Wednesday, January 5, 2011

obesity, brain chemistry, and choice

the search for clues as to why we americans are getting so fat over the past few decades stops at nothing. the other day i read about mice that were genetically altered to not be able to process certain fats and their brains told them to eat more. they got fat. duh! but the scientists conjecture that maybe some humans have the inability to sense fat availability or something like that and therefore eat too much, and behave slovenly. maybe, but there are many culprits we can look at and point finger at, and still not find a solution. this article posits a correlation bw alcoholism and food addiction, and it's not hard to imagine its validity:

palatability - the ability of a food to taste or feel or even make you feel good. fifty years ago, foods either tasted or felt good on their own. other than a few items - margarine, processed cheese, frozen meals, processed meats like salami and bologna - most foods came in the container from which they were derived - beans came as beans (with some salt added), hamburger came ground up from raw cuts of meat, fruit and veggies came from gardens somewhere nearby. but the food industry, for better and for worse, came up with ways to package and market foods to make them more palatable so that popeye's spinach - once canned - now came....fresh, but already cleaned. well, maybe that's not a good example. but spinach filled cheese burritos sure made a good food more palatable, and saltier and fattier. but mama could brag how her kids now loved spinach. now, that's a good example!

so, this palatability thing - somewhere between the mouth and the esophagus, something must happen to make you want to eat more. taste, smell, texture, etc combine to make foods more desirable. and so begins the quest to make foods more...addictive. and does this addiction stimulate parts of the brain that are stimulated by other known drugs such as alcohol? and if so, does this occur more in people who have some genetic relationship to alcohol and therefore evolve into a greater tendency toward obesity? well, there's now some research to show this may be the case.

but please note, it's also possible that you can, much as with alcohol, break the addiction by making different choices. too may clients complain about their addiction to such foods as chocolates, sweets, fat-laden foods, and then write themselves off as perennially fat. and it's somewhat true - they may always remain fatter than they may wish to be as a result of years of living with these 'addictions'. i'd be reluctant, however, to excuse them their eating behaviors on this account. not all are truly addicted. foods satisfy other parts of our being - comfort foods come to mind - that do not require they be addictive in their make up. as such, once we come to some measure of grips with our emotional attachment to certain foods, we have a better chance of breaking some of the cycle. but only a better chance.

my take is this: eat some of what you like, but not too much. even junkies, tho they keep coming back for more, limit their intake to just what's needed to get the buzz they desire. too much and you die...tho many do take the shorter route to suicide by addiction. most, however, do it slowly, like overeaters. it will take time to die of obesity behaviors. so you have time to alter them. eat some, but not much, but do not deprive yourself. cold turkey takes a very strong incentive and food, unlike drugs and alcohol, cannot be stopped cold turkey; you gotta eat something.

two lady friends follow this mantra: the first bite tastes every bit as good as the 10th bite. have a bite of your favorite food, and treat it like a special event. sit down, savor it, feel it roll inside your mouth, on your tongue, slither down your throat - it's all over. yes, you'd like to do it again, but tomorrow's another day. get your fix, but don't o.d.

obesity, potentially, is a very painful way to die....

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