4 Ways Your Brain Makes You Overeat—And How To Outsmart Yourself

Are you struggling to lose weight with your Chicago personal trainer? It may not be as simple as eliminating a food from your diet. You may need to trick your brain into weight loss! Check out these 4 ways to find out how.


Ever plowed through a pint of ice cream? Gone back for seconds (or thirds) at a buffet? Then you know how difficult it can be to put the skids on eating. You might curse your lack of willpower, but new research suggests it may be your brain that's undermining your best intentions.

Here are four ways your noggin may be nudging you to keep noshing—and how to change your behavior for the better:

1. The brain pumps out a stress hormone that makes you eat.

You may know that the brain can create cravings for comfort food when you're under duress. Now, a new study by researchers at the University of Florida has found that fat on the belly and thighs sends signals that can prevent the brain from turning off that stress response. The result? You keep feeling hunger and eating more. "We need to learn how to go in and break that cycle of stress and eating," says study co-author James Herman, PhD.

Outsmart your brain:

Drink less coffee. Research shows caffeine can actually worsen your stress response, making it a good idea to steer clear of java and opt for refreshment that'll help you feel more relaxed—herbal tea, for example. You might also use this news as motivation to eat clean and hit the gym, as the less fat you have, the better shot you give your brain at self-regulating that stress hormone.

2. A brain hormone prompts you to reach for higher-fat fare.

Ever wonder why some people seem perfectly satisfied with a bowl of salad while others would much prefer a burger and fries? Turns out a hormone deficiency in the brain could be to blame. In a new Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers found that low levels of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in mice led them to overeat—and they preferred high fat food. Sufficient levels of GLP-1, which is secreted from cells in both the small intestine and the brain, signal that we've eaten enough.

Outsmart your brain:

Get enough sleep. While there is a drug that was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that mimics the GLP-1 hormone and is being used as a treatment for obesity, you can boost your levels (and avoid potential side effects such as pancreatitis, gallbladder and kidney problems) by making sure you're getting enough shut-eye. One recent study published in The American Journal of Human Biology found that inadequate sleep alters the secretion of the hunger hormones, causing you to feel hungrier and overeat. Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night.

3. A high-cal diet actually rewires your brain circuits, encouraging overeating.

Let's face it: Eating is pleasurable. In fact, research shows it ranks right up there with sex and even addictive drug use. That's because eating can trigger the release of dopamine—the feel-good hormone that lights up the reward center of the brain, prompting us to continue to seek out the behavior that's making us feel so good.

According to one new study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, rats who gorged on tasty, high-fat treats like bacon, sausage, chocolate, and cheesecake quickly became dependent on high quantities of these foods to feel good—similar to drug users who need to up their intake over time to get high, according to the researchers. The rats actually became so dependent on those high-fat foods that they found them hard to quit even after given mild electric shocks to dissuade them from the unhealthy fare.

Outsmart your brain:

Scale back on high-fat foods. This is particularly important when it comes to ones that are also high in salt and sugar (we're looking at you, potato chips). Research shows this combo actually stimulates our brain to crave more.

4. Sometimes, our psychological needs override our physical ones.

Scientists have proven what we've long suspected: Overeating is often an attempt to satisfy an emotional need rather than actual hunger. In a new study of 1,447 female college students, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 40% admitted to overeating in the past month—and there was also an association with feeling depressed and feeling totally out of control while overeating.

Outsmart your brain:

Avoid nighttime noshing. While it's darn-near impossible to avoid emotional eating altogether, one study published in the journal Eating Behaviors found that eating at night has been associated with a depressed mood. So, if you're already feeling down, the evening hours may prompt you to eat even more. Instead of staying up to watch TV, aim to hit the hay on the early side and treat yourself to a big, healthy breakfast the next morning.

Picture Credit: © Mark Andersen/Rubberball Productions/Getty Images

Article Credit:
Author: Prevention Magazine
4 Ways Your Brain Makes You Overeat—And How To Outsmart Yourself
Ways your brain causes weight gain while you meet with a personal trainer in Chicago.