Losing weight starts in the mind. The brain can be trained in such a way that the desire for unhealthy food evaporates and instead, the appetite for healthy food grows. Especially for people who urgently want to lose weight, this knowledge is an enormous relief, since it is usually the unhealthy things that make them feel on the scales.
Addiction to unhealthy things prevents you from losing weight
If you are addicted, you can’t get rid of cigarettes, sometimes you can’t get rid of alcohol, and, increasingly, you can’t get rid of certain foods or food quantities.
Because what do you choose? A chocolate-filled double biscuit or the unsweetened whole grain cracker? The ham noodles with cream sauce or the green salad plate? The sundae or an apple?
Most of the time, the choice is not difficult – and losing weight is correspondingly problematic. The weight continues to rise and with it the risk of all kinds of diseases.
Diseases that are already so widespread that hardly anyone is surprised when they occur: high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, circulatory disorders, fatty liver, cardiac arrhythmias and much more.
How unhealthy things become an addiction
Despite all the risks, some people lose all control mechanisms at the mere thought of unhealthy treats. The craving for sweet or salty foods is often reminiscent of an addiction that makes losing weight impossible.
Once you have finally incorporated the desired product, you will also be pleasantly satisfied. This is called the brain’s reward system, which is now activated.
And it is precisely this good feeling after eating some foods that leads to the development of a kind of addiction and you simply can’t hold back once the craving for chips or chocolate has set in.
A chocolate or the whole pack?
However, the reward effect occurs differently for each person. Those with a sweet tooth, whose brains are less sensitive to such a reward, are more likely to be overweight and obese – simply because they need more “substance” until the reward arrives in the form of a good feeling.
People whose brains are much more likely to signal satisfaction, on the other hand, clearly have it easier. You’ve had enough after just one chocolate, while the less sensitive ones have to empty the whole package.
If our reward system would also react to uncomfortable tasks, that would be extremely handy. We would be much more motivated and would no longer have a problem with things like losing weight or exercising.
We could implement everything that we so often lack the decision-making power to do, while the inner pig dog sits grinning next to us.
The origin of well-being and addiction
In particular, a so-called neurotransmitter in the brain is responsible for the reward effect: dopamine.
This messenger substance becomes active in our brain when we feel particularly good, experience something beautiful or look forward to something.
Which experiences and actions lead to a feeling of well-being and increased dopamine release is different for all people:
For some, the happiness hormone is released during a walk, the other is thrilled by a swim in the sea or a special music. Very often, however, it is also certain foods that make the dopamine really bubble. Unfortunately, mostly very unhealthy foods.
And since you always want to feel good and satisfied, the craving for the appropriate foods is increasing more and more. Often there doesn’t seem to be a stop signal at all and you eat and eat and eat – until you can hardly walk.
Losing weight with the reward system
The researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital contemplated the idea of liberating oneself from the grip of the reward principle and harnessing it for personal objectives, such as weight loss.
In the study, published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes in 2014, scientists looked at the reward system of thirteen overweight and obese men and women who were eager to lose weight (1).
Eight of them participated in a newly developed weight loss program at Tufts University, while the other five formed a control group and received no weight loss support. The investigation period consisted of six months.
Brain-controlled weight loss
The researchers hoped to reduce the participants’ weight by 0.5 to 1.0 kilograms per week by reducing calorie intake by 500 to 1000 calories per day.
The initiators of the diet program recommended a diet composition with complex carbohydrates that cause sugar levels to rise slowly and have a high protein and fiber content.
The feeling of hunger is reduced by the slow digestion of these foods and the balanced blood sugar level, so that sustainable weight loss becomes possible.
25 percent of the energy consumed was covered by protein and fat. The remaining 50 percent is due to the complex carbohydrates. The fiber content of the diet was 40 grams every day.
Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the brain at the beginning and end of the weight loss study, which was used to visualize brain activity in the area of the reward center.
In fact, after six months, the researchers were able to detect different reward effects than at the beginning.
The subjects who had implemented a sustainable change in diet with the weight loss program now reacted with a higher sensitivity to healthy, low-calorie foods, so they had more fun losing weight than the control group.
The feeling of reward and the joy of healthier food had increased significantly. In contrast, unhealthy, high-calorie foods triggered fewer positive sensations.
Now not only had losing weight become easier. The risk of a relapse into old eating habits also decreased massively.
Happy in losing weight
The researchers were able to show that a change in diet (e.g. to lose weight) must always be carried out for a few months in order to program the brain to healthy foods.
The combination of targeted behavioral training, increased consumption of high-fiber foods and a menu plan with a low glycemic index (carbohydrate-containing foods that cause blood sugar to rise only slightly) set the measurable rethinking in motion and provided the necessary joy of losing weight or healthy eating.
Alternative to gastric bypass
The procedure described could be a serious alternative for risky gastric bypass surgery, which is often suggested to severely overweight people so that they can finally lose weight.
After interventions of this kind, however, the pleasure of eating usually decreases sharply, while a positive change in diet is not achieved with the operation. The quality of life may decrease considerably due to a lack of enjoyment.
How to proceed? How to start?
An ideal start for a successful conversion to a healthy diet for permanent weight loss, on the other hand, is a detoxification cure with an alkaline-surplus diet.
Such a cure, for example, lasts four weeks and provides you with instructions, many tips and delicious recipes for losing weight, so that you can easily hold out until your brain has stored the right information and you only feel like eating healthy.
If you also meet your pasta craving with konjac noodles, they could make losing weight even easier. Konjac noodles are made of konjac powder (also available in capsules), which not only ensures satisfied satiety, but often also makes you stop thinking about food.
Nutrition plans for detoxification and weight loss
Concrete nutrition plans are a great help in losing weight. The above-mentioned 4-week detoxification cure is one of these plans.