October 26, 2011

Katie Jay of NAWLS on Breaking Old Eating Habits

Katie Jay from NAWLS is featuring guest blogger , Dr. David Schroeder, who gives some insight on combatting falling back into old eating habits.

Why am I falling back into my old habits again?!by Dr. David Schroeder

I wanted to share some recent research that may be helpful. It has been a privilege to be with
you on your journey, and as a continuing commitment on my part, I keep trying to learn more that can help you maintain your success or help you further if you get stuck.

There has been many areas of research into obesity over the last few years, more than ever
before. Some are looking at the fat cells and how they play an active role in causing obesity.

Insulin resistance is another topic that people are trying to get to grips with, as it leads
often toobesity before diabetes. Still others are looking at the role of various gut hormones in reversing obesity. However, as you are probably aware by now, one of my main areas of interest
is the brain, and how this causes overeating.

When you came to see me, I explained about the pleasure centre, and how this seemed to be
overly active in those struggling with their weight, so that they were really fighting an addiction to carbohydrates.

The ability of surgery to reverse this is variable, and we are only just starting to understand that surgery does, through still undiscovered means, decrease the need to eat, andwhy this can reverse in some patients around the one year mark, so that cravings return.

Research has discovered that there is another important area in the brain that is meant to balance the urge and place it in the larger context of life. It says: "If I do this now, there will be consequences later!"

This area is in the prefrontal cortex, and we'll call it the Control centre. It's job is really
to control impulses and delay gratification. It matures in women at age 23 and men at 25.

By now you will have realised the importance of this part of the brain - its the angel on your right shoulder that says "You don!t need that" (the Control centre) but it usually loses out to the devil on your left shoulder that says "But it looks sooo yummy!" (the pleasure centre).

The interesting research that has come out in the last few years relates to brain scanning that has shown that this part of the brain is very variable in its response to food, in particular, chocolate.

Compared to "normal" people, the Control centre is underactive in smokers and those with a high
BMI. It is also rapidly inhibited by alcohol- which is why restaurants bring you the drinks first, so you will order much more food than you intended.

This means that bigger people actually do havea problem with control (as many of you told me)
but it is neurophysiological, not a character flaw.

We also know that it takes effort to maintain the control, and if anything else gets in the way of this effort i.e. other stresses, there may not be enough ego strength left over to stop eating.

The importance of realising that this part of the brain may not be functioning normally is that we have assumed that it is behaving properly. We thought that if we did the surgery and told you what to do, why of course you'd do it!

The reality is that we can't rely on this to be the case. For some people, the old inability to turn down what is in front of them, calling to them, becomes just as real again. We don't know what reverts, but we do know that there are strategies that can help fight it.

Nearly all these strategies are done best in partnership with others, since we just said that you can't rely on your own brain.

They also take time: set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier in the morning, and revise
yesterday and plan for today in the light of what you are learning or want to try out.

Finally - these strategies don!t have to just be about weight - they can be about.

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