Despite massive government, medical and individual efforts to win the war on obesity, 71 percent of Americans are overweight. The median adult is 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960. Our growing girth adds some US $200 billion per year to our health care expenditure, is tantamount to a severe health crisis.
Drug research has not yielded a pill that helps people lose weight and keep it off. Traditional approaches such as diet and exert can work short-term, but people almost inevitably regain the weight. Randomized controlled trials of weight loss surgery have shown some improvements in diabetes but not in mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
If there is ever to be a pill a solution to weight it will be changing the brain, especially the primitive areas of the brain, the emotional brain or mammalian and reptilian brain. These areas house circuits that control stress and our stress-fueled emotions, thoughts and behaviours. These circuits can be rewired in humans so by changing them, we have a chance to address the root cause of stress-related problems, including obesity. While some overweight and obesity are caused by genetic make-up, more and more research is indicating that stress plays a big role in weight gain. Many people under stress turn to food for comfort.
My colleagues and I set out to develop a neuroscience-based approach to weight management and dealing with the common excesses we all face, through emotional brain training. The notion was to use neuroscience-based tools to change the brain so that the whole range of common excess would fade. The method has shown promising results.
The emotional brain is command central for weight and common excess. It includes the dread, reward and starvation centers. When that brain is in stress, all three centers promote overeating and weight gain. We have strong drives to do exactly what we know we shouldnt do. We cant help it! Our emotional brain is in stress.
That stress ramps up the reward value of food, increases hunger for carbohydrates and decreases metabolic rate, almost ensuring weight gain. The stress-obesity link has been well-documented. Our supposing brain( neocortex) goes off line, and the extremes of our emotional brain calls the shots.
To Take Care Of Your Body, Take Care Of Your Brain
Levels of stress. via www.shutterstock.com
The first step in taking control of our weight is to destress the emotional brain. In emotional brain train( EBT ), we release stress by checking in several times throughout the day, identifying our level of stress and using the technique for that stress level to spiral up to a country of well-being.
There are five high levels of stress and five tools. To get an idea of how they work, take a few breaths, check in with yourself and identify your stress level. Then use the tools for that level of stress to reduce your stress rapidly.
1. Compassion Tool( Stress Level 1 – Very Low Stress ) Tell to yourself, Feel compassion for myself, then wait for a wave of compassion to flow through your body. Next tell, Feel compassion for others, and feel a slight wave of warmth. Last, tell, Feel compassion for all living beings. 2. Feelings Tool( Stress Level 2 – Low Stress ) Ask yourself, How do I feel? Often, three impressions bubble up, but wait long enough so that one impression is the strongest. Thats the one! Next ask yourself, What do I require? and, ultimately, Do I need subsistence? 3. Flow Tool( Stress Level 3 – A Little Stress ) Tell the words: I feel angry that and watch what words arrive in your mind to complete the sentence. State the sentence again, for seven more feelings: sad, afraid, guilty, grateful, happy, secure and proud. Notice the light in your body and how your stress is go. Why? When we feel our negative feelings, they fade. We are no longer in peril and the brain naturally focuses on positive impressions that dedicate us the energy to move forward and do good things in our life.
4. Cycle Tool( Stress Level 4 – High Stress) Start by stating what is bothering you( dont hold back !), then protest that stress by saying I feel angry that I cant stand it that I hate it that. and each time watch what words arrive in your intellect. This can unlock the circuit so that you can change at a deeper level. Pause and take a few deep breaths, then say the words: I feel sad that I feel afraid that I feel guilty that and watch what terms arrive in your intellect to complete each sentence.
Next support yourself, and say, Of course I could do that( such as overeat) because my unreasonable expectation is and again wait for words to bubble up from your unconscious mind, such as: I get my security from overeating. Thats just an old glitch of a memory that needs updating. So, update it! Say the opposite expectation( such as I cannot get my safety from food I can get my safety from connecting to myself ). As you stated this when the circuit was freshly unlocked, the circuit can change into the expectation of your opt. As the new expectation becomes dominant, the emotional drives for various excess( including food) can start to fade so that changing behavior becomes easier.
5. Damage Control Tool( Stress Level 5 – Very High Stress ) When were that stressed, we need to be held and comforted. Sometimes only rocking in your chair or exhaling deep helps. Also, you can say pacifying words repeatedly: Do not judge. Minimize harm. Know it will pass. After all, its merely stress and it will fade.
Survival Circuits Activate Strong Emotional Drives To Overeat
Once youve started releasing stress from your emotional brain, chances are youll notice that you still get triggered sometimes. You might even blame yourself for that late night binge or that mindless eating. Actually, its only a survival circuit.
They are encoded whenever it is stressed and reach for food to cope. The brain remembers that food saved us from stress, this is why it encodes an expectation, such as I get my security from food. That circuit can be replayed for a lifetime, fueling maladaptive eating.
Research now shows that these survival circuits can be rewired and we do that in EBT. In fact, they can only be rewired when we are stressed. Merely then does the circuit unlock and make change more lasting. When stressed and craving food, the EBT user reaches for a tool rather than for the food and uses it to stop the craving and change the circuit. The drive to overeat fades.
The Last Step: Keeping The Weight Off
Keeping weight off is hard but it may be easier if we improve the brains emotional setpoint. Often a setpoint in stress is encoded from adverse experiences early in life and causes chronic stress overload in the emotional brain, a put up for weight regain.
The solution is to move up the emotional setpoint, so we get the emotional brain out of chronic stress, which is why the EBT program is also intended to creating the setpoint, so participants are more resilient to new emphasizes, less likely to regain the weight they have lost and, most of all, to experience more elation in their daily lives.
Laurel Mellin, Associate Clinical Professor of Family& Community Medicine and Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco
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