Overeating for Pleasure or Just Can't Get Full? This Hormone Could Be to Blame

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.


Eating for Pleasure

When pleasure is driving you to overeat, that too can increase leptin resistance. Part of the impulse is physical. For example, mice who cannot taste sweetness still opt for sugar water over plain because once ingested it gets the gut and brain to release pleasure-promoting hormones. Part is emotionally driven — perhaps from associations of some foods with happier times. That too stimulates the release of comforting hormones and neurotransmitters.

3 Ways to Feel Full Again

So how can you learn to eat no more than your body needs and not use food to cope with tension or sadness? By overcoming leptin resistance with a combination of lifestyle changes.

Want to help lower your risk of getting cancer? The answer could be in the food you eat! Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD and the author of "Take Control of Your Cancer Risk," says there are three kinds of foods that could really help prevent cancer: garlic, fish and grapes. And what three kinds of foods should you avoid? Red and processed meats, refined grains, and alcoholic and sugary drinks. Watch the videos below to learn more about how food could be connected to your cancer risk.