There’s no doubt about it…
Our brains are powerful, efficient learning machines. Unfortunately, our ability to learn things at breakneck speeds can also be a curse.
The most recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  explains why this is true.
More importantly, it explains how habits and addictions can sometimes be nearly impossible to break free of, once we’ve been conditioned to enjoy them.
It’s All About Pleasure
You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that we’re hard-wired to seek out and pay attention to things that are rewarding (or pleasurable).
It’s why things like food, alcohol, smoking, and gambling can become highly addictive.
Every time we partake, we get an instant reward.
But what happens when those things, that once represented a “reward,” are no longer a reward to us?
Are those things still powerful enough to get our attention – even when we’re busy paying attention to other things?
These are the questions neuroscientists at John Hopkins University set out to answer.
Subjects sat in front of a computer screen and were told to search for red or green circles. The circles themselves were scattered among numerous circles of different colors.
Each of the green or red circles was followed by a reward. For example, finding a red circle would be followed by a 10-cent reward. Finding a green circle was followed by a smaller 1-cent reward.
The participants did this task for over an hour… long enough to “wire” the brain to equate green and red with monetary rewards.
After completing this task, they were given a new assignment, which was to search for certain shapes among an array of other differing shapes. For instance, they had to find a circle among shapes like triangles, squares and stars.
In this second task, color was no longer the concern. More importantly, there was no monetary reward involved this time around.
From time to time, one of the items on the display was green or red.
When green or red items were displayed, the participants’ responses slowed down.
In fact, an overwhelming number of people in the study got distracted by the red or green objects.
This is despite the fact that they were told to completely ignore those colors… and when those red or green items were displayed, they were inconspicuous and had no relevance whatsoever to the task.
“It was clear to us that those red or green items had become valuable to the study subjects, because they were linked in their minds with a reward,” said Steve Yantis, the study’s lead author.
It Seems Rewarding Objects Can’t Be Ignored
Based on the results of this study, this holds true even when we’re consciously trying to ignore them.
It seems that once your brain has been “rewired” with the stimulus-response effect of the reward, it becomes VERY hard to suppress the desire to experience the reward again.
At least, through conscious will power.
Is it any wonder why so many people have a hell of a time trying to kick bad habits like overeating, smoking and drinking?
Consider this: did you know that certain combinations of salt, sugar and fat in food can activate the same area of the brain that cocaine does?
It affects the area of the brain that releases dopamine – the chemical messenger that makes you feel good.
With this kind of brain “rewiring” losing weight and keeping it off becomes an almost impossible task… especially if you’re trying to do it through will power and external quick fixes.
That’s why hypnosis is so powerful. It unravels your previous wiring and creates new reward associations – i.e. loving veggies, fruits and exercise. So the end result then becomes what the researchers found in this study. Instead of your mind getting distracted by something that was a “bad” reward… you’ll now find it almost impossible to ignore the “good” rewards that will get you where you want to be. .
You’re pulled to do the good things… the good habits that get you where you want to be. Best of all, you’ll have a hard time ignoring them!
Have you ever been distracted by, or found it too hard to ignore a “reward”?
I’d love to hear your stories and comments.
Most dieters will agree…
One of the hardest parts of sticking to any healthy eating plan is dealing with cravings.
That is, until now.
Losing weight has never been easier, with what some are calling the “Imagination Diet.”
As it turns out, the key to eliminating the great temptation of a craving is to eat as much of the foods you crave – in your own mental fantasy.
The researchers wanted to find out if “imagined habituation” (thinking something over and over again – kind of like a habit) could play a role in curbing appetite.
Habituation is similar to the principle of diminishing returns. For example, have you ever craved chocolate… and then caved in?
Eating one piece of chocolate tastes great and exciting; but as you continue eating more… the fourth and fifth pieces don’t have the same level of pleasure as the first. With each bite that follows, your desire for the chocolate drops. That’s habituation.
