I admit that I have become a junkie when it comes to reading up on the advances that science is finding about the human body, especially as it relates to food and fitness. I know, some of that is from my own experiences and some comes from working in the industry (even part-time), but the ones that fascinate me most are the psychological studies in both fields. I like the physiological ones -- how food reacts in the body or how exercise affects the body, or the processes involved with each. But sometimes the biggest challenges (and opportunities) are found in our minds.
For instance, just a few weeks ago, I learned about studies on "hedonic hunger" ..... eating when we aren't hungry because we have somehow responded to a cue. It could be visual (such as an ad on TV) or olfactory (passing by a Cinnabon and inhaling. Deeply.), or even something as simple as "Hey, let's go get Chinese!" And suddenly, the fact that you JUST had a satisfying snack of something good, it does not matter. You will have that Chinese food or croak trying. You are suddenly very hungry (on a non-empty stomach) and only an egg roll will begin to do.
Tell me about it ....... I do not know how people in New Orleans can be skinny when they are surrounded by all that decadence. I went out with friends when I was down there for a visit, and thought I did pretty well for dinner. I even tracked it until it came to dessert .... which none of us NEEDED, because we'd all just eaten a very satisfying meal. So we agreed to get a couple of desserts and share them; better, right? Yeah. Let me tell you, I have found a dessert that I have renamed The Big O On A Tiny Plate. Because that's exactly what it is. We all took a spoonful and nearly knocked each other over to get the next bite. It didn't matter that we had just eaten a full meal. It didn't matter that we'd just had a very satisfying taste of a luscious dessert (with dark chocolate. And pecan brittle. Oh, and salted caramel. Lawd have mercy......) We. Had. To. Have. More.....
Imagine a weekend of that, where every dish was divine, but less than the healthiest thing out there. And I just didn't care. I was going to taste New Orleans. And believe me, I did. Po-Boys. Beignets. Gumbo. A Pat O'Brien's hurricane (though I was good, only half of one)...... Great googly-moogly.
Imagine the impact on the scale the next week. Let me just tell you, "not pretty" doesn't begin to cover it. Luckily, most of it has come back off, but it is a prime example of hedonic hunger -- we were not hungry. We had no intention of having more than one bite. But once we dove into those delectable desserts, with fat, salt, sugar...... those dopamine pathways overrode every good intention, and every piece of science I knew that screamed "NO!!! Put the spoon DOWN!"
Okay, disclaimer here: I do work for Weight Watchers (as if you didn't know that already), and I am going to recommend a blogpost by our CEO, David Kirchhoff at his Man Meets Scale blog. It is worth a great read on what we've learned so far in scientific studies (those we've done and those by other groups).