THE BLOG

Is Your Brain Trying to Make You Fat?

02/12/2013 17:21 GMT | Updated 01/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Picture the scene; it's day one of your pre Christmas diet and for the first half of the day things go well; you made the kids their toast while sticking to fruit for breakfast, swiftly manoeuvred the biscuits at the meeting, swerved the office Chinese takeaway order and now you're exercising your self control at the Christmas drinks buffet.

Ever notice how flexing the ol' self restraint muscle gets pretty tiring?

I can't be the only one to have been 'good' all day, only to fall at the last hurdle in glucose deprived desperation. My good intention to avoid cakes all all costs ends up with me eating not one but two cupcakes; my iron will in tatters. All because of my inability to resist what is laid out before me any longer, in pink, sugary deliciousness.

Here's the thing, 'exercising will power' is more than just a metaphor. Scientists have found that restraining ourselves actually depletes our glucose levels (you know, the stuff that makes us feel low in energy and faint with hunger when it falls too low?). Having to exhibit self control uses up energy and as that energy runs down, our will power decreases.

Our brains need a ready supply of glucose to function and when glucose levels get low, we seek out fast sugar-releasing food stuffs to keep levels topped up. So the cycle continues.

Is it any wonder that attempting to stick to any kind of diet ends in failure 90% of the time?

If you struggle to lose weight, it's actually not your fault. Genetically we are not greedier or lazier than we were 100's of years ago, so why are so many of us piling on the pounds?

The answer lies in the divergence of genetics and environment. When we were evolving, our ability to adapt to starvation was one of the major features that shaped our DNA. Starvation was one of mankind's biggest killer.

Your body doesn't have any concept of 'cronuts' or 'cake pops'; it still thinks you are cavemen and the body's aim is to store fat in preparation for surviving the next famine. We are simply not designed to cope with food created in the the modern age.

How then, do we navigate the sea of sugar laden beverages? The coffee shops with treats right under our noses, laid out like candy encrusted ornaments? There is no magic pill or diet book that is going to swoop in and save us all - we must devise a multi-pronged approach for long lasting success.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Manage your stress levels and emotions in a way that doesn't involve food- the stress hormone cortisol causes us to store fat around our middles. There are many simple ways to do this: Try meditation, yoga, going for a walk, seeking out a therapist or changing your lifestyle.

2. Understand your beliefs about food and work on changing them. As a child, were you told to finish all the food on your plate? Were you given sweets when you were upset, or as a reward?

3. Change the way you see food - if something is 'forbidden' - you will want it more.

4. Strengthen your motivation by focusing on the benefits of being slim and healthy - our minds respond much better to positives than negatives. Create a powerful mental image of yourself as you'd like to be.

5. Increasingly, sugar is seen as the enemy, not fat. Sugar highs and lows make us more vulnerable to a lack of will power and inability to resist unhealthy foods. Try to cut down.

Chloe Brotheridge helps people to change thoughts, feeling and behaviours. As a full time Hypnotherapist in London, she also holds a degree in nutrition and specialises in helping people to manage stress and anxiety, lose weight and overcome IBS. www.easywaytochange.co.uk