Weight is a Weighty Topic

Avoid obesity by understanding why you eat what you eat

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Current approaches for weight loss focus on controlling cravings, but resisting can be difficult when there’s a variety of available food. There may be a better way to lose weight.

Obesity plagues more than a third of Americans and is associated with many health problems including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Earlier approaches to obesity counseling have been focused on personal choice and will power, but researchers believe there's a more effective way.

"Focus on short term goals rather than long term weight loss."

Usual methods of weight loss for overweight or obese individuals have focused on ignoring cravings and staying away from unhealthy foods by receiving nutrition education, but this hardly ever works for anyone, lead author, Brad Appelhans, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and obesity researcher in the Rush University Prevention Center, says.

Instead, the focus should be on the neurobehavioral processes, which refers to how the brain reacts to environmental cues like food, Appelhans adds. The thought processes that are most often accused of causing weight gain are:

  • Food reward - this is the pleasure received by eating food and the drive to obtain that food
  • Inhibitory control - the self-control to resist temptations
  • Time discounting - the idea that receiving something now is better than receiving more later

Appelhans suggests that counselors shift their focus to address why people are reacting the way they do towards certain foods, rather than ignore cravings. His method includes strategies like:

  • Take away all food cravings from your environment then you won't feel the need to reward yourself with them
  • Stick to what's on the grocery list to avoid buying unhealthy foods that you can reward yourself with
  • Clear your head, work on stress management. Stress is often associated with overeating and enhancing food reward processing
  • Stay in control of your inhibitory control by avoiding buffets and restaurants
  • Focus on short term goals like cooking three nights a week, because it's the small steps that add up

The research is published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 3, 2011
Last Updated:
August 5, 2011