Did you know that only 0.1% of people who are obese ever make it back to normal and stay there? Horrible!!! Do you feel trapped by your eating habits? Well, here is your salvation. The Key. Susan Pierce Thompson, Ph.D. is a unique American genius researcher who has unpacked and researched the brain chemistry why our modern diet wired our brain to work against us, and how to rewire it to work for us.
She comes by it honestly. As a very high achieving child destined for top tier schools, she managed to first spiral into multiple drug addictions, and then find her way out. Recognizing the power of that effect, the followed the evidence of her own agony gaining and losing weight to see the pattern of weight gain as a matter of addiction and brain behavior.
Simply stated, modern food and patterns of eating hijack three critical brain processes making permanent weight loss just about impossible. The first is WILLPOWER. You think of willpower is a personality trait you achieve by moral force or something like that. It’s much more profound and pervasive. Part of it is decision-making capacity, that is depleted if used up on persistent stressors. (Picking up kids, making dinner, supervising homework, paying bills). You run out of steam. How do you restore willpower? Glucose, meditation, friends, sleep, GRATITUDE, prayer. If you are going to lose weight, you better focus on how to restore and maintain willpower. (We’ll get to that.)
The second brain process is insatiable hunger. Right before our eyes. We get insatiable hunger. Many of us, with modern food we feel as hungry at the end of a meal as we did at the beginning. Why so? In part, because so much of our food is so refined it passes through our stomach with hardly a sense of volume to fill us up. Artificial sweeteners compound the problem by stimulating insulin which drives what glucose you have in your blood into your cells, making you hungrier four hours later. You can prove that in rats: give them yogurt with sugar versus yogurt with artificial sweetener and the sweetener group gains more weight. And instead of expectations about meal times being scheduled, formatted and waited for, we have snacks everywhere to tide us over and assuage our anxiety or stress, and insatiable hunger. We’ve turned into a snacking nation. And that screws up leptin from your hypothalamus. Leptin tells you to stop eating. Without it, you get fat, fatter, fattest. You become LEPTIN resistant, driven by leptin being blocked by high insulin. It does so in your brainstem, your lizard brain – where you can’t resist. It’s like resisting breathing. Can’t. Blocked leptin equals insatiable hunger. Refined food, snacking, blocked leptin all drive insatiable hunger that gets all mixed up with lifestyle behavior.
The last brain malfunction? Overpowering cravings. This is not insatiable hunger, that’s from brainstem blocking of leptin. The craving function comes from your nucleus acumbens which is further forward in your brain. It is the seat of pleasure. Dopamine motivates you to seek pleasure in ways that sustain life: sex, exercise, eating, whichever order you want. When you see sexually arousing things, you get stimulated. If you see it so much it becomes overwhelming, like porn. Your nucleus acumbuns gets overstimulated, and you down regulate your pleasure neurons. Less pleasure for the same exposure drives you to seek more. Ok, how about Food Porn. Like crystal meth users, it first feels super good, then it fades as dopamine cells are depleted until finally, it becomes a desperate search just to feel normal. The nature of addiction is that first it pleases, then it captures, then it leads to a frantic longing for normal. A little more is never enough.
We used to get sugar once a year when the beehive was found. Ok, twice. When the raspberries were ripe. Then we discovered sugar and have added it to 80% of our foods. Take peanut butter. Try to resist it. Eat a teaspoon and then try not to eat four more. We’ll talk more about this next week.
WWW: What will work for me. I know I’m a sugar junky, which apparently 30% of us are. I think Susan Pierce Thompson is onto something with her book Bright Line Eating. It is so important I want to learn it in depth so I’m going to write about it and research it more. Next week we will explore the nature of addictions more and then get into her method of cure. I tried one day of no sugar, no flour. One day. And found myself reaching subconsciously for peanut butter, whipping cream and sweeteners for my tea more times than I could count.
- What percent of people lose weight and keep it off from obese range to normal? (Obese BMI of 30 down to 25. Calculate your BMI by taking your weight in pounds, divided by your height in inches, divided by your height in inches, multiplied by 706)) Answer: 0.1%
- Will power is all you need to lose weight. T or F Answer: Much more nuanced than that. Will power is about decision making and decision fatigue is a real phenomenon. Stress, many mental processes, loneliness all degrade decision making, leaving to will power fading.
- Insatiable eating comes from what? Answer. Our modern food supply gives us the wrong food that stimulates insulin with all of its purified, processed stuff, and that blocks leptin, our satiety hormone. Your lizard brain says you are hungry and you have to eat. Can’t resist it. You feel as hungry at the end of a meal as you did when you started.
- Overpowering cravings is Susan Thompson’s last malfunctioning process that drives you to overeat. What’s that about? Answer: The addicting quality of food. You eat a little and you have to have more. The more you eat, the less satisfying it is. You look at the last Orio as you finish off the package and you don’t feel any better about yourself. You don’t feel full. You didn’t even enjoy the last bite.
- Through most of human history we came upon sugar in what context? Answer: ripe fruit in its season, or rare honey. Sugar cane from New Guinea was grown by the Chinese, turned into sugar in 1500 India, transported to Venice and the Europeans and we were all off to the races. It is now 8-10% of our calories and added to 80% of our food.