In the first part of this installment we talked about how inflammation actually promotes weight gain and makes it virtually impossible to lose weight despite eating less calories.
So much for the conventional wisdom of “calories in vs. calories out”!
The Nation of Food Addiction…
If you look around it won’t take you very to long to realize that we are a nation of food addicts.
The sad reality is that we are not addicted to whole foods. We are addicted to highly processed foods that have more additives, preservatives and chemical substances than a meth lab.
Science tells us that we become addicted to food on a psychological and physiological level, and today I want to peer under the hood a little and see how we get addicted physiologically.
To start off, I want to you quickly imagine how your tongue, your body and your mind feel when you bite into your favorite junk food be it ice cream, a candy bar or whatever does it for you. If you think about it your entire body relaxes, you feel amazing and you likely want more right?
So what is driving this highly pleasurable response?
In short, your brain has a pleasure center that called the Nucleas Accumbens that I spoke about in part I of this series, and when you eat highly processed foods it released dopamine and other endorphins such as enkephalins that make you feel amazing. When dopamine is released from an area called the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) in the brain it travels to what is called a D2 receptor where the dopamine is received.
To make something that is naturally complicated very simple, just think of it as a lock and a key. The D2 receptor is the lock and the dopamine is the key which then starts an entire cascade that causes you to desire MORE of the food that you just ate.
The problem is that when you eat highly processed foods that causes inflammation (see part I for a full explanation), the inflammation actually “puts rust” or downregulates those D2 receptors or “locks” as we have called them. So over time as you put the rust on the lock by eating more inflammation promoting processed foods, the keys become less effective and therefore you get less pleasure from the endorphins that heretofore came in abundance.
The End Result?
You no have to eat MORE food to get the same response that you would have got in the absence of inflammation! To give a simple example, let’s say that you had 10 D2 receptors before you were ravaged by inflammation by processed foods, and all of those receptors were receiving the endorphins and thereby releasing endorphins as well. You feel great so you go for some more food.
But if you continue to consume the processed food it rusts out 5 of those 10 receptors and as a result of that downregulation, you are not getting the same amount of endorphins in your body as you are used too. When this happens you feel deprived and therefore you instinctively go for more food so that you can get an equal “high” like you did before. The good news is that it works temporarily, but then you have to repeat the same cycle and you continue to downregulate more D2 receptors.
This is why you will hear food addicts say things like, “Sometimes I don’t even like what I am eating but I still can’t seem to stop”. They are literally physiologically addicted to what food scientists call “hyperpalatable foods” which are engineered to create hyper levels of pleasure producing chemicals in the brain that cannot be equaled by a whole food. The food industry knows this and this is why we are a nation of food addicts.
The Cure Is REAL Food…
While it would be irresponsible to say that food addiction is simply cured by eating whole foods it is by far the biggest factor. If you are addicted to processed foods (and you most likely are if more that 40% of your diet is composed of processed foods) then you must get the inflammation down in your body by eating whole foods.
I personally recommend doing at least 30 days of nothing but whole foods and a low carbohydrate diet (less than 20% of your total calories). This will allow your body to “reset” some of the inflammation that is causing you to chronically overeat. Following a low carb Paleo plan or “Clean Keto” plan is a great way to accomplish this.
Please let me know how you do on your journey and remember….
Life is Good!