The See-Food Diet
"I am on the sea food diet. Whenever I see food I eat it!"
To a hungry person, the sight of food evokes a strong positive response - and for some people, the response is stronger than it is for others. But that strong positive response might be the key to successful maintenance of lost weight.
Behavioral scientists from Brown University wondered if successful weight-loss maintainers differed biologically from other people. Previous studies showed that obese and normal weight individuals have different brain wave activity in response to images of food. But brain activity data did not exist for people who had lost weight and maintained.
The scientists divided research subjects into three groups: (1) non-dieters of normal weight, (2) former dieters who had lost at least 30 pounds and maintained it for 3 years or more, and (3) obese folks (BMI over 30) who had not successfully dieted.
Brain activity in response to images was measured by MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Before the study, subjects refrained from eating or drinking for 4 hours, and so they were hungry. The subjects were then shown pictures of all kinds of food - cheeseburgers, French fries, ice cream, cereal, salad, and more - as well as non-food items, like rocks and trees, for comparison while their brain waves were measured.
What the scientists found
The successful maintainers had a unique brain response to the images of food. Compared to the other groups, the maintainers showed greater activation in the areas of the brain responsible for visual processing and inhibitory control. The maintainers were more attentive to food cues, and when they were cued, they automatically snapped into the reasoning-and-planning mode. The obese subjects also registered the sight of food but, alas, there was little activation of the inhibitory control center. Instead, the arousal-and-motivation part of their brains was stimulated. They seemed to be on the See-Food Diet.
Train the brain
The scientists will only say that the maintainers respond to food cues with greater inhibitory control. More research is needed to tell whether that action is intrinsic or learned.
But if an individual can learn to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, then he or she may very well be able to learn how to reason and plan at the at the sight of food. Sure, the maintainers were drawn to yummy food, especially when hungry, like everyone else, but that seemed to trigger strategical thinking: Eat this or that? This much or that? Now or later? There are decisions to be made. The maintainers didn't run away or run amok; they figured it out. And that's how successful weight-loss maintainers maintain.
Think about it....
How does your brain work?
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