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The See-Food Diet


By Mary_RD on Mar 18, 2010 12:00 PM in Dieting & You
Edited By +Rachel Berman

"I am on the sea food diet. Whenever I see food I eat it!"

To a hungry person, the sight of food evokes a strong positive response - and for some people, the response is stronger than it is for others.  But that strong positive response might be the key to successful maintenance of lost weight.

A research study

Behavioral scientists from Brown University wondered if successful weight-loss maintainers differed biologically from other people.  Previous studies showed that obese and normal weight individuals have different brain wave activity in response to images of food.  But brain activity data did not exist for people who had lost weight and maintained.

The scientists divided research subjects into three groups: (1) non-dieters of normal weight, (2) former dieters who had lost at least 30 pounds and maintained it for 3 years or more, and (3) obese folks (BMI over 30) who had not successfully dieted. 

Brain activity in response to images was measured by MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).  Before the study, subjects refrained from eating or drinking for 4 hours, and so they were hungry.  The subjects were then shown pictures of all kinds of food - cheeseburgers, French fries, ice cream, cereal, salad, and more - as well as non-food items, like rocks and trees, for comparison while their brain waves were measured.

What the scientists found

The successful maintainers had a unique brain response to the images of food.  Compared to the other groups, the maintainers showed greater activation in the areas of the brain responsible for visual processing and inhibitory control.  The maintainers were more attentive to food cues, and when they were cued, they automatically snapped into the reasoning-and-planning mode.  The obese subjects also registered the sight of food but, alas, there was little activation of the inhibitory control center.  Instead, the arousal-and-motivation part of their brains was stimulated.  They seemed to be on the See-Food Diet.

Train the brain

The scientists will only say that the maintainers respond to food cues with greater inhibitory control.  More research is needed to tell whether that action is  intrinsic or learned. 

But if an individual can learn to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, then he or she may very well be able to learn how to reason and plan at the at the sight of food.  Sure, the maintainers were drawn to yummy food, especially when hungry, like everyone else, but that seemed to trigger strategical thinking:  Eat this or that?  This much or that?  Now or later? There are decisions to be made.  The maintainers didn't run away or run amok; they figured it out.  And that's how successful weight-loss maintainers maintain.


Think about it....

How does your brain work?



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Comments


Perhaps unsurprisingly, this rings true for me. I'm a maintainer, and what they say here seems spot-on! The analysis happens automatically, though I'm very aware of the thought process as my brain works through the math. (This or that, good portions, healthful balance, small splurge if I can "afford" it, etc.)

I'm glad to know this is common for maintainers and not just my crazy left-brained perfectionism like I thought! 



Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is so much more complicated than just saying "eat less, exercise more."  If it were that simple, the weight loss industry wouldn't be so lucrative.  The above-mentioned study shows that one of the factors is how teh individual's brain reacts to food.  Maybe if we know this, we can retrain or at least set up our environment accordingly.  Thanks for getting this information out!Smile

http://www.healthy-eating-support.org/Healthy-Eating-Weight- Loss.html



I totally agree with this. A lot of thinking and calculating goes on in my day-to-day. For example, I went for a sushi dinner with a friend last night, planned a few days in advance. I researched the calorie content for all the rolls and knew exactly what and how much I was going to order before I got there. I also skipped my afternoon snack to allow for the extra calories at dinner.

It is definitely not only about "eat less, exercise more," or even 'inhibitory control.' Some of it control, yes. When my friend decided to get a beer and icecream after our sushi dinner, I exercised a bit of inhibitory control to not do the same! But I was able to stick to my calorie alottment because I crafted a plan before hand, and was determined to have only what I had planned for. 



". . . . if an individual can learn to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, then he or she may very well be able to learn how to reason and plan at the at the sight of food. . . ."

I learned to play a musical instrument; I am working on learning to speak another language; I now know how to reason and plan at the sight of food.  I "passed" that test several months ago! 

There are four boxes of Girl Scout cookies on the baker's rack in our breakfast nook.  My husband has opened a box of the Samoa's and he is enjoying them.  I don't even think about the cookies being there.  When I am ready to eat two, I simply will.