It’s why you can get “sick” of eating too much of the same food. After a while, it becomes commonplace and loses its appeal.
In order to determine exactly how the imagination can affect how much we eat, the researchers divided the subjects into two groups.
The first group was told to imagine eating 30 M&M chocolate candies and putting three quarters into a slot.
The second group was told to visualize putting 30 quarters into a slot and only eating 3 M&Ms.
Then, the team of researchers got a large bowl of M&Ms and asked the subjects to have as many as they wanted. This was done under the pretense that they were doing a “taste test.”
After the subjects ate the M&Ms, the researchers weighed the bowl to see how many grams were consumed. This was done without the subjects knowing.
The Results – Eating in Your Imagination Curbs Appetite
It turns out that eating in your mind does in fact make you eat less in the real world.
The group that imagined eating 30 M&Ms ate half as many as the group that imagined eating only 3.
And in case you think this was a fluke – it wasn’t.
The researchers tried this experiment on four more separate occasions with different groups of people.
The ratio stayed the same. Those that imagined eating more of the M&Ms ate 50% less than those who imagined eating only three candies.
According to Carey Morewedge, the lead researcher in this study, “Merely thinking of a food does increase our appetite for the food. But if we perform the mental imagery that would accompany its actual consumption, this kind of thought actually decreases our desire for the food.”
How this can Help You
This recent research confirms what we in the hypnosis community have known all along: Your mind is the most powerful ally when it comes to losing weight and getting fit.
Because imagining something in your mind creates the same physical responses in your body as if you were experiencing that thing in real life… Pretty Crazy!
So next time you find yourself craving that burger… or that piece of chocolate… imagine eating it a few times first. Then, see if you find yourself eating less when you do indulge.
Let me know what happens. I’d love to hear how this little insight works out for you.
When Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub began his experiment, he weighed 201 pounds and had a body mass index of 28.8 (overweight).
Ten weeks later, he had lost 27 pounds, lowered his bad cholesterol and raised his good cholesterol. Plus, he lowered his blood pressure.
How did he do it? I can give you the answer in just one word: twinkies.
From Twinkies to Toned
The diet plan (if we can call it that!) that Haub followed is often called the “twinkie diet,” and for good reason.
For ten straight weeks, Haub has eaten mostly junk food, like soda, snack cakes, Doritos, and especially Twinkies.
Professor Haub volunteered himself as a guinea pig in what began as a simple test of portion control.
Instead of his normal diet of 2,600 calories, he limited himself to only 1,800 calories to see if he would lose weight.
What started as an experiment in portion control of calories (regardless of where they came from), actually resulted in a loss of weight… and a considerable amount, at that.
But Is He Healthier?
Pure numbers point to yes…in addition to losing 27 pounds, Haub’s LDL (the bad cholesterol) dropped by 20 percent and his good cholesterol rose by the same amount.
Haub does not recommend we all go out and load our cars with boxes of Twinkies…at least not yet – and he has yet to draw conclusions about it: “I wish I could say it’s healthy…I’m not confident enough in doing that…One side says it is irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn’t say that.”
Count Your Calories
Weight loss experts constantly flip-flop on the importance of counting calories…but Haub’s results show that at the end of the day…calories count!
Before the experiment, Haub claimed to be eating well, but just consuming too much.
From eating a controlled diet of only 1,800 calories, Haub lost weight, even though what he ate is usually blamed for adding weight, not an aid to losing it.
Also, his before lifestyle shows us that eating too much, even healthy food, will not help you to lose weight.
So, obviously lowering your caloric intake is the real catalyst to losing weight…
The bottom line: if you want to lose weight, you’ve got to consume less than you burn. That is it.
Drawbacks To Haub’s Method
Plenty of critics have already started talking about this study, and some do have valid points…
One said Haub did not receive the full range of proper nutrients that come from a well-rounded diet (note: Haub did take a multi-vitamin daily, drank a protein shake, and ate one serving of vegetables per day also).
