The Psychology Behind Weight Gain – Why Your Brain Might be Holding You Back
The theory that weight gain can be explained by psychological dynamics is often confused with the idea that the person who is overweight somehow has full control over the weight gain process or can will themselves to simply lose the weight. This belief (and stigma) is not only wrong, but it can also contribute to people who are overweight feeling that weight gain is a result of personal fault, lack of willpower, or a number of other reasons that ultimately lead the individual to low self-esteem and chronic self-judgment. This is precisely how the vicious psychological cycle of weight gain ensues: The overweight person, in need of effective guidance on weight loss, holds the belief that their weight gain represents personal failure, and this belief, in turn, depletes motivation and energy to engage in a weight loss plan.
Today I will clarify the myth that weight gain just happens and it’s all your fault. This (sometimes popular) belief represents a naïve attempt at explaining a health issue that is far more complex. The problem of weight gain cannot be explained away so easily. There is a much more multifaceted psychological dynamic that occurs in the process and maintenance of overweight/obesity.
I am certainly not presenting anything extremely groundbreaking when I say that overweight/obesity can be understood in much the same way as addiction, but in the case of overweight/obesity, the addiction is to food, particularly sugar and carbohydrates (which are processed as sugar once we consume them). I am also not the first person to explain overweight/obesity as an addiction, but my hopes are that I will contribute to the body of knowledge on overweight/obesity and addiction so that some day the stigma placed on this disease (and those who suffer from it) becomes an ignorant notion of the past.
The Addiction Process.
Studies have found that sweet/sugary foods contribute to clinically significant levels of analgesia in the body,1 which means that when we consume sweets we get a sort of numbing effect, our heart rate may decrease, and our emotions stabilize, facilitating a sense of wellbeing and happiness. This is a similar process that occurs when people consume opioids (i.e., prescription pain killers). In fact, opioids act on the same regions of the brain when consumed as sugar does1.
Still not convinced? Let me give you an example: When babies are born they are administered a heel prick blood test in order to draw blood while they are in the hospital. Guess what is given to infants before the heel prick test in order to reduce the impending pain?
If you guessed sugar, you are correct. Infants are fed small amounts of sucralose for its analgesic effects. Now, I’m not saying that sugar has the same analgesic effects as opiate medication, but the neurological process, or the way the brain processes sugar is the same and equally as addictive.
You might be thinking that if the sugar-addiction theory were true then why aren’t we all addicted to sugar and thus overweight? Well, to answer the latter: Many of us are overweight. Statistics on overweight/obesity in the U.S. indicate that 1 out of 3 of Americans are overweight and 1 out of 3 are obese, meaning that out of every 3 U.S. adults, only 1 adult is considered to be of normal weight2. However, not everyone will develop an addiction to a substance (whether it’s an addictive substance like alcohol, opioids, or sugar). Some people are simply prone to addiction, just as some people are more likely to develop other illnesses like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. There is a combination of factors, such as genetics, environmental reasons, and/or life experiences that can contribute to someone manifesting an illness or disease. The same concept applies to overweight/obesity, as a person may be addicted to sugar, but be able to maintain a normal weight while another person with a sugar addiction may become overweight/obese. Both individuals have an addiction to sugar and thus a health problem (since high sugar intake can contribute to numerous chronic and fatal conditions), but one person may manifest the addiction to sugar by gaining weight.
The purpose of explaining overweight/obesity as an addictive process is not to label overweight/obese individuals as addicts, but to explain the process in order to arrive at effective solutions. If overweight/obesity is treated like an addiction, like a real illness, and not as a weakness or as a product of poor self-control, then overweight/obese individuals can have a greater likelihood of recovering, ultimately improving their quality of life, and in many cases even saving their lives.
Other resources that can help.
Understanding the process of weight gain is an important tool, but just because you conceptualize weight gain as an addiction does not mean that the process of recovery will be any easier. Managing your appetite will be a challenge in your weight loss and recovery plan. Gracinia Cambogia is a supplement that is obtained from HCA and supports appetite suppression via an effective and natural approach. Garcina is a fruit that grows in Southeast Asia and is combined with HCA to prevent fat storage in the body, increase your energy and endurance to facilitate exercise, and control your appetite. Naturalle’s Premium Gracinia Cambogia Black 95 is a highly potent formula with 95% HCA to naturally and safely help you through your weight loss recovery.
Mysels, D. J. & Sullivan, M. A. (2010). The relationship between opioid and sugar intake:
Review of evidence and clinical applications. Journal of Opioid Management, 6(6), 445-452.
National Institute of Health (NIH). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases. (2017). Overweight and obesity statistics. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity