Here's how to get things back on track.
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.
- Tamp down inflammation, especially in the gut, with high-fiber foods, and eliminate ultra-processed foods, added sugars and red meats from your diet. Increase leptin sensitivity by increasing lean and plant-based protein intake.
- Get more exercise. In combo with reduced intake of unhealthy fats it reduces leptin resistance significantly.
- Reduce your triglyceride level. When it's high, it prevents transport of leptin from your blood to your brain. The key? Dramatically slash your intake of refined carbs and unhealthy fats.