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Dieting and The Brain

This post is sparked by the TED Talk by Sandra Aamodt: Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work. Video is embedded at the end of this musing should you want to listen in too.

At the heart of the talk is the fact that the brain, specifically the hypothalamus, acts as a sort of thermostat that signals hunger, energy, and metabolism. Whether you start out thin or fat, when you lose weight, your brain thinks you’re starving. For self-preservation, you will feel hungry and have less energy available.

Because I have been morbidly obese in the past 10 years or so, my body and my brain may very well have learned to think that this is the normal. Going down to a ‘healthy’ weight in the obesity scales will definitely not be a walk in the park because I am no longer wired for a lower number on the weighing scale.

Realizing that doesn’t give me an excuse to not make an effort. In fact, what she says next only encourages me further to continue with the lifestyle changes I’ve committed to recently.

Sandra points out that there are two types of eaters – intuitive eaters: rely on their hunger, and; controlled eaters: rely on willpower. Looks like I’ve been more of the latter. That explains the endless cycle of starving and then binging. Skipping meals and then going on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

When I was in highschool, my grandmother was against my going on a diet. She argued that I just need to stick to a healthy three full meals a day. Don’t skip, but don’t over indulge. If I had just listened to her then, I may have a chance to be 30 pounds lighter today. By the way, looking at my highschool photos now, I realize now that I wasn’t FAT! But at the time? Geez.

Sandra also talks about mindful eating. Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. But listen too when it says that the hunger has been satiated. Now that may take me awhile, so smaller portions will also help.

She then shows a graph of a long-term study across people of various weights and their risk of death based on four healthy habits: eating enough fruits and vegetables, exercising 3x a week, not smoking, and drinking moderately. It looks very similar to this:


Image Source: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/12/31/evidence-that-fat-people-can-be-as-healthy-as-thin-people/

The short story is that the more of the 4 habits you have, the lower risk of death – regardless of weight. For the obese (darkest shaded bar on the graph), even just one healthy habit significantly reduces the risk by almost 50%. And when all four healthy habits are present? Then weight doesn’t matter. The person with the normal weight is just as likely or less likely to die prematurely than the obese person. 

So I guess I am on the right track. Except that when I resolved to make a habit of having green smoothies daily I had weight loss in mind. Now, I’m changing my mindset. My goal is no longer to lose weight, but to just be better. I think that can be achieved without necessarily losing all of my excess weight. If I can lose weight while eating more fruits and veggies and adding exercise in my lifestyle, then that’s a bonus.

What are your thoughts on this?



This entry was posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2014 at 11:52 am and is filed under Health - General, Health - Losing Weight, Health - PCOS, Interesting stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Dieting and The Brain”

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Farida January 13th, 2014 at 11:04 am

having healthy choices is one of the key in maintaining a sustainable weight and for us to be healthy. and of course exercising will help in the weight loss and will even give you all the happy feeling after the work out. good luck sis :)



aby January 13th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

i am thankful to read your post.. very informative..

i lost weight when i started neglecting rice and eating more fruits and veggies.. now i am adding a few exercise i hope to continue it for the rest of my life. i have my weekends to cheat and eat rice.. then, i feel so guilty, so i will not eat carbs again.. hehehe
aby´s last [post] ..Blog Giveaway: Win GCs worth P500 from #SwirlsAndScribbles X Sole Street


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Lady Anne January 13th, 2014 at 6:32 pm

We share the same goal Vera. I am more focused on having a healthy lifestyle, I know the flab and bulges will eventually disappear once I’m on the right track.
Lady Anne´s last [post] ..On Going Out Solo and On Eataly’s Piadina To-go



Maye Domencil January 15th, 2014 at 10:57 am

Thank you for this post sis. Losing weight has been my concern last year. I try to lessen my carbo intake, do a little exercise everyday and even tried weight lifting. But my busy schedule made me forget the exercising part. Hopefully, I can keep track and I think also that it’s all about healthy living :)
Maye Domencil´s last [post] ..New Year, New Business


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Rose January 15th, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I wish it’s that easy for me to lose weight as well… but it’s really hard to minimize carb intake since I love rice. Hehe! But yeah, don’t you just wish we kept the body types we had back in high school? The bulges only started showing up when I started working for a BPO company and eating became my coping up mechanism.
Rose´s last [post] ..Watch List: Intelligence, Enlisted and About Time.



