should be able to handle—stress, anxiety,
depression (studies show that those with
higher levels of all these emotions are more
likely to be overweight or obese). So when we
give up on a diet and balloon to a size that
makes doorways cringe, then we automatically think something’s wrong with us, that
our minds aren’t strong enough to win over
The reason we fail? Researchers theorize
that it’s your mind that might be crossed up,
but not because of anything you’re doing. At
least scientifically, overeating may work a little
bit like drug addiction; in fact, studies show
that obese people even have reward centers in
the brain similar to those of drug addicts.
So let’s say you’re stressed. Remember the
hypothalamus and the chemicals that change
according to your moods. At points of stress,
you’ve activated neurotransmitters from a
part of the brain called the locus coeruleus.
Your body, in response, tries to calm those
neurotransmitters and combat the stress.
Some people do it with cigarettes, some do it
with food, some do it with sex, some do it
with drugs. When you combat the stress with
food, you’re also activating the reward center
of your brain. And then after that initial feel-good system wears off, you’ll reach again for
the same thing that made you feel good,
calm, and relaxed: food. That’s why stress and
anxiety make it that more difficult, neuro-chemically, to stick to whatever plan you’re
trying to follow.
What’s especially interesting is that right
next to the hypothalamus, where the feeding
and satiety chemicals NPY and CART are produced, is a part of the brain called the mammillary body (because it physically looks like a
pair of breasts). That’s where food memory is
stored, so when you get the signal that you’re
hungry, you’re also accessing your memory of
and cravings for foods you’ve eaten in the
past—which may have been bad foods. Plus,
the parietal region of the brain—the control
center of the movement of the tongue, lips,
and mouth—acts differently in heavy people
than in skinny people. Brain scans show that
in heavy people tempted with sugar, this
region becomes activated. In skinny people the
region stays dormant, showing how sugar can
play a role in emotional eating for some peo-
The cyclone of guilt and shame.
ple but not others.
If you’ve struggled with
waist issues, you’ve probably
placed all the responsibility for
dietary success or failure on
your little three-pound brain.
You’ve expected it to go head-to-head with such formidable
foes as deep-fried taco shells
and Alfredo sauce. But you
can’t outwit nature. There are
simply too many of those
hormones and neurotransmitters whose jobs roughly translate
to “pass the pound cake.” And to
expect that your will or your fortitude
can override these chemical messages
is the equivalent of trying to stop a
train with your pinkie.
Excerpted from You: On A Diet by
Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C.
Oz, MD. Copyright c 2006 by Michael F.
Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and
Oz Works LlC, f/s/o Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Reprinted by permission from Free Press,
a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc
Be label conscious
Nowadays, cunning marketing lingo
makes sugar-drenched cereal seem
healthier than a bundle of prunes. And
that’s just not the case. The trick to navigating through store aisles is to shop for
content. Generally, fewer labels and
ingredients equal better food. Natural
foods that come directly from the ground
generally don’t require labels. (Ever seen
a marshmallow bush?) Here are some
things to look out for.
maple syrup and molasses are sugar, so
you should also keep them to less than 4
grams per serving, unless the item is
pure fruit (we make that exception
because fruit has so many nutrients).
Sugar. Stay away from foods that have
more than 4 grams of sugar per serving.
Avoid dextrose, sucrose, fructose (as in
high-fructose corn syrup) or anything
else ending with “ose.” Also beware of
mannitol, or anything with “ol.” Those
are alcohols that are quickly converted to
sugar. Even natural sugars such as
Fats. Besides saturated fats (less than 4
grams per serving) and trans fats (avoid
them all), you should avoid foods with
other fat code words, such as partially
hydrogenated anything, and palm and
coconut oil. Unsaturated fats are the
Grains. The label should say “100 percent whole.” Any other label—“made
with whole grains” or “multi-grain”—
doesn’t guarantee that the product is the
best source of healthful whole grains, as
opposed to less healthful enriched grains.
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