At 5-foot-11, Dr. David Kessler's weight swung from 160 pounds to 230 pounds and back, many times over. He owns pants in sizes ranging from 34 to 42. "I'd lose weight and over time gain it back; I couldn't control it. My weight was yo-yoing all the time, and I never understood why" said Dr. David Kessler. After much research, Dr. David Kessler shares his startling findings in his new book 'The End of Overeating'. Dr. Kessler says, overeating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw. "Foods high in fat, salt and sugar alter the brain's chemistry in ways that compel people to overeat. Every time we eat these foods, it strengthens our brain's neuro-circuitry to eat that food again. Instead of satisfying hunger, the salt-fat-sugar combination will stimulate a person's brain to crave more", said Kessler.
|Dr. David Kessler.|
When we see a tempting food item, the area of the brain called the Amygdala lights up with activity and sends feelings of anticipation and desire. And once we start eating, the region shuts down. But for a person who overeats, the Amygdala remains activated while eating, creating that feeling of want and coaxing the desire even after 5, 10 or even 50 cookies. The Amygdala is also connected to emotional regulation and addiction. "Highly palatable" foods containing fat, sugar and salt stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry.
He said that 70 million Americans struggle with conditioned hyper-eating. The key to stopping the vicious cycle of overeating and weight gain, is to rewire the brain's response to food, which is not very easy in our culture where unhealthy food and snacks are cheap and plentiful, portions are huge and we are bombarded by advertising that links these foods to fun and good times, he said.
"I hated physical activity, all of my life, mostly because I was fat and it was hard to do," he said. "But I just wanted to do something. I picked spinning because you can't fall off the bike."Kessler said he's made that shift in his own life, eating small portions of foods that contain fat, salt and sugar. David A. Kessler is a Harvard-trained doctor, lawyer, medical school dean and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.