Maan January 15th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Is an emotional eater a controlled eater? Ganun ako eh. When I’m stressed, I eat. When I’m happy, I eat. I’m just fortunate that breastfeeding made me even lighter than I was pre-pregnancy. Pero ngayon, I can’t depend on that anymore. I’m starting to make little changes like lessening my food intake. Soon, I should be exercising regularly na rin. Thanks for this informative post, Vera!
Maan´s last [post] ..A Day in the Life of a Work-at-Home Mom: Toddler Edition


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Melgie January 16th, 2014 at 2:18 am

This is very helpful post! I love to cook, bake and eat and I love rice:) I think I should eat less carb which is my weakness by the way and eat in moderation tapos exercise na din to stay fit. Thanks for sharing, Vera:)
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Dominique Goh@Dominique's Desk January 16th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Starving the body always result in your putting on more weight then necessary to get back to the set point. I agree changing your overall lifestyle is more important then crash dieting and focusing so much on the scale.
Dominique Goh@Dominique’s Desk´s last [post] ..Writer’s Workshop : I Currently Like


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Allan January 16th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

There are many people obsessed with dieting always resulted into a failure because of some misconceptions. Thanks for sharing this one.
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Van January 17th, 2014 at 11:38 am

I agree, changing your overall lifestyle is more important. Working out is, too. Wish I could start that change soon too. I want to start working out na rin. It’s been a while since I last did it. :-)
Van´s last [post] ..Trev And The G-U-I-T-A-R


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Marie January 17th, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I thought I was fat in high school too. My problem naman ata I think is that I get too hungry after working out. some swear losing weight is 90% diet and 10% exercise.
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kat January 18th, 2014 at 9:29 am

I am really not keen about being thin. I just want to be at a healthy level where there is lower risk of health problems. I guess I only have to do two things- eat more veggies and exercise more. Easy to say, hard to do.
kat´s last [post] ..Good health matters


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January/Janzcrystalz January 18th, 2014 at 10:48 am

Thank you for this post. I’m also want to change my eating habit and my lifestyle. I want to be better as well.. :-) Let’s do it together sis and see the result after a year hehehe
January/Janzcrystalz´s last [post] ..Back to Work + Baby Jewel at 2



Marie January 18th, 2014 at 7:06 pm

My project for this year is to lose some weight too. I was like you. I thought I was heavy in high school.Tapos as I got older, food became tastier, I swear. Everything looks sooo good, para akong may vetsin sa dila lol. I would like to document sana my losing weight so that I can stick to it (after I eat the cake somebody gave me this morning hihi) :)
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Jhari January 19th, 2014 at 2:19 am

Well, what can I say… awesome review :)
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Eliz@positivekismet January 19th, 2014 at 6:36 am

I watched that video too and my thoughts are that when we think Diet, we think Death to all the fun we have with food. It is really about working to eat just enough and appreciating the food without feeling deprived… easier said than done.
Eliz@positivekismet´s last [post] ..End of Year Review: Lessons Learned In 2013


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Krizza January 20th, 2014 at 9:46 am

Wow, most of the articles I’ve seen sa mga blogs ay related sa health issues and that is a good sign. That means nagiging copncern tayo lahat sa health which I think is more important than anything else. Dito kasi nagsisimula lahat ng bagay. If you’re healthy, you can do everything. Right Sis? :)



Dominique Goh@Dominique's Desk January 22nd, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Changing ones lifestyle and way of eating really has to do with brainpower.. interesting article.
Dominique Goh@Dominique’s Desk´s last [post] ..Shiraito Falls at Karuizawa


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