The Science Behind Why Diets Don't Work

Losing weight for healthy living is difficult. What's interesting is the role our brain plays in regulating our weight and why that makes it so difficult to shed kilos when we want to. Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt explains in this TED talk, and discusses how eating mindfully can help.

The talk is about 12 minutes long, but it really worth watching if you're struggling with your own diet or weight loss goals. Aamodt describes the intersection of human nature and our modern, drive-through world — where the brain is hard-wired to accept food and build energy reserves when food is available, but resist efforts to burn those reserves, largely because food scarcity has been a problem for much longer in human history than food abundance. She goes on to explain how the brain will, usually after a short period, determine what the body's "set point" weight is — an unconscious "ideal weight" that has nothing to do with our health, but everything to do with food availability and lifestyle. She also explains how thinner people will burn fewer calories, thanks to the brain's interference.

All of those factors combined explain why it's so difficult to lose weight when we want to, and why diets are so dysfunctional — our brain is now wired to send us powerful signals to keep us at the weight that it has deemed appropriate, even if our conscious mind wants something completely different. Instead, we get hungry, we overeat, we make poor dietary choices, and we're back to square one, feeling miserable about the whole endeavour. That's why "just put down the fork" is never a real path to weight loss.

Instead, the key is focusing on a healthy lifestyle instead, including exercise and mindful eating — eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full. The key improvement tips start at at about 7:40, but it's worth checking out the entire talk.

Sandra Aamodt: Why Dieting Doesn't Usually Work [TED]


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