anything you want would completely reverse the good behaviors your brain associated with good feelings. I've done this where I go on a trip and eat whatever and get right back into my routine and into my "zone" again. I've even gone on longer periods of time where I'd eaten badly for months and when I reached a certain breaking point and get back on track. It's tough to think that if you hadn't been so bad you wouldn't be losing weight that you've already lost once, or twice, or even three times before. The important mentality to have when you have a rough day or week is to think, "Tomorrow is another day."

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