Another very valid comment was that the “twinkie diet” may take a toll on your health if you stay on it long-term – there could potentially be risks to his heart health, and his risk for diabetes may rise considerably.
He may also be changing his blood-glucose level by eating too much processed sugar.
Haub plans to stop his “twinkie diet” the day before Thanksgiving, so we will give you another update as soon as we can!
Checkout the video:
Anyone who has tried to lose weight has heard this before: instead of eating three big meals at specific times, eat 5-6 smaller meals, or ‘graze’ throughout the day.
The reasoning behind this is twofold:
- So that your metabolism will continue burn high all day. The argument being since your body is getting calories throughout the day, it will not go into starvation mode and store excess calories as fat.
- So, that you don’t feel hungry and end up over-eating.
I can’t tell you how many diet experts swear by this, I have literally read this a thousand times and accepted it as gospel.
Sounds good…in theory…
However, a new study recently published in the journal, Obesity, came up with some very different results.
The study took –place at Purdue University in Indiana, and 37 overweight or obese men took part in the study.
Stage One: Establishing the Control
Subjects were divided randomly into two groups:
Group A received a high-protein diet plan (about 25% of total calories from protein)
Group B received a mid-level protein diet (about 14 percent protein)
All of the participants were expected to adhere to their new plans for 12 full weeks.
Both diet plans contained 750 fewer calories than the men needed to maintain their weights. Therefore, feelings of hunger should’ve started up quickly and frequently in all of the testers.
No instructions were given as to the frequency of meals…
Stage Two: Testing Meal Frequency
Starting at week seven, the men (who stayed on the same diet plans) were asked to change the frequency of eating.
Some participants were asked to eat three meals per day, with meals spaced five hours apart.
Others were asked to eat a small meal every two hours, for a total of six meals per day. The participants stuck to one method for three consecutive days, then switched to the other plan for three days.
The men reported their results after the 12 week period had ended.
For the men on the high-level protein diet (25% – which a lot of weight loss experts would consider mid level), eating 3 meals a day kept them more satiated than eating 6 smaller meals a day. They were actually less hungry during meal times, and they thought about food less…
More importantly, they had less of an urge to snack at night – a big deal.
However for men on the lower protein diet, the meal frequency did not seem to make any difference at all…
Another interesting result of the study is that overall the men on the higher protein diet felt less hungry between meal times than the lower protein group.
More Questions than Answers
Like most of our articles it brings up more questions than answers.
Just writing out loud here…
Did the lower protein diet simply not supply enough protein to cause satiation? Making meal frequency irrelevant? This is speculative, but makes some sense. Did the subjects on the higher protein diet who ate three meals a day actually lose more weight than the folks on the high frequency diet? I think this may be important!!!
And obviously it would be interesting to see if the results were the same for women and for different types of diets…
And of course it would be nice to see a more long term approach.
The Battle Resumes:
This study is far from conclusive, but it does add new ripples to the 3 meals versus 6 meals debate. I would love to hear what you think about this as I know there are a lot of strong opinions out there! Please comment below.
Source: Heather J. Leidy, Minghua Tang, Cheryl L.H. Armstrong, Carmen B. Martin and Wayne W. Campbell, The Effects of Consuming Frequent, Higher Protein Meals on Appetite and Satiety During Weight Loss in Overweight/Obese Men, Obesity , (16 September 2010)
By now, you’ve probably seen the pictures of Drew Carey all over the ‘net (or here, taken from the ‘net) – he has lost over 80 pounds since January. He looks great, and he has firmly committed to keeping it off.
How did he do it?
His key (and yours, and mine) was and is good old fashioned exercise and a brand new menu.
His new regimen is quite strict – in addition to the “no donuts” rule he made for himself (good call there), he has taken a huge step to cut out grains and processed carbs completely!
In addition to changing his diet, he has committed to exercise as well, and hits the gym 5-6 times per week for 45 minutes each session.
