Do you eat food to live, or live to eat food?
The honest answer to this question can determine if you are at risk of regular overeating.
The fact is we’re all hardwired to go out and seek food. Food is our nourishment, it provides us with all the essential nutrition to sustain life. For this reason it is vital that we have a subconscious drive to seek out food. The potential problem is, with the availability and variety of food, our body’s instinct for nourishment can be misinterpreted in our mind. This need can cause many people to eat too much, most often without the individual realising he/she has ingested too many calories.
People are struggling to break the habit of overeating, but could it be more than a lack of will power?
Some research has shown that overeating may be caused by the neurotransmitter Dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that helps us feel pleasure, thus when we eat, we often feel a slight high. This system causes us to want to seek out food and eat at regular intervals so we stand a better chance of gaining a full range of nutrition, thus have a better chance of surviving. Imagine if our ancestors didn’t feel pleasure from eating. They would have no motivation to hunt for food. If this was the case we probably wouldn’t be here today!
Research into the Dopamine system has also shown that when we overeat, Dopamine receptors are slightly depleted in the brain. In fact, many obese patients who have previously had trouble cutting down on food show strong evidence of Dopamine receptor depletion. If there are fewer Dopamine receptors in the brain, a person would have to eat more just to get that same good feeling. This means that an obese person is going to have to eat a larger amount of food to feel the same amount of pleasure that a slimmer person could feel from a much smaller amount of food. Resisting temptation goes a long way toward keeping those receptors active, which is why slimmer people may be satisfied after eating a bite of cheesecake, rather than a whole slice!
There has been a similar pattern shown in drug addicts and alcoholics. The more the user takes the greater the reduction of receptor sites, and this causes them to take greater amounts of drugs or alcohol for the same feeling. This gives credit to the argument that individuals can, in fact, have an addiction to food. It is a condition that needs to be treated like any other addiction, through counselling, education, and constant monitoring. However, drug and alcohol addicts do have one advantage – they can regain control of their addiction and never touch drugs or alcohol again. Unfortunately, individuals addicted to food have to regain control of their eating habits while continuing to face food everyday. How successful would an alcoholic be if he/she had to drink a little everyday?
Human Body Adaptation To Overeating
The Effect of Overeating on Dopamine Levels
The Pitfalls of Eating Junk Food
How we control hunger and appetite?