I have a journey to complete and I have purposed in my  heart to do so, deliberate and steady all the way.



You guys are such an inspiration!  Knowledge is power, particularly when it comes to our health. 



Congratulations to all of you who have responded to this subject and have been successful with all your endeavors.  I only hope to be where you all are today.  I am in the beginning stages of 'right now' and right now I seem to be learning calorie & fat gram counting.  Did any of you start out taking a dietary supplement to get you going?  If so, are you still taking them?

Thank you,

Donna



Original Post by: commandcenter

I totally agree with this. A lot of thinking and calculating goes on in my day-to-day. For example, I went for a sushi dinner with a friend last night, planned a few days in advance. I researched the calorie content for all the rolls and knew exactly what and how much I was going to order before I got there. I also skipped my afternoon snack to allow for the extra calories at dinner.

It is definitely not only about "eat less, exercise more," or even 'inhibitory control.' Some of it control, yes. When my friend decided to get a beer and icecream after our sushi dinner, I exercised a bit of inhibitory control to not do the same! But I was able to stick to my calorie alottment because I crafted a plan before hand, and was determined to have only what I had planned for. 


Great comments, everybody!

At some point, you will know the approximate calorie count for a portion of  most foods.  Furthermore, realizing that there isn't much room in the diet for high calorie foods with little nutritional value, you will fine-tune your discriminatory thinking to become more choosy about the foods you let in.  (Discriminatory thinking is not All-or-Nothing thinking!) The next step (when you're ready) is to to do all of that automatically upon seeing food in any situation.  Eventually, you won't have to "....plan(ned) a few days in advance....research(ed) the calorie content...know exactly what and how much I was going to order before..." because that will be automatic, and that happens via practice-practice-practice over the years.

Mary



This is a very interesting article, and it certainly rings true for me.  When I was obese, my reaction to the sight of high-fat foods was always "I want that!".

After dieting for a few years, and now maintaining my weight, I know that I react differently.  At the sight of high-calorie treats, my thinking process is either "no way" or "can I have some of it, and if so, how much, and is it worth it." 

I believe that this inhibitory thinking as described in the article can definitely be learned.  So take heart beginners, you can learn to assess food in this way, after a lot of practice.



Yowza! That is some intressting research....i had no idea food had such power on the mind! Got to learn to not let it control you!



Original Post by: Mary_RD

Original Post by: commandcenter

I totally agree with this. A lot of thinking and calculating goes on in my day-to-day. For example, I went for a sushi dinner with a friend last night, planned a few days in advance. I researched the calorie content for all the rolls and knew exactly what and how much I was going to order before I got there. I also skipped my afternoon snack to allow for the extra calories at dinner.

It is definitely not only about "eat less, exercise more," or even 'inhibitory control.' Some of it control, yes. When my friend decided to get a beer and icecream after our sushi dinner, I exercised a bit of inhibitory control to not do the same! But I was able to stick to my calorie alottment because I crafted a plan before hand, and was determined to have only what I had planned for. 


Great comments, everybody!

At some point, you will know the approximate calorie count for a portion of  most foods.  Furthermore, realizing that there isn't much room in the diet for high calorie foods with little nutritional value, you will fine-tune your discriminatory thinking to become more choosy about the foods you let in.  (Discriminatory thinking is not All-or-Nothing thinking!) The next step (when you're ready) is to to do all of that automatically upon seeing food in any situation.  Eventually, you won't have to "....plan(ned) a few days in advance....research(ed) the calorie content...know exactly what and how much I was going to order before..." because that will be automatic, and that happens via practice-practice-practice over the years.

Mary


"Furthermore, realizing that there isn;t much room in the diet for high calorie food with little nutritional value, you will fine-tune your discriminatory thinking to become more choosy about the foods you let in."

What a great comment and how very true!!!

Calorie count makes me AWARE of what I am "spending" when I choose to eat a chocolate bar. It;s not to say I would never eat one - in fact just last night I greatly enjoyed a 100 calorie pure milk chocolate bar from Trader Joe's. It means that I can choose not to "waste" my room for "high calorie food with little nutritional value" on stuff that I don;t like/isn;t that much good in the first place.

