Why You Can't Resist the Cravings- And What To Do About It

05/13/2009 09:24 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Millions of Americans struggle everyday with their food choices. In a book being published this week, former FDA chief Dr. David Kessler brings to consumers the disturbing conclusion of numerous brain studies -- some people really do have a harder time resisting bad foods.

At issue is how the brain becomes primed by different stimuli. Neuroscientists increasingly report that fat-and-sugar combinations in particular light up the brain's dopamine pathway -- its pleasure-sensing spot. This is the same pathway that conditions people to alcohol or drugs.

Full Article: Washington Post

So what is it about these foods that compel people to overeat them at the expense of their waistline, and more importantly their health? The answer lies in what you believe is acceptable to eat.

Obesity is related to a variety of other complications. Some of these are directly caused by obesity and others are indirectly related through mechanisms sharing a common cause such as poor diet or a sedentary lifestyle. The strength of the link between obesity and specific conditions varies. One of the strongest is the link with type 2 diabetes. Excess body fat is behind 64% of cases of diabetes in men and 77% of cases in women.[1] Health consequences can be categorized by the effects of increased fat mass (osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, social stigmatization) or by the increased number of fat cells (diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).

Increases in body fat alters the body's response to insulin, potentially leading to insulin resistance. Increased fat also creates a inflammatory state, inflammation is now the unifying theory of disease. Most researchers agree that a combination of excessive calorie consumption and a sedentary lifestyle are the primary causes of obesity. You have to burn 3500 calories, or create a 3500 calorie deficit to lose one pound. This is figured by finding your resting metabolic rate, and eating 500 calories less per day, which equals 3500 for the week or one pound weight loss. Getting in shape is one of the most enjoyable things you can do. It will increase your passion for life and touch everyone around you. You deserve a healthy life!

Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide and with rates of adult and childhood obesity increasing, authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problem of the 21st century. The presence of risk factors and diseases associated with obesity are also used to establish a clinical diagnosis. Coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea are complications closely associated with obesity. Obese workers have higher rates absenteeism from work and take more disability leave, thus increasing costs for employers and decreasing productivity.

Carrying extra fat around your middle dramatically increases your risk of early death, even if your overall weight is normal, say researchers. A study of almost 360,000 people from nine European countries found waist size a "powerful indicator" of risk. Each extra 2ins (5cm) raised the chance of early death by between 13% and 17%.[2]

Here are a couple of tips and ideas to help you begin to make head-way.

Taste, convenience and cost certainly play a role in making junk foods appealing, but there's more to it than that. The large amounts of sugar, salt and grease in junk foods are clearly addictive. Have healthy food with you. The rule is simple; do not try to eliminate all bad food at once, you will go crazy; simply begin by adding good food to your diet. Always have an apple available.

When your body's energy system is disrupted, you are more likely to experience distractions and discomforts related to food, and more likely to engage in emotional eating. Emotions play a huge part in overeating. Certain professions lead to more inherent stress. This stress than can trigger your craving for food. Overeaters often feels remorse or guilt after over eating but the urge to over eat is so strong, they partake in the activity only to realize after they ate how bad the food was.

A study examining Duke University employees found that people with a BMI over 40 filed twice as many workers' compensation claims as those whose BMI was 18.5-24.9. They also had more than 12 times as many lost work days.[3]

One of the best steps you can take toward wellness is incorporating a fitness program with a nutritional program. Struggling to get started? Email Dr. Wegmann at for a plan to get moving.

[1] "Medical consequences of obesity". J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 89 (6): 2583-9