One of the curiosities in America is WHY so many people are overweight. We all know that excess weight is damaging to health, self-esteem, relationships, and the pocketbook. So why don’t more people simply decide to lose weight and be done with it? After all, we’re the nation that first put a man on the moon. We are perhaps the most productive, knowledgeable, and capable group of people that has ever existed on planet earth. Yet rates of obesity have skyrocketed. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense.
Unraveling this mystery has been one of my professional pursuits over the past 20 years. It is clear that at the heart of the mystery of unwanted weight gain are what I call simply “wrong foods”. Here is what I’ve heard time and again as the reason for choosing wrong foods, even though those same foods are causing unwanted and health-devastating weight gain:
“You see Dr. Tague, I love my (chips, cookies, ice cream, chocolate, pasta, or name the food).”
At first, I brushed off and minimized this statement. But after hearing it literally hundreds of times, I finally decided to believe people when they tell me they feel they “love” their favorite food. Research has now made sense of what patients have been saying all along.
It turns out, from a brain chemistry standpoint, Americans truly are “in love” with their favorite foods, and they experience the same dopamine stimulation of the brain as when in love or “love-making”. Whether appropriate or not, people actually experience a sense of being “in love” with their favorite foods! Here’s why…
The food industry spends millions of dollars researching how to make foods cheap, tasty, mood enhancing and addictive. They are experts at manipulating your brain chemistry!
Their business goals have nothing to do with health, unfortunately, and are driven by financial profits. Weight gain is the painful consequence that we are left to deal with. The food industry increases profits while we increase in weight! Researchers say it this way….
”Obesity happens when humans are given foods whose taste and reward value greatly exceeds that to which they are genetically adapted.”
Since the food industry is driven to provide foods with “taste and reward value”, we have a problem!
Research Example: Rats presented with “junk food” vs “healthy food” will put up with electrical shocks or running 15 minutes in 5 degree temperature to get the junk food (Coke and shortcake) even when healthy food is readily available.
If we could ask the rats, “Do you love Coke and shortcake?” I think they would say, “Yes!” It turns out that the dopamine-activated pleasure centers in the brain of rats are activated more strongly by junk food, like soda, cookies and shortcake, than by cocaine!
In fact, the human brain’s response to food addiction is identical to a drug addiction.
FACT: Problem foods are EXTREMELY addictive. They are literally killing us! Hating addictive foods is appropriate. “Loving” them is not.
What is a food addiction? A true addiction is present when the idea of “getting a substance” dominates thoughts, even when the substance negatively impacts life and health. This overwhelming desire for highly addictive, problem foods can feel like “love”.
Is it an addiction? Here’s how to know:
- Is there a persistent desire for the food(s), even though I know it has harmed my health?
- Have I tried unsuccessfully to stop eating the unhealthy food(s)?
- Are social or recreational activities less frequent due to the food(s) causing weight gain?
- Do I keep eating the food(s) even though I am aware of negative consequences?
Popular foods and drinks are a multi-billion dollar industry in America. If a “food” provider can make it cheaper, tastier, and more addictive, they win (I guess), but we lose… our health! Ever wonder how the potato chip company can claim “you can’t eat just one”. They know from research that their chips are rewarding and addictive and that you will keep going back for more if they can just get you started.
Can we “just say no” to addictive foods? Yes we can. We say no to all sorts of addictive behavior options every day. Gambling, shopping addictions, alcohol addictions, inappropriate sex, and street drugs are all options for us. We say no to them every day, and we can say no to the food industry peddling their addictive foods.
If you believe you are suffering from a true food addiction, with unwanted weight gain or other health consequences, don’t hesitate to seek help. Others are getting set free, you can too…
Remember, experiencing Optimum Weight and Optimum Health is always worth the effort.
For Optimum Health
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.