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It evolved over millions of years to be good at its job. What are we doing to ourselves to screw up the hunger and satiety system? F or about a year, I experimented on myself. Simply put, I ate the same damn thing every day to establish a consistent baseline. I measured weight, waistline, and kept notes on everything I could think of.

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Then I changed one thing in one meal and monitored its tiny, perturbing effect over the next several days. Each tweak by itself gave a small signal, but after a while I could average across many events and watch the pattern emerge. Of course I had no illusions of discovering anything new. It had a sample size of one. The point was to find out which of all the conflicting advice flying back and forth out there resonated with my own personal data.

What should I believe? As usual, the most instructive part of the experiment turned out to be an incidental observation. Never mind whether some foods grew or shrank my poundage. I noticed instead that some acts grew or shrank my level of hunger.

The Psychology of Eating and Drinking

Somehow lunch would get delayed by an hour. My moment-by-moment decision-making was warped. Three bad habits appeared to consistently boost my hunger. I call them the super-high death-carb diet, the low-fat craze, and the calorie-counting trap. The super-high death-carb diet has become normal US fare. We get up in the morning and eat a croissant, or pancakes with syrup, or a muffin.

Or cereal and milk. The cereal is all carbs. Then comes lunch. We think of it as greasy food, but beyond the grease the burger has a bun and the ketchup is sugar paste.

The Psychology of Eating and Drinking, Fourth Edition

The fries are all carbs. The large soda is sugar water. The grease is only a tiny part of the meal. And chips. And a Snapple.

All carbs. The afternoon snack is some sugary beverage at Starbucks and a cookie. Or a power bar, which is a candy bar with spin. Piled with potatoes, pasta, rice, bread. Maybe you go for a nice healthy soup. And every meal comes with soda, or juice, or ice tea, or some other sweetened drink. Then dessert. Then a snack before bed. Some people talk about complex carbs versus refined sugar.

The super-high death-carb diet has warped our sense of normal.

No diet, no detox: how to relearn the art of eating

The low-carb people might be right for the wrong reasons. Starting with Robert Atkins, the American cardiologist who first popularised the diet, an entire physiological theory has sprung up. In that theory, if you cut out enough carb, your body switches from using glucose to using ketones as the main energy-transporting molecule in your blood.

By using ketones, the body begins to draw on its fat reserves. Moreover, by reducing blood sugar, you reduce insulin, the main hormone that promotes the deposition of fat in the body. Less carbs, less fat. The theory sounds good and might have some validity, but its impact on obesity remains controversial. One recent paper seems to smack it down entirely.

The study monitored two groups of people. For six days, one group ate low-carb, the other low-fat. Both were strictly forced to eat the same number of calories.

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The low-carb group did not lose more weight. Actually, the low-fat group did. Given all that contradiction, what can we say about the low-carb approach?


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Skip breakfast, cut calories at lunch, eat a small dinner, be constantly mindful of the calorie count, and you poke the hunger tiger. The theory and the experiments might be right as far as they go, but they miss the most important point. They emphasise how calories are deployed in the body instead of emphasising the motivated state of hunger. It would be encouraging to see more studies on how different diets affect hunger regulation. It is now well-established that a high-carbohydrate diet increases your hunger. A low-carb diet removes that stimulant. It makes you lose weight because you eat less.

Or perhaps more accurately , the ridiculous, super-high death-carb diet stokes up the hunger mechanism and your eating goes out of control. The low-fat craze works the same way. I grew up in the era when public service commercials on TV warned us about the dangers of fat.

Poor data and a rush to conclusions might have led the medical community to that recommendation. Take the skin off chicken. Eat low-fat yogurt which is still chock-full of sugar. But cutting out the fat has led to a disaster. As numerous studies have now established, fat reduces hunger. Take it away and the hunger mood soars.


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  • Remember, your hypothalamus takes in complex data and learns associations over time. But the most insidious attack on the hunger mechanism might be the chronic diet. The calorie-counting trap.

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    Assessment and evaluation in which the therapist helps the person establish a sense of safety and stabilization. Reprocessing the painful memories through experiencing, remembering, and mourning the traumatic events. The authors beautifully express their appreciation for the resilience and determination of their patients to survive and thrive. This book delivers hope to patients and the clinicians who treat them. Eating disorders so often develop to provide safety, support, and protection for the traumatized person.