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If you are, or have been, as overweight as I used to be, then you know the insatiable feeling even after a full meal.
A new study shows that obese people fail to activate their “will power centers,” the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which inhibit the drive to eat. Further, postprandial (post-eating) blood sugar activates the PFC and ACC in order to stop cravings, but this fails to happen in obese subjects, leaving them with less will power against further consumption.
It’s well-known that low blood sugar naturally stimulates the thalamic and hypothalamic regions to activate the drive to eat, thus promoting survival. After eating, however, the natural increase in blood sugar deactivates this drive while stimulating the PFC and ACC to return will power against further cravings.
This study demonstrates that postprandial blood sugar and the insulin response trigger satiety in lean people (yes, insulin triggers satiety) but fail to do so in the obese. It appears that, even after eating, the obese cannot turn on the PFC and ACC to inhibit food craving. In fact, in the obese, the very regions that drive food craving fail to deactivate.
What’s interesting — and what’s important in our culture — is the relationship between blood sugar and external food cues. It seems lean people are more sensitive to external food cues only when their blood sugar is low, while overweight people are sensitive to external food cues when blood sugar is low or normal. In other words, obese people have lower will power agains external food cue, regardless of blood sugar.
This speaks volume about our culture’s obesogenic environment. There’s food everywhere, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is one of the contributing factors.
Cyber Space Pseudo-Science
The differences in mechanisms between the lean and the obese are not well understood in serious science, yet if you suspend yourself long enough in cyber space you’ll read claims to all kinds of theories and hypothesis at war against each other. And this unnecessary war has left the world in weight-loss chaos.
The reality is that no one in the area of obesity truly has a single patent on causality. 100 experts will give you 101 reasons. And they’re probably all correct to a degree.
At the risk of sounding guru-esque, I’ll throw in my small, common-sense list of reasons for overweight or its perpetuation, with the stance that overweight is actually a multivariable phenomenon with endless contributors. But, for brevity, a few reasons for the flab:
- Food availability and abundance
- Low-quality, low-cost ingredients
- Commercial, social, and familial pressure to eat
- Conditioned belief and perception of eating
- Diminished demand for continuous movement (total 24-hour energy expenditure)
The Typical Environment
Most of us dedicate an entire room in our homes to store food; in fact, in America, the primary living-space to consider when buying a home is the kitchen. Shopping malls dedicate an entire wing to food. Cities and towns dedicate entire blocks to food.
Commercial food enterprises enjoy profits that are proportional to their sales of cheap calories. Many of us have an instinct to get the most food for the lowest dollar, with buffets, super-sizing, and $1.99 flap-jacks leading the way.
Many of us believe we must eat all day because our body is incapable of using stored calories, and we must eat seconds and thirds because there’s a famine lurking behind the Golden Arches and beyond the food court.
And there are those of us who will use reasons of metabolic disorder, genetic deviation, or evil food groups to avoid the actual work required for self-improvement and to maintain the status quo of excess flab and diminishing health.
Put on The Shoes and Do the Work
Look, no one understands why the obese cannot inhibit their food craving, and one more study won’t change the fact that, if we want to lose weight, we’ll still have to put on our shoes and do the work. We know what that work is and I’ve been saying it here for a couple of years now.
To lose weight, find a way to eat less. Chose mostly quality, whole, real ingredients. Stock your kitchen differently. Stay away from food court. Allow yourself to enjoy a delicious desert here and there. Find a diet that you can live with for the rest of your life, without becoming socially maladjusted, or a militant.
Sustainability will get you there… and keep you there. Intermittent fasting helps.