I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person. I eat fairly well, with plenty of fruit and veg in my diet, and the occasional treat of something chocolatey. I sit at a desk for most of my workday but I take my dog for a walk almost every day and I go to a regular Pilates class. I’m not a gym junkie and I don’t obsess about every calorie consumed but I think I have a pretty balanced approach when it comes to health.
So why can’t I seem to get rid of that infuriating parcel of fat around my belly and thighs?
Since my teenage years I’ve had that little bit of excess weight that I have never been able to persuade to go away, thank you very much, you’re not welcome! My weight has never been excessive enough to cause any health concerns, but it is something that has been with me my whole adult life and it does, at times, make me uncomfortable and self conscious.
Well, as it turns out, the extra weight has less to do with what’s going on in my body and more to do with what’s going on in my head. According to research published by The Society of Neuroscience, the fat content of your body is largely regulated by your brain.
Your brain is incredibly powerful and basically runs the whole show when it comes to how you function as a human. This includes decisions about food choices. The neurocircuits of your brain regulate much of your body’s desire for food intake, including how much, when, how often and what kinds of foods you eat. Using a combination of hormones, neurotransmitters and neural connections, the brain tends to regulate the way the body reacts to food. So it’s not just that the brain thinks certain things about particular foods. It’s also responsible for how your body feels about them. That craving for chocolate cake after a bad day – yeah, you can thank your brain for that.
The brain contains a biological process called energy homeostasis, which essentially increases or decreases food desires based on what it thinks the body needs. This is the epicentre of hunger regulation, cravings for sweet, salty or creamy foods, the desire for midnight snacks, or even much of how the body digests food, replenishes its energy from food, and preserves energy stores for later. Stress, trauma, illness and disease can shift this natural homeostasis, ultimately causing other health problems. So the stress of a bad day at work shifts your natural homeostasis, resulting in that craving for chocolate cake.
Food addiction, eating disorders, and other behaviors related to eating habits have also been linked to these neural mechanisms. Researchers are still mapping out this complex relationship but have included factors like the effects of leptin receptors on dopaminergic neurons, ghrelin’s effect on the neurons that secrete neuropeptides, the activation of opioid pathways in relation to eating pleasures, how serotonin and melatonin can affect appetite, the neurological response to food cues, and so many more factors.
The science can be complex and wrapping your head around it may help you to understand why you are having weight problems, but what can you actually do about it?
- Eliminate stress.
- Deal with any health problems immediately.
- Avoid reaching for sugar and carbs when stressed but learn to be more proactive about problems (do something! don’t eat something!)
- get a restful 7-8 hrs of sleep each night (this helps regular cortisol levels, the natural stress hormone)
- instead of counting calories, count veggie portions. Aim to have mostly veggies in your diet (should be the biggest portion of any meal).
Yes, the science can be overwhelming but technology like ph360 and Shae can essentially take care of it all for you. Keep the above advice in mind and figure out what works best for you and you might just start to notice that weight shifting.