How To Deal With The Problem Of Overeating

How To Deal With The Problem Of Overeating
How To Deal With The Problem Of Overeating

Video: How To Deal With The Problem Of Overeating

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Video: 9 Strategies to Stop Overeating 2023, January

Michael Graziano is a neuroscientist, professor at Princeton University and author of The Science of Consciousness. The modern theory of subjective experience ", believes that the problem of gaining excess weight and the desire to" eat something else "is not hidden in an empty stomach and is not so strongly associated with blood sugar levels as we used to think. It is in our head, in our mind, and this is where we should look for a way out of the problem of overeating. We are publishing an abridged translation and adaptation of the scientist's article in the journal Aeon, in which he examines the phenomenon of "hungry mood".

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Once I decided to try my hand at solving the great problem of our time - how to lose weight without effort - and conducted an experiment on myself. Eight months later, I was 22 kilograms lighter, so it seemed to work, but my approach to the problem was different. I’m still a psychologist, not a doctor, so from the very beginning I suspected that weight regulation was a matter of psychology, not physiology. If weight depended on the number of calories consumed and expended, we would all walk in the weight that we chose for ourselves. We all know the principle of "just eat less", and it seems, following it, losing weight should be no more difficult than choosing a shirt color. And yet, for some reason, this is not the case. []

Hunger is one of the motivated states of mind, and psychologists have been studying these states for at least a century. We all feel hungry before dinner and satiated after a banquet, but these moments are just the tip of the iceberg. Hunger is a process that is always with us, it takes place in the background and only occasionally awakens in consciousness. Hunger is more like a mood. When it slowly rises or recedes, even when it is out of consciousness, it changes and influences our decisions, distorts our priorities and emotional investments in long-term goals. It even changes our sensory perception, and often quite dramatically.

So you sit down to dinner and say, “Why is this hamburger so tiny? Why did they have to be made so small? I need to eat three to be full, "and this is nothing more than a" hungry mood "that makes the food on your plate less. Once you're full, the exact same burger will look huge. And it's not just food - your own body is distorted as well. When your "hungry mood" rises, you feel a little slimmer, you are confident that the diet is working, which means you can allow a little indulgence. As soon as you feel full, you feel like a whale.

Moreover, even memory can be distorted. Let's say you keep a journal of everything you eat. Is it trustworthy? It is possible that not only did you grossly underestimate the size of your meals, but you almost certainly forgot to write them down. Depending on the size of your hunger, you can eat three slices of bread, and in the afternoon, quite sincerely remember only one. It's not for nothing that most of the calories people consume come from snacks between meals, but when you ask people about this, they deny the impact of snacks. And they are surprised to find out how much they actually eat during them.

The “hungry mood” is difficult to control because it operates outside of consciousness. Perhaps this is why obesity is such an intractable problem.

The "hungry mood" is controlled by the brain stem, and the part most responsible for regulating hunger and other basic motivated states is called the hypothalamus and is located in the lower part of your brain. There are sensors in the hypothalamus that literally taste blood.They measure fat, protein, and glucose levels, as well as blood pressure and temperature. The hypothalamus collects this data and combines it with sensory signals that penetrate other systems of the brain - about intestinal filling, sensations, taste and smell of food, the type of food, even about the time of day and other related circumstances.

Given all this data, neuronal circuits are gradually learning our dietary habits. This is why we feel hungry at certain times of the day - not because of an empty stomach, but because of a complex neural processor that anticipates the need for additional nutrition during this period of time. If you skip a meal, you will feel acute hunger at first, but then you will feel less hungry again as the usual meal time passes. That is why we do not get full at the end of the meal because of satiety. And if this is your only signal, then you are overeating a lot. As paradoxical as it sounds, there is a healthy gap between the feeling of fullness and a physiologically full stomach.

Psychological satiety is a sense of sufficiency resulting from much more complex calculations. Basically, the hypothalamus is saying, “You just ate a hamburger. From past experience with hamburgers, I know that after about two hours, the level of protein and fat in the blood will rise. Therefore, in anticipation of this, I will now turn off your hunger. " The system learns, anticipates and regulates, it works in the background, and we can deliberately intervene in these processes, but usually not very effectively.

