In part 1 we talked about foods that may trigger an addiction and their affect on weight loss. Now let’s talk a bit about the brain science behind it: dopamine. Dopamine is a simple organic chemical that the brain produces. It plays a major role in the brain system responsible for reward-driven learning.
In a groundbreaking study at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, researchers looked at the connection between brain dopamine and obesity. They found that obese people had lower levels of dopamine in their “reward” areas than those with a normal weight. Lower level of dopamine is also seen in drug addicts (e.g., cocaine) or alcoholics. This study suggests that those suffering from obesity have different brain chemistries when dealing with food. Unlike other types of addition where you avoid the drug, you can’t avoid food.
So, can certain food really be addictive? Some of my clients would say “absolutely!” When a craving becomes overwhelming or you can’t stop once you’ve started eating it, then it’s time for self examination and other weight loss strategies. Once you’ve identified your triggers, here are some ideas on how to handle the situation:
- Avoid the troublesome food. If it’s not in your environment, it’s not there to tempt you and derail your weight loss efforts. Ask those close to you, like family and friends, for their help. DON’T stock your cupboards with unhealthy food that you have a hard time eating in moderation.
- Avoid mindless eating. Be deliberate about what you put on your plate and where you eat. Eat sitting down (as opposed to on the run or standing at the kitchen counter). Set a placemat at the dining room table for each meal. Put your fork down between bites. Chew and really taste your food. You’ll probably find you get fuller faster, and enjoy what you’re eating more.
- Identify your triggers. Anxiety caused by stressful situations can cause you to reach for those “comfort foods.” Boredom, loneliness and anger can also trigger stress eating. If you know your trigger, it’s the first step toward acknowledging it and overcoming it.
- Divert your attention from food. Might I suggest some exercise like dropping in on a bootcamp session 😉 ? Not only will it distract you from eating, it’ll work out any nervous energy. Many times, exercise clears your head, allowing you to find a solution to the problem that originally triggered your stress. Other activities that keep your hands busy like knitting, crossword puzzles can keep your mind occupied when it turns to food.
If you’ve struggled with over-eating and have found solutions to your personal triggers–share your success stories here!
Committed to your success,