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Does Dieting Change Your Brain?

You exercise, eat right, and still have difficulty keeping the weight off. Could the problem be how your brain responds to dieting?

weight scale

Photo: wader (flickr)

Your brain and your diet need to work together to lose weight.

Everyone knows that it’s relatively easy to lose weight but nearly impossible to keep it off.


One possibility is that losing weight and keeping it off depends not only on how much you eat, but also on how the brain responds to dieting.

For example, in one study, scientists put mice on a diet until they lost around ten percent of their body weight. Then they looked at the mice’s brains and found elevated levels of stress hormones.

They also found changes in the way the mice regulated the release of hormones linked to eating behaviors. These changes remained even after the mice had regained their lost weight.

In The Experiment…

Then the researchers put the mice in stressful situations, such as being placed in total darkness, hearing strange sounds, and seeing predators. A control group of mice that hadn’t been on a diet were also subjected to the same types of stress.

When the mice were then given high calorie, high fat foods, both groups gobbled it up. But the mice that had lost and regained weight ate more.

Now, any study with animals can only suggest how the same principles may apply in humans.

But this study does suggest that dieting and losing weight changes the brain in ways that can make you crave high calorie foods. And especially under stress, the post diet brain may crave food more powerfully than ever.

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