Up until recently, at least within the scientific community, prevailing thought was that overeaters and the resulting obesity “didn’t have the willpower” to stop. Newer research now shows that overeating is not a behavioral disorder, such as a lack of self-control, and is not caused by hormone imbalance. Instead, foods that are prominent in the American diet, which are rich in fat and sugar, can supercharge the brain’s reward system, which in turn can overpower the brain’s ability to tell an individual to stop eating. In these cases, the more someone eats, the more they want. These types of foods prompt an area of the brain known as the striatum to make endorphins, “feel good” chemicals that can trigger binge eating. The food also sparks dopamine release by the striatum, which motivates feeding behavior, and into the prefrontal cortex, which influences decision-making. In some people, the actions of endorphins, dopamine and other chemicals that regulate reward systems can overpower hormonal signals and conscious attempts to stop eating when full. I can remember several┬átimes in the past (like Thanksgiving) when I’ve eaten so much at a meal that I swear I couldn’t eat another bite. Yet, when the pumpkin pie or chocolate cake is presented, I magically find room in my gut. Fatty and sugary foods light up the brain’s pleasure centers very much like alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine. I attribute my 40 pounds of weight loss to the fact I rarely eat grains and sugary foods, and although I enjoy nuts, butter, cheese, yogurt, and fatty fishes like herring, sardines, and salmon, I stay away from vegetable oils, fried foods, and eat very little red meat. I try for 80% of my plate to be fruits and vegetables, the remaining 20% lean proteins. Most of the time I can’t even finish what’s on my plate. Vegetables and fruit seem to allow my hormones to do their job and tell my brain when my gut is full. If you are having trouble losing weight, don’t count calories. The caloric values listed on foods are inaccurate because they don’t take into account the complexity of digestion. How many calories we extract from food depends on which species we eat, how we prepare our food, which bacteria are in our gut, and how much energy we use to digest different foods. I never looked at calories when I was on my quest to lose fat. Digestion is so intricate and individual, it’s really pointless, unless you use it for a rough approximation. Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S. HaveItHealth.com