Can you train your brain to eat less?

Dieting is never easy, but some overweight people may have the added challenge of being hardwired to overeat fatty, high-calorie food, new research suggests.

Experts now believe that for some obese and overweight people losing weight is not a matter of sheer willpower but of training the brain to respond differently to food.

"Even highly motivated and nutritionally informed patients struggle to refrain from highly palatable foods that are high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats," study researcher Brad Appelhans, a clinical psychologist and obesity researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says in a news release.

In research published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the authors outline the three brain processes they believe are associated with overeating and obesity: food reward (the pleasure of eating), inhibitory control (not eating in moderation), and time discounting (choosing the immediate pleasure of eating fatty foods as opposed to healthier options).

The researchers recommend the following strategies to help train your brain to eat less:

• Avoid temptation by removing high fat-foods from your home and your workplace.
• Stick to a shopping list of healthy foods, or shop online so you don't have to resist the urge to fight temptation when shopping.
• Manage your stress, which can trigger overeating.
• Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets and restaurants that promote oversized portions.

The researchers also recommend focusing on short-term weight loss goals, especially in the beginning of your diet plan.

Another study published last month found that for some people who start an ambitious calorie-reduction diet the body resists by slowing down metabolism even further. To override this mechanism, University of Illinois scientists recommend overweight people start slowly and avoid extensive calorie restriction until their bodies can adjust to less food intake.

Access the new research: http://www.adajournal.org/article/S0002-8223%2811%2900586-4/fulltext

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