I believe that I eat MORE in terms of volume than I did before but try to make choices for low calorie density, high nutritent foods most of the time. I believe that I am moving in a direction and would come to a day when I PREFER to eat these types of foods rather than junk.

Thanks for an interesting article!

Laura



This is a very interesting article, and think it's accurate, because when I see food all I can think about is "eat it", so according to the text I should start training my brain in order to have analytical thoughts instead; so, I'd like some advises on how to train my brain... thanks a lot.



Oh thank god its not just me!!! I work in a restaurant and that has to be the number one down fall to all my dieting efforts. Even when I eat before I go to work, as soon as I smell and see all the delicious food I want to eat again.

But I HAVE to eat before I go to work otherwise I am so hungry I end up eating something I really didn't want to. I also have started bringing 3, small, healthy snacks with me every day. This way I can eat healthily as I work. Running around waiting tables burns calories, and as long as I have my healthy snacks I have no excuse to eat french fries.



This was one of the most excellent articles I have ever read about maintaining weight loss.  I have successfully kept off 60 lbs for 2 years, and it's only within the last couple of months that I'm able to do all this mentally, without have to write anything down or do any research. But it all comes from keeping a food & exercise journal for about 5 years, and learning to listen to my body.

Sometimes though, I do lose control in certain circumstances, a party or buffet.  But now I can recover pretty quickly, usually the next day. 



Oh, and I forgot to mention that I learned the most from Calorie Count during my 5 year journey of a 60 lb. weight loss.  Thank you!Cool



Original Post by: dapperd

Congratulations to all of you who have responded to this subject and have been successful with all your endeavors.  I only hope to be where you all are today.  I am in the beginning stages of 'right now' and right now I seem to be learning calorie & fat gram counting.  Did any of you start out taking a dietary supplement to get you going?  If so, are you still taking them?

Thank you,

Donna


Donna,

Assuming that by supplements you mean anything advertised to expediate weightloss: no, no, NO!! You don't need them now, nor will you ever! The only thing I take is a multivitamin every other day or so.

It's all in lifestyle change: make healthier choices, learn healthier habits. It takes a long time, but it will pay off. (Take my word for it; I dropped 70 pounds and have kept it off for 3 years and counting!)

 



I really love this article. Is there a way to stop the waves from taking you to food?

Wear special glasses? A helmet? small electrical shocks? An alarm that is turned en immediately if the activity becomes "dangerous"?

Sorry but sometimes I feel really desperate and even I try to see it with humor it's just a big burden to run away from food.

So maybe this is the new diet: to run as soon as this brain activities become dangerous.

 



hahaha...thank god there is research on this matter... some of my friends already start calling me food freek becaus im so particular about food...now i can show this email to them! And ask them to join this site. its very usefull for health!

they should be aware by now!



"So maybe this is the new diet: to run as soon as this brain activities become dangerous."

Okumra,

The maintainers didn't run away or run amok; they figured it out.

Smile



still a way to go for me.

But of course I will not run away!!



This is exactly why I think I'm keeping weight off. When I see food I instantly think of my daily total and "does this new food fit in today?". I quickly know if it does and I decide if I can eat it.



WAKE UP CALL!  I love the simplicity of your statement, "realizing that there isn't much room in the diet for high calorie foods with little nutritional value".

Also, I appreciate that maintaining my weight will get easier with practice.     

My weight loss program was interrupted and challenged by my 12 day Mediterranean cruise.   I just got back and lost 1/2 pound.  Since the NCL Fitness Trainer said the average weight gain on this length of cruise is 14 lbs - I am proud of myself.  Gaining weight really is an option for sure. 

One of my strategies was to stop eating after a bite or two if I did not like it; and another was to tell myself that food is always available so I did not have to overeat.  I could eat smaller portions.  My husband is so proud of me. 



Is the average gain on a 12 day cruise really 14 pounds??? That is incredible - and scary!

We love to cruise but it sure is challenging as large quantities of high cal food are constantly available. We try to stay away from the buffet and do sit down meals as much as possible.



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