National Alliance on Mental Illness
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We asked—and you answered. Our request for tips and techniques to maintain a healthy diet generated dozens and dozens of ideas, from commonsense to quite creative. Five main themes emerged:
1. Avoid temptation “I have a saying: ‘If it’s not in the house, I can’t eat it.’ This is my mantra as I go through the store." —L.M., Roseville, CA
Jan L. of Grand Junction, Colorado, describes herself as a “grazer” with a weakness for chocolate and chips. She’d like to lose 30 pounds, though, so she tries to keep temptation away.
“I’m pretty careful not to bring it into the house,” says Jan, 53. When she has a strong craving, “Sometimes I go out and get something, but I try to keep it to a single serving. Rather than buy a whole pie, I’ll go get a slice of pie.”
According to an article in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, that strategy fits the way the brain responds to cues in the environment. The article’s take-away message: The brain’s sensitivity to rewarding sensations is heavily influenced by genetics and neurobiology, so in many cases it’s unrealistic to stress self-control as the way to resist high-pleasure foods. “Just stop talking about willpower,” says Bradley M. Appelhans, PhD, lead author of the article, “and focus [instead] on the brain and the environment.”
Appelhans is a clinical psychologist and obesity researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He says the same brain circuitry involved in succumbing to your favorite foods also governs addictions to tobacco, drugs, gambling and sex. And people prone to addictive behaviors tend to have reduced “inhibitory control,” or less ability to consider the consequences of impulsive actions.
To sidestep the whole process, Appelhans says, reduce exposure to red-flag foods: “You can make changes in the small part of the environment you do have control over.… Avoid things that trigger your brain circuitry.”
Simply barring the door to sugary treats isn’t easy for Muriel H. of Easley, South Carolina, 67, whose husband insists on satisfying his sweet tooth. Her solution: “I only allow my husband to buy ice cream I don’t like. If ice cream I like gets in the house, I will devour it at once.
“I ask him to hide the chocolate candy from me, too,” she adds. “If I don’t see it, I’m not as likely to eat it. But if it’s in my line of vision, it’s all over with.” … [end of excerpt]
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