Paul Kenny summarizes the current scientific understanding of what drives people to obesity in "The Food Addiction", Scientific American Sept 2013 Volume 309, Number 3. As the complete article isn't available online I highly recommend you pick up this issue or xerox it from a library. What is available is a summary.

A related article from 2010 is Junk food-addicted rats chose to starve themselves rather than eat ....

From Kenny's article...

New Science shows that overeating in not a behavioral disorder, such as a lack of self-control, and is not caused by a hormonal imbalance.

Instead foods rich in fat and sugar can supercharge the brain's reward system, which can overpower the brain's ability to tell an individual to stop eating. In these cases, the more someone eats, the more he or she wants. [emphasis mine]

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Rats given the option to eat regular chow or a mini-buffet of sausage, cheesecake and chocolate quickly eat only the latter and become obese. The 2010 article says rats brains become profoundly desensitized (habituated to junk food) in only five days. Fatty/easily digested carbohydrate foods change our brains much like addictive drugs do, and we experience withdrawal when deprived of hedonic overeating.

Perhaps the most shocking finding came when the researchers took away the addicted rats' access to junk food and started feeding them only healthy rat chow again -- the same diets the rats had eaten as pups. When junk food was no longer available, the rats simply refused to eat for two weeks.

"They actually voluntarily starved themselves," Kenny said.

"It's almost as if you break these things, it's very, very hard to go back to the way things were before. Their dietary preferences are dramatically shifted."

The bottom line, for me, is that I have a chance to escape food addiction and hopefully eventually regain the capacity for healthy appetite control. It would be nice to wrest control of my hunger from the hands of corporations who profit by selling food designed to trigger addiction. *sigh*

Since I've been low carb for years, it should be a little easier for me than the food addicted rats who would rather starve than eat rat chow.

Here are the areas I've identified so far in my diet that need to change.

  • Replace gluten flour and soyflour with cooked edamame or low carb vegetables.
  • Never eat 85% chocolate or nuts on an empty stomach, eat only small quantities at a time along with salad or low carb vegetables.
  • Keep ready made salad and cooked low carb vegetables handy in the fridge, to eat when I'm too tired to cook (so I don't snack on nuts and chocolate).

So far my exercising has been only moderately successful. I go to the gym but feel like the walking dead for hours later.

Since two weeks was the length of time addicted rats refused to eat chow, I'm hoping my withdrawal will only last that long. I can survive two weeks of depressed mood if it means a few years more of healthy living.

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Replies to This Discussion

Sure we have ingrained likings for high fat and high sugar foods. 

But it's the availability of these foods, the widespread promotion of them, that does the damage

The couple of sisters who so drastically underestimated their food intake on the Secret Eaters show, had just moved from Zimbabwe.  They couldn't understand why they were gaining so much weight in Britain.

But one might guess that those high-calorie treats were less available in Zimbabwe - maybe fewer fast food places, less processed food, fewer candy bars around.  It sounds like they came to Britain without having acquired defenses against those temptations. 

The Fedex place here has a rack of candy bars - of all things.  You go to make some copies - so a candy bar to go with it ??? 

I guess candy sells better than fruit twists or other relatively healthy treats. 

It is constantly promoted.  At the Walmart here, a local church sells Caribbean rum cakes at the door.  I guess it's easier to make money with rum cakes than with something healthy. 

The low carb foods like nuts and chocolate are very calorie dense, it's very easy to get too many calories that way. 

So you are doing low carb because of your diabetes, although it hasn't worked for weight loss.  Perhaps you are afraid of having to use insulin or other medications if you ate more carbs. 

But the mainstream recommendation for diabetics is not low-carb, but complex carbs and low fat, and perhaps it's time to consider trying the mainstream answer. 

So far my exercising has been only moderately successful. I go to the gym but feel like the walking dead for hours later.

Lowcarb diets are notorious for robbing people of their energy. 

The low carb foods like nuts and chocolate

Sorry, chocolate would be low carb only if it's unsweetened baking chocolate. 

Lindt 85% has 9 grams of carbohydrate in 4 squares, after you subtract the fiber. I try to eat only  3 squares/day. That's not enough to raise blood sugar significantly, especially as I don't usually eat all three at once.

Lindt 85% Extra Dark... great stuff for those of us, low carb or not, who like bold, dark chocolate!

I don't mind that it has only 5 grams of sugar in four squares.

I've found Lindt 90% a bit too bitter; they also have 99%.

(And chili flavored chocolate, which I've seen in local stores, and wasabi (!) (artificially) flavored chocolate on their website.)

I used to go around munching baking chocolate. 

I haven't experienced withdrawal effects from quitting sugar. 

I was eating a lot of sugar to try to wake up when inhalant allergies make me fuzzy.  But an allergist said that might be making my allergies worse long-term, so I quit.  No withdrawal phase though.

I do notice a tolerance effect - if I start eating a lot of sweets, it takes more sugar to make something taste sweet enough. 

I've generally replaced unhealthy treats with things that were more healthy, so I can still "have something" if I have a craving.  Chocolate might be replaced with cocoa powder - I used to get some very delicious unsweetened cocoa powder.

Just reporting my progress as of Sept 8th. I've managed to stay on the diet.

Experimenting with new recipes and ordering new spices. The Daikon and Pepper salad was a disaster. The woman who published the recipe said Daikon (Japanese radish) "has no bitter bite of radish." After very thin slices were soaked 6 hours, with three water changes, we tried to eat it and got upset stomachs. (give it an F) So I took it out and soaked it for 2 days, and then we still found it too strongly spicy. Had to throw it out. The roasted peppers were fine. (give them an A) The low carb cabbage soup was acceptable (give it a C).

After 5 days I'd lost a pound, but since regained half of it. I'm having edema, and will try to see my doctor tomorrow. I don't think avoiding addictive food could possibly cause edema. It's just slowed me way down.

I use daikon in cultured food. When the bacteria are done with it, it has no bitter bite left.  

Cultured radishes are also good.   And I slice raw sweet potatoes thin - orange roots that are too sweet for me when fresh, but are good cultured. 




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