This is your brain on food.

An interesting article in the WSJ talks about the brain-gut connections in overweight people.

The overweight subjects had strong reactions to the food in the amygdala—the emotional center of the brain—whether they were hungry or not. The healthy-weight subjects showed an amygdala response only when they were hungry.

“If you are of normal weight, your homeostatic mechanisms are functioning and controlling this region of the brain,” says lead investigator Dana Small. “But in the overweight group, there is some sort of dysfunction in the homeostatic signal so that even though they weren’t hungry, they were vulnerable to these external eating cues.”

What’s been interesting for me is that my responses to some of the questions in the article (see below) have changed as I have lost weight.

For me, I think the key has been to go “cold turkey.”  Not having had a cupcake, ice cream, or a hot dog in 2 years, I don’t miss them any more.  The Starbucks lemon pund cake (see below) used to be irresistible; now, I barely notice it when ordering my green tea.

The Power of Cake?

This Power-of-Food Scale helps gauge how vulnerable you are to ‘hedonic’ eating. Indicate from 1-5 which of the following best describes you:

1 Don’t agree at all
2 Agree a little
3 Agree somewhat
4 Agree
5 Strongly agree

___ 1. I find myself thinking about food even when I’m not physically hungry.

___ 2. I get more pleasure from eating than I do from almost anything else.

___ 3. If I see or smell a food I like, I get a powerful urge to have some.

___ 4. When I’m around a fattening food I love, it’s hard to stop myself from at least tasting it.

___ 5. It’s scary to think of the power that food has over me.

___ 6. When I know a delicious food is available, I can’t help myself from thinking about having some.

___ 7. I love the taste of certain foods so much that I can’t avoid eating them even if they’re bad for me.

___ 8. Just before I taste a favorite food, I feel intense anticipation.

___ 9. When I eat delicious food I focus a lot on how good it tastes.

___ 10. Sometimes, when I’m doing everyday activities, I get an urge to eat “out of the blue” (for no apparent reason).

___ 11. I think I enjoy eating a lot more than most other people.

___ 12. Hearing someone describe a great meal makes me really want to have something to eat.

___ 13. It seems like I have food on my mind a lot.

___ 14. It’s very important to me that the foods I eat are as delicious as possible.

___ 15. Before I eat a favorite food my mouth tends to flood with saliva.

Scoring: Add up your responses and divide the total by 15.

1.0 – 2.3: You’re unlikely to be preoccupied with food or lose control over eating.

2.4 – 3.6: You’re somewhat preoccupied with food but are unlikely to have a problem unless you’re significantly overweight.

3.7 – 5.0: You’re frequently preoccupied with food and at risk of losing control over your eating. This is especially problematic if you are also significantly overweight.

© 2009 Drexel University. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of Michael R. Lowe.

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See vascularanesthesia.com for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

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