Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Impulse Control and why I sometimes eat Wendy's.

I’ve been reading a new book lately. It’s called Change your Brain, Change your Body and the author is Dr. Daniel Amen. The dude speaks ah my language. He’s all “the other day I obsessed over a caramel apple with nuts at a ball game. I had to get up and walk away, it got so bad.” And I’m all, I know what you mean brother!

Did I tell you the story about the conversation I had with Scott about obsessing over food? I really was convinced everyone did that, in some way or another. He’s was like, nope, don’t do it. And I’m like, bullshit! So then I proceeded to concoct these grandiose scenarios involving food, specifically pizza (his Achilles heel) and how what if his favorite pizza dropped in the road and then got run over rendering the pizza unedible? What THEN would he do? Huh, huh? And he’s all, I’d be like darn it and then move on! Move ON?!?! I called bullshit again and up’d the anti until I really was convinced that he didn’t care that much about food. Sure he can put away pizza and Chicago dogs like a 17 yr old boy on the track team, but if all the sudden those foods were gone, he’d be like eh, whatever. Where as I would have a mental break down.

So this book is basically about how your brain controls overeating, binging, cravings, will power, impulse control and food obsessions. I for instance never really binge eat. I mean, sure I eat until I’m pretty darn full sometimes, but full on binging doesn’t do it for me. I’ve read stories from fellow bloggers who eat until they throw up and I think…I just can’t relate. I can however relate to craving something until it becomes a full on obsession. Sort of like how drug addicts can only thinking about their next high. This book is full of gold nuggets! I stop every 20 seconds and turn to Scott and say, ohhhh interesting! Then proceed to tell him what I just read. I’m sure it’s getting annoying but get this! Pre Frontal Cortex damage has been proven to reduce that voice that says “stop, this is a bad idea!” like, don’t eat that twinkie, or you know going to Wendy’s is a bad idea, don’t do it. People with low PFC activity just have less of that voice. Low PFC activity=low impulse control. You don’t have to have actually damaged your brain…ie: thrown off a donkey at the age of 7 to have low PFC activity. Low serotonin levels cause low PFC activity which then cause the consumption of Wendy’s.

If you lived in AZ around 2005 then you remember the story of the dude who surfed on the roof of his car going 50 mph down Camelback Rd. He was driving down the road in his black Mercedes when he put the car in cruise control, hopped out the sun-roof and stood on the car. We later learned that he had pretty severe PFC damage due to some crazy flesh eating bacteria he picked up in Mexico from some pork. So when he thought, HEY, surfing on the roof of my car sure sounds like a good idea, that little voice that controls impulses was like, go for it dude! Instead of, NO…bad idea! He crashed and was killed instantly.

So yes, this is a pretty drastic comparison. I think the point I’m trying to make is that when people talk about willpower to fat folks they think it’s just so simple. And it is…for them, but not for EVERYONE. This is truly something that you can’t really explain unless you’ve been there. I can conceptually understand binge eating, but since I don’t really feel it at my core, I know I don’t really understand its draw.

Here’s a prime example. I just got up from my desk, walked into the break room and found a guy eating some crazy good smelling Mexican food. My thoughts were instantly…where did he get that, how can I get it, what is it, what kind of meat is that, he’s eating tacos, did he bring them from home, he’s Mexican so he probably knows the good places. Except this time I caught myself thinking those thoughts only because I’m writing this blog. Normally, I’d have those thoughts, then obsess over them until lunch when I would hopefully eat some tasty Mexican food.

So now that I’ve sufficiently depressed you by talking about all this brain damage we have, I’ll give you hope!

We can reverse it!

Every time we smell good authentic Mexican food, obsess about getting it, then actually get it and EAT it, we reinforce those pleasure receptors in the brain, making it even harder to say no the next time. But ever time we smell good authentic Mexican food, obsess over it and then stop and say no, we create new neuro-pathways that reinforce that good behavior and make it easier the next time. If you want to change your body, you’ve got to change your brain. Ha! I should be getting paid for this.

Read more about Dr. Amen HERE

Read more about the car surfing dude HERE
Don't forget to send me your weights today


  1. Interesting post - and it makes a lot of sense. Now I have to practice saying "No!" more often to myself. Brain training? I really could empathise about obsessing about a food until I have had it. I am not a binge eater either, but I do experience some powerful cravings which almost derail me. The only way I don't eat some foods is to ensure they are not in the house. I am getting better at ensuring certain foods aren't bought at the supermarket as well but when offered a choice, eating out or with other people etc, it can still be a huge struggle to make the right one ie: refuse calorific foods in favour of grilled salmon! However, there is a nice saintly buzz derived from eating salmon when everyone else is pigging out :)

  2. That really is interesting. I have realized that there is a huge connection with me and serotonin and eating. When I've taking medication that affects my levels....my interest in constant eating disappears. I forget to eat. I'll have to check out the book. Thanks for the heads up!!

  3. QUOTE:
    "But every time we smell good authentic Mexican food, obsess over it and then stop and say no, we create new neuro-pathways that reinforce that good behavior and make it easier the next time."

    Interesting. I'll have to try that. Thanks!


  4. Love this post!

    Although now I'm totally obsessing over good authentic Mexicon food. Thanks :P

  5. I want mexican now! I have to agree with the premise of this post, I found it so difficult a year ago to say no to things, now it just rolls off my tongue without me even really thinking about it...it can be done!

  6. Sounds intriguing. I have to add this to my list of books to read. Of course reading triggers snacking for me so my list of books is long because I hesitate to sit and read them!

  7. I commend you for your active journey in understanding why you are the way you are and how you came about having these unhealthy behaviors. It's empowering to know the reason why we act and feel the way we do. I also applaud you in how you acknowledge that you may have low PFC, but that's not an excuse. As you said, you can change your way of thinking. Thank you for "publicly" accepting accountability and inspiring others. You inspire me, Sister.