But it was probably plastic surgery, or some miracle pill, right?
We read those rumors earlier this year, too. We had heard that thanks to his connections in Hollywood, he was taking a custom made nutritional supplement to curb his appetite. (Do we smell a cheater?!)
Now we are reading that this is not true, and Carey himself insists it is not true either.
He reported to People Magazine: “There’s nobody really standing over me. I do work with somebody who gives me advice on what to do, how many minutes to run, what my heart rate should be and all that kind of stuff.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth! (Or should it be “pony” considering he has lost so much weight?)
The Best Part
Thanks to Drew’s new healthier lifestyle, he has actually been able to get rid of his diabetes!
He was a Type-2 diabetic, and thanks to losing weight and becoming healthier, Carey reveals he is no longer considered diabetic and has stopped taking medication!
Carey continues to encourage himself – when he saw how his determination paid off, now wearing a 33 inch waist pant (down from a 44 inch waist), he became more determined to lose even more weight and regain his health:
“I like being skinny,” says Carey. “I was sick of being fat on the camera. Really, I just got sick of it.”
If the Price is Right host, who seemingly has every short cut method to losing weight just sitting there at his fingertips, instead chooses the old fashioned way of eating right and working out, is there any excuse left for us?
Pills Don’t Work
If you’ve tried to lose weight before, you know that popping pills does not help. Yes, you may lose weight, but you do gain it back – and usually you gain even more than you lost!
At the same time, however, it makes sense to want to try those pills. First, the commercials make them look like demigods in a bottle, and second, it is really hard to stay on a strict diet.
However, committing to a decent meal plan and moderate exercise is really the only tried and true way to take weight off and keep it off. You’ve got to have that desire, like Drew did, to want to change your lifestyle.
It looks like Drew made a change in the way he thinks about himself in order to make his incredible transformation; hopefully he keeps it up.
If you want me to discuss strategies that might allow you to make this kind of transformation, please comment at the end of this post. We have a lot of experience here!
Have you noticed an ever growing amount of people in restaurants taking pictures of their food?
What in the world are they doing – is the food so beautiful that they just have to immortalize it?
Is there a market for food photography that we don’t know about?
Well, it turns out that photographing ones meals is one of the latest diet crazes and it’s not going away…
It is becoming so big that Sony, Fuji, and other camera manufactures have begun creating “food” options on camera menus, with optimal lighting and close-up features to enhance the look and texture of the foods…
The idea is really just an extension of food journaling (something Dr. Temes recommends) and a solid technique for weight loss. Journaling allows you to detect patterns and helps hold you accountable for the choices you make.
So the idea of taking photographs of your food really brings this dieting technique to a whole new level. As long as you don’t choose to crop out your second helping of desert, photographing your food can force you to be even more accountable for the choices you make.
If you cannot force yourself to make better choices, even by taking pictures of your food, you may want to post the photos online and have other people help monitor your progress.
Take a minute to play the short video below – this is exactly what Eva admits she needs to do to help keep herself in check.
After losing a significant amount of weight, Eva realized that she was having trouble keeping the weight off. She began to take pictures of her food, like the high tech food journal mentioned above.
But even that was not enough to help her maintain her goal weight.
So, Eva began to post pictures of her food choices on Facebook, and even created a page called “What’s Eva Eating?”
Anyone from Facebook can find her and become a fan of her page. Doing this allows you to see her posts, view her photographs, and comment away about her choices.
One harsh comment on her page read: “If I followed the Eva diet for just a weekend I would gain 10 pounds!!!!”
That is quite a wake up call to make better choices! It will be interesting to follow her progress and see how this dieting trend will work for her. (You can find her and follow her on Facebook – I did – she already has over 100 followers and counting!).
Have you had the urge to snap pictures of yours meals? Maybe this is something you’ve done for years? If you do follow this trend, comment below and let us know why, we’d love to have more examples of this new trend to chew on, and to photograph.