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Discover Your Eating Brain and Find Your Wobble


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The mechanisms responsible for regulating appetite and maintaining normal body weight are located in the brain.Weight gain is a sign that these mechanisms are impaired or out of balance. Since the brain is a dynamic system, an imbalance in a key area like body weight regulation is rarely an isolated symptom; chances are that other areas of the brain are also experiencing turbulence or wobbling. Later in this chapter, you will be given a chance to determine if your own brain is experiencing turbulence by taking the “wobble test.”

The Eating Brain
I call it the “eating brain”: the set of brain structures and processes, triggers and mechanisms, that regulate our feeding mode—how often we look for food, what foods we fi nd appealing, and how much food we eat. The eating brain has its own design: secret passages, dead ends, deceptive signals, and
thankfully, a few helpful road signs. The unique architecture of your own eating brain has developed the way it has due to multiple factors—genetics, environmental pressures, even personal tendencies.
It’s impossible to draw a diagram that shows every area and mechanism of the eating brain; there are far too many missing links. However, there are some key components. Several of these eating controls are part of the limbic system located in the midbrain: the hypothalamus, amygdala, insula, and hippocampus. But satiety and eating behaviors are mediated by a host of other networks, including the temporal cortex, cerebellum, cingulate gyrus, and nucleus accumbens.
When these limbic and visceral areas become activated, the desire for food enters the scene—you want something to eat—but in order to actually form a successful plan that will lead to eating, the visceral brain must rely on the refl ective brain. Not surprisingly then, the visceral brain has strong connections and relies on the help of structures located above like the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex, as well as the caudate nucleus and
basal ganglia, which are associated with your get-up-and-go, or motor movement.
The locations of the parts of the eating brain are of vital importance because the activity of these locations ultimately determines eating and weight. It means that your eating behavior is the result of the emotional brain (limbic system), your biological energy needs (hypothalamus), and common sense (frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex). In other words, your eating is decided by the work done at the three brain levels we discussed in Chapter 1: the visceral, pleasure-driven part and the refl ective, logical part. What you eat