Here Is Your Brain On A Diet

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With numerous weight loss tips and opinions circulating online as fact in a world where too many people are unhappy with their appearance, temptations to jump aboard the newest diet trends are high. Medications, hacks, and meal plans flood everyone’s feed. Some gimmicks, such as that touted by Femnique, claim to shed 10 pounds per week. Just a quick Google search results in over 1 million hits for weight loss. Low carbohydrate, high carb, zero carb, intermittent fasting — all of these eating habits are claimed to work, depending on the spokesperson and what part of the world you live in. Truthfully, there is likely no one size fits all amid this diet culture. While some individuals may benefit from weight watchers, others swear by eating any foods as long as exercise becomes the normal daily routine.

A ketogenic diet might be the way to go, or maybe try vegan. How about weight watchers? Finding the right lifestyle change is frustrating. Years of yo-yo dieting and experiencing a lack of results become overwhelmingly discouraging for women and men alike. Yo-yo dieting — dropping weight only to see it creep back on in an endless cycle — wreaks havoc on the body, says Nutritious Life. Isn’t making ourselves sick doing the opposite of getting healthy? Let’s get real. Just as Reader’s Digest talks about in one of their newest write-ups, how a body does or does not lose weight happens to involve a lot more complexities than the amount you eat or how strongly your desire to look like a bathing suit model reigns over midnight snacking urges.

Mostly likely the term “set point weight” has not been a big ticket discussion among dieting connoisseurs and followers. Did you know that everyone’s body supposedly has a so-called happy weight? Doctor Dara Dirhan recently spoke out about the amount of fat each person’s brain determines to be optimal. Hormones are strongly at play, often times even getting in the way of success.

“Two hunger hormones are responsible for trying to regulate the body’s set point: ghrelin and leptin.”

The first of these two hormones is known as the “hunger hormone.” How it works is simple: as soon as your brain determines that your energy level is low, ghrelin is secreted, making you feel hungry and convincing you to hurry and consume glucose. Basically, if you’re feeling famished, your brain thinks you’re starving. As for leptin, the second aforementioned hormone, this is the one secreted after ghrelin to signal the brain that you’ve had enough. Often called the “satiety hormone,” leptin is how the brain knows that you’ve eaten plenty and all energy levels are officially met. Another physician, Dr. David Prologo, specializes in obesity medication and radiology. Prologo backs up Dirhan’s claim. According to Prologo, these two hormones tell us to seek food, slow down, and converse energy, and may be getting confused by calorie restrictions when someone goes on a diet.

Jennifer Hudson touts her Weight Watchers book in 2012
Oscar and Grammy winning performer Jennifer Hudson celebrates the release of her memoir, "I Got This," by signing books at a Weight Watchers Center Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 in Chicago.Featured image credit: M. Spencer GreenAP Images

So what does all this medical information mean? Peddle back to the term “set point weight.” Starting a new diet means consuming less calories, which happens to be the energy your brain craves. Dieters frequently experience symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, feeling weak, and frequent depression. Even headaches are common during fresh diets, among various other symptoms. All of those negative aspects are a part of the hormones being secreted to your brain, say these two doctors. The good news is that by sticking to the new eating habits and pushing past these feelings, Dr. Prologo says that your brain eventually pumps the brakes and finds a new “set point.” Neurologist Doctor Jason McKeown is CEO over at Modius Health, and is also on board with Prologo and Dirhan. McKeown adds to the statements, noting that with a new “set point” comes significantly less cravings and a reduced appetite. He also says that the only way to maintain any results come by long-term diets influencing this “set point” range, but warns that over-eating foods high in sugar and saturated fats could shift that “set point” for body fat on an upward spiral.

“To maintain results, diets in the long-term can influence this set-range, making your brain adapt and be comfortable at a lower weight.”

These three professionals caution that such a change in the brain and hormone levels can take months. Therefore, expecting to see swift results that last may be too optimistic, if not naive and potentially dangerous to your body. McKeown stresses that the only way for your brain to become comfortable at a lower weight is with a long-term lifestyle change to eating habits. Supposedly doing this will speed up metabolism and decrease appetite.

“Whereas in the short-run, you may lose a few pounds, but you’ll often plateau and see the weight creep back up as it’s not enough to influence the weight your brain and body is happy with.”

For even more insight to this way of looking at weight loss, check out the article with Reader’s Digest, which goes into more detail regarding dopamine, weight management, and the importance of a good quality diet.