After years of helping people lose weight with fitness training, I have seen firsthand that many clients have trouble with certain kinds of foods. In most situations my clients are rational: They eat “splurge” foods in moderation and limit unhealthy choices from their environment. Yet, they struggle with things like bread, pasta, or sweets. Now there’s science to explain the brain chemistry and how it impacts willpower and weight loss.
We’re bombarded with calorically dense foods or ones that tip the scales with chemical additives. It’s no surprise that more than one third of Americans are obese. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report (January 2012), obesity doesn’t discriminate by gender and 17% of youth suffer from obesity. But why are we overeating to the point where we risk our health to hypertension and type 2 diabetes?
The key may be in how some foods hijack the brain. According to Kelly Brownell who directs Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “the food industry obviously manipulates the qualities of its food to maximize desirability.” There’s even surprising evidence suggesting that some foods may alter the brain like an addictive drug.
Ask yourself, what foods do you find difficult to limit once you start to eat? For me, it’s sweets (chocolate, cookies and other sweet snacks). For one client it was pasta. She found it difficult to limit her portion to the recommended serving of one cup. It was sabotaging her weight loss, so she eliminated it from her diet. By doing so, she has seen a difference at the scale as well as her energy level. Consuming starchy carbs like pasta can be great if you’re preparing for a marathon or gearing up for an intense bootcamp training session. However, it can make you feel tired and sluggish once you’ve left the dinner table. Sometimes it’s just better to avoid a “trigger” food altogether and make a different food choice.
Do you have any food triggers that may fast-forward you into over-eating? Share your thoughts (or solutions you’ve found!) below.
In my next post, I’ll share some information about brain dopamine, food addiction and weight–and how you can overcome food additions.