Let's say you decide to cut back on your calorie intake and start eating less throughout the day. Result? It's like grabbing a stick and poking a tiger with it. Your "hungry mood" will rise, and over the next five days you will eat more and more snacks - perhaps only vaguely aware of it. People tend to judge how much they ate based only on how full they feel after eating. But because this feeling of fullness is partly psychological, when your "hungry mood" rises, you may eat more than usual, but feel less full and mistakenly think that you have cut back on food. You may feel like you are making progress. After all, you are constantly vigilant about your diet. Sure, you’re wrong from time to time, but you’re back on track over and over again. You feel good - until you step on the scale and notice that your weight is not responding. One fine day, it may decrease, and in the next two days, it may jump sharply. By dancing under the surface of consciousness, "hungry mood" distorts your perceptions and choices.

I do not deny physics. If you consume fewer calories, you will lose weight, but if you explicitly try to cut them down, you are likely to do the exact opposite.

[] Let's say you try another standard advice and start doing the exercises. After all, if you burn calories in the gym, you will definitely lose weight, right? Yes, except that after exercising for the rest of the day, you are so depleted that you can actually burn fewer calories than on a normal day without exercise. What's more, by completing a workout, you shed guilt, your emotional stress goes away, and you reward yourself with a chocolate bun. Yes, you can try to behave well and give up the treat, but the exercises you just did increase the subtle feelings of hunger, and now you don't even notice how much you overeat. There is more food, but it seems that there is less.

Source: Amy Shamblen /

Let's say you have tried all the standard advice and all the existing diets. Some of them could even work for a short time, until you lost your way and ended up gaining even more than before.After a while, you start to doubt your willpower. After all, if the prevailing medical theory is correct, if weight is a matter of calorie control, then your problem is weak character. Being overweight is your own fault, this is the message that spreads from all sides through our culture.

However, cognitive control is much more subtle, complex and limited in its capabilities than the usual concept of willpower. Moreover, it is false and harmful to mental health. What does the concept of willpower do? Contrasts long-term rewards with short-term ones, and sooner or later you will go out of your way. Each time you fall, you do more damage than you can undo, and therefore cannot understand how much you sabotage your own efforts.

What does this lead to? To the fact that in the end you find yourself completely demoralized and depressed. You can do whatever you want, but somehow you can't cope with losing weight and fall into a catastrophic spiral. After all, if you're going to be unhappy anyway, you can pamper yourself. Food at least mitigates suffering. You get into the habit of eating, self-medicating food, becoming addicted, and losing all motivation. You find yourself in the deepest part of the psychological swamp, where your chances of recovery are slim. []

Most doctors, trainers and healthcare professionals think of weight in terms of chemistry - calories in versus calories out. Eat less, exercise more. Some schools of thought argue that all calories are equivalent, others that fat calories are particularly harmful, or that carbohydrate calories should be especially avoided. But all of these approaches focus on how calories are digested and distributed in the body, they ignore psychology. Most studies view the psychology of hunger as a nuisance. []

However, the obesity epidemic is not a problem of calories or willpower, it is a problem of poisoning the normal regulatory system.

We have a complex and beautifully calibrated system that has evolved over millions of years to do its job well. It should run in the background without any conscious effort, but for more than two-thirds of us, it doesn't. What are we doing to ourselves that violate the system of hunger and satiety?

I experimented on myself for about a year - and ate the same thing every day to establish a constant baseline level of nutrition and hunger. I measured weight, waist, and wrote down whatever I could think of. Then I changed one thing in one meal, and over the next few days I watched its tiny irritating effect. When the measurements returned to the original level, I tried a new replacement - after a while I was able to average many indicators and observe how the pattern manifests itself. Of course, I had no illusions about the discovery of something new, my experiments are not a formal science, the sample consists of only one person. My task was only to find out which of all the conflicting advice resonates with my personal data. What should I believe in?

As usual, the most instructive part of the experiment was chance observation. It doesn't matter if certain foods have increased or decreased my weight - I have noticed that certain activities have increased or decreased my hunger level. I knew when my "hungry mood" was on the rise, even if I didn't consciously feel it, because somehow I was at dinner earlier than usual. [] When my "hungry mood" decreased, the list of priorities shifted, and I immersed myself in my work - somehow I was late with lunch for an hour. []

Three bad habits have continually increased my hunger: I call them the ultra-high deadly carb diet, the low fat craze, and the calorie counting trap.

