My Unconscious Mind is Making Me Fat – Part 2

smore brownies
s'more brownies: the food network

Your conscious mind is a super-powered tool in the fight against obesity.

image: http://www.superman-picture.com
image: http://www.superman-picture.com

When used correctly, your conscious mind can give you the ability to be:

  • faster than your neighborhood pizza delivery man
  • more powerful than your addiction to chocolate, and
  • able to turn down seconds on dessert…even if it’s that double chocolate cake that your mom makes with the extra thick icing and…..

….well, you get the point.

fat supermanSo, why is it that most of us look nothing like Six-Pack Superman, and more and more of us are looking a lot like the Two-Ton Superman?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Like Superman was helpless against kryptonite, in today’s society, when it comes to obesity (and related diseases – diabetes, heart disease & cancer), your conscious mind is just as helpless against your unconscious mind.

But fear not super-dieters, there is hope.

With the help of some lifestyle changes, you too can defeat your unconscious mind.

And I’m going to tell you how to do it.

double fried french fries: Guy Fieri
double fried french fries: Guy Fieri

1.     Homeostasis v.s. Reward

In nature, you don’t see too many fat animals.

In civilized society, you see lots of fat animals – cats, dogs, humans.

What’s the difference?

In a nutshell, it comes down to a battle between the reward system of your brain and the homeostatic system of your brain.

The homeostatic system of your brain tries to keep things static. Calories in v.s calories out. Everything balanced. Not too fat, not too thin.

The reward system is all about pleasure.

The reward system is all about eating a slice (or two) of deep fried cheesecake in order to make yourself feel better about that bad day at work…or getting dumped by your girlfriend…or the stressful commute…or….well, you get the point.

deep fried cheesecake: Paula Deen
deep fried cheesecake: Paula Deen

For the sake of brevity, I am not going to go into the science behind this battle. And there is a LOT of science…involving brain research, nervous systems, the G.I. tract, hormones, neurotransmitters, proteins, DNA, epigenetics, etc…

If anyone really, really wants to read about the science, shoot me an email at dr.healthhabits@gmail.com

Chicago style "deep dish" pizza
Chicago style "deep dish" pizza

So, what’s the deal with the Reward System?

The reward system is designed to help you seek out pleasurable things like food and sex and food.

Without that drive, nothing ever gets done and the human race ceases to exist.

However, the reward system can (and has) be manipulated to make us crave things that aren’t necessarily good for us…like sweet potato pie with whipped cream on top.

sweet potato pie: the food network
sweet potato pie: the food network

And while sweet potato pie isn’t inherently bad for you, I think most of you would agree that a diet based on sweet potato pie and mashed potato skins and caramel pecan sundaes is a quick and easy way to get fat.

mashed potato skins: Rachael Ray
mashed potato skins: Rachael Ray

And that is precisely how the reward system overwhelms your homeostatic system.

With food that stimulates the reward system and makes you feel good….temporarily.

And just like any other pleasure-seeking junkie, your reward system is constantly trying to get you to repeat those behaviors that give you pleasure.

So, even if your homeostatic system is telling you to stop eating, your reward system overrules it, and you say yes to that second or third piece of pie.

caramel pecan sundaes: Barefoot Contessa
caramel pecan sundaes: Barefoot Contessa

And the food manufacturers know all about this stuff.

They know exactly how to create meals that will maximally stimulate the reward center and keep you eating and eating and eating.

fried chicken: Paula Deen
fried chicken: Paula Deen

Their secret?

The un-holy trinity of processed food:

  • Sugar

  • Fat

  • Salt

double chocolate gooey butter cake: Paula Deen
double chocolate gooey butter cake: Paula Deen

These three ingredients are the cornerstone of just about every great meal that you have ever had.

lasagna: the Neelys
lasagna: the Neelys

Think about it…

  • Sweet, buttery, ooey gooey cake, or
  • A thick slice of cheesy, meaty lasagna, or
  • Crispy, crunchy, sweet & salty onion rings
onion rings: Guy Fieri
onion rings: Guy Fieri

Getting hungry?

I know I am.

Even as I write this sentence, my reward system is pulling up memories of past meals and setting into motion some very physical symptoms of hunger.

Now, imagine if I was at a restaurant with all of the smells and sounds and sights that the food industry uses to keep you coming back for more.

and finally...a brownie pizza by Paula Deen
and finally...a brownie pizza by Paula Deen

Well, that’s enough for today.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

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5 comments

  1. Scrolling through that post was extremely painful… in a hunger-pangs sort of way. I have to go eat a Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe protein bar now.

  2. OMG Doug! Did you have to put those photos in there – I was druelling by the end of it. Lucky I don’t keep any food like that in the house, I’d be on a binge by now for sure!

  3. I do have a bit of a sadistic side to my personality…hence the career as a personal trainer

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