Dieting creates kind of a civil war in your brain. When your glucose levels are low, you get hungry, and the areas of your brain associated with reward (the insula and striatum) light up. This is the part of your brain that can only think about how awesome the food is going to taste. But then you have the prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for decision-making and impulse -- this is the part that remembers your doctor saying that your heart will explode if you eat one more cupcake.
And as with every other item on this list, the situation looks completely different for the obese.
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"It'll be easier on us both if you just pour my coffee directly into the sugar bowl."
Scientists connected participants of all shapes and sizes to MRI scanners and showed them pictures of food when their blood glucose was down. When subjects were shown pictures of high-calorie junk food, their brains gave them the equivalent of "drop everything else and go get that cheeseburger right now," just as they should. The reward centers lit up, the impulse control office went quiet -- all part of a system designed to keep you from starving yourself.
But here's where the deck gets stacked against the fat among us. When glucose levels were returned to normal, the thin subjects' brains stopped screaming for sugar. The reward centers went silent, the control center lit up. With the obese? Their brains stayed in hunger mode:
"Pretty sure I'm still starving. Two or three bacon double cheeseburgers and I'll know for certain."
The blue is the reward centers, the orange is the decision-making. So to recap, when blood sugar is low, everybody wants junk food. That's expected. But when the blood sugar of the obese was brought up to normal, their brains were making the same demands as if it were low.
Research doesn't specifically state whether this means that people's brains become different once they get fat, or that people get fat because they have different brains -- an important distinction, in case you were hoping things would get easier once you lost the weight. Unfortunately, if you're fat, then it's the same either way: Your hunger alarm simply never turns off.
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It probably doesn't help that every other show is about cooking now.
Check out XJ's $0.99 science fiction novella here. He also has a blog, or you can follow him on Twitter.
For more reasons why everything is working against you, check out Fat Is Officially Incurable (According to Science) and 6 Of Your Favorite Things That Are Secretly Making You Fat.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 6 Most Impressively Nerdy Marriage Proposals.
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