A diet high in deadly carbohydrates has become the norm. In the morning we get up and eat a sandwich, porridge, or cereal stuffed with carbohydrates. Then we go to lunch. Suppose I have no healthy habits and I eat fast food, lunch from McDonald's. We think of it as fatty food, but besides the fat, the burger has a bun and ketchup is sugar paste. [] Maybe you feel morally superior and prefer a “healthy” lunch - a sandwich mostly made of bread.

An afternoon snack is sweet coffee and cookies or a granola bar that also contains carbohydrates. You may be eating a banana, but that doesn't make much of a difference. Dinner? Filled with potatoes, pasta, rice and bread. We think we eat seafood when we order sushi, but mostly rice. Maybe you go for a good healthy soup - it has noodles or potatoes. And every meal is accompanied by soda, juice, iced tea, or other sweetened beverage. Then dessert. Then a snack before bed. In general, you get the idea.

You cannot walk through the supermarket without being attacked from all sides by carbohydrates. And yes, some people talk about the superiority of complex carbohydrates over refined sugar, and they are right. But even if you cut out the refined sugar, the amount of carbs will still be astounding. A diet high in deadly carbs has distorted our sense of normalcy.

People who follow a low carb diet may be right for the wrong reasons. [] According to this nutritional theory, if you cut off enough carbohydrates, your body will switch from using glucose to using ketones as the main energy-carrying molecule in your blood. Using ketones, the body will start consuming its own fat stores. What's more, by lowering your blood sugar, you lower the level of insulin, the main hormone that promotes the storage of body fat. Less carbohydrates, less fat. []

Theory and experiments may be correct, but they miss the most important point - they emphasize how calories are distributed in the body, instead of emphasizing the motivated state of hunger. It would be encouraging to see more research on how different diets affect hunger regulation. It is now well known that a high carbohydrate diet increases hunger, while a low carbohydrate diet eliminates this stimulant. Taken together, these data suggest that a low-carb diet does not contribute to weight loss because of its effect on energy use - it makes you lose weight because you eat less. Whereas a diet high in deadly carbohydrates stokes the hunger mechanism and your nutrition gets out of hand. []

Source: Amy Shamblen /

The low-fat craze works the same way. [] Don't eat butter. Don't eat eggs. Don't drink whole milk. Remove the skin from the chicken. [] I don't think the medical data is completely clear already, but giving up fat seems to have led to disaster. As numerous studies have shown, fat reduces hunger - remove it, and the "hungry mood" will increase, but the effect will be gradual. Remember, your hypothalamus takes in complex data and assimilates associations over time. Exercise it for a few months on a fat-free diet and it will increase your hunger.

But the most insidious attack on the mechanism of hunger can be a chronic diet, a calorie-counting trap. The more you try to control your automatic hunger control mechanism, the more you disrupt its dynamics. Skip breakfast, cut back on your calories for lunch, eat a small dinner, keep an eye on your calories, and you successfully poke a hungry tiger with a stick. All you do is get caught up in a vicious circle of willpower and failure. []

At the end of all my self-observation and meditation, it's time to test the theory. I tried a simple formula. First, I opted for a moderately low-carb diet - I cut my carbohydrate intake by about 90% and didn't even come close to a low-carb diet. [] Secondly, I added a little more fat. [] Third, I allowed myself to eat as much as I want at every meal. The last one was the most difficult: when you want to lose weight, it is difficult to imagine that you need to eat more. I just had to believe in a strange psychological paradox: if I try to eat less, I end up eating more.

I could list my products, but in reality the concept is more revealing than the details. My diet had nothing to do with standard health advice and how these foods chemically affect my body. I didn't think about my arteries, or my liver, or insulin. This approach was designed to talk to my unconscious hunger control mechanism in order to induce it to eat less. And it worked: with a slow weight loss of about a kilogram per week, I gradually got rid of the savings of twenty years - 22 extra pounds, which went away in a few months.

The beauty of the method was that it was effortless (by effort, I mean this dubious concept of willpower). [] When hunger rises, personal struggles become heartbreaking and the strangest thing is that these struggles are alluring. It can be terrible and counterproductive, but it makes us feel like we are doing something and our society is impressed by our hard work. [] It turned out that this self-flagellation was not necessary, I had to come to terms with the lazy method. [] I just leaned back and watched my brain do its job.

I don't think I am alone in my experience. Others have tried a similar diet, though perhaps for different reasons. I do not have the goal of advocating one specific diet, all I want is to say this: your weight largely depends on your psychology, it's all about the "hungry mood". [] Consider this a call for science to focus a little more on the psychology of hunger.

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