The following headlines and studies suggest some of the contributing factors to childhood obesity and diet challenges.
Researchers have found 2 gene variants that appear to play an important causal role in childhood obesity. This study is provocative because in prior research gene variants were "credited" with causing morbid obesity in kids;the new study identifies gene variants as contributing to the cause of simple, common childhood obesity. Of course the saying that "obesity is partly in the genes AND certainly in the lifestyle habits you choose," is still a valid statement, despite this study. we are born with gene tendencies and then the lifestyle choices we make influences and determines the overall impact. These particular gene variants seem to have special relevance to weight gain in the early years of childhood. It's also important to note that these 2 genes seem to have the largest impact on weight (currently recognized by science), though there may be other gene variants contributing to childhood obesity, but with less intensity. Most experts agree that childhood obesity is a result of a complicated interaction between a variety of variants that include biological, environmental, behavioral, cultural and economic factors. One's personality also begins to contribute to this mix as you mature.
According to a new book, Your Brain on Food, you can be engaged with a very healthy and targeted eating program and sustain those changes, only to decide after a certain amount of weight loss that it's OK to celebrate a bit with a food treat. Maybe it's a small serving of fries, maybe it's a can of soda, or maybe it's a bite-size cupcake. You eat the "one treat" and suddenly find yourself eating more and more of anything and everything in sight. Food chaos has just occurred and you felt out-of-control and helpless to stop the eating orgy. The author, Gary Wenk PhD, calls these treat foods, gateway foods, and they actually make you feel unable to stop after just one bite or treat, because they have ingredients that act as "addictive agents" on your mind and your body. The author maintains that fatty foods and sugary foods (I would add salty foods) are the primary gateway foods. You taste them, signals of divine pleasure are sent to your brain, while your body responds by secreting insulin to address blood sugar increase; your stomach muscles relax and the net effect is your body feeling like it needs more to be satisfied. So you eat and eat and the cycle continues until you simply can't eat any more. The author and experts like me know the profound impact that fatty/sugary/salty foods have on your brain - it becomes literally impaired in the moment and unable to function normally. We also know that the effect can last for days, with an ongoing series of binge cycles, till your brain finally exerts control.
What can you do to avoid this behavior while engaged in a healthy dieting plan? Consider:
- Identifying and then steering clear of trigger foods (gateway foods) forever
- Limiting these treat tastes to outside the home (maybe a shared dessert with a spouse, friend) and then being very mindful of cravings and temptations for a day or two.
- Finding foods less likely to cause loss of control like very dark, rich chocolate, nuts, yogurt and fruit desserts, or a handful of salted pretzels or popcorn.
- Trying to "be in the moment" and able to "interrupt yourself," according to the author, Thus means setting up the whole treat experience with safeguards in place so you don't lose control.
Are you on a diet and struggling with treat foods? Share how you handle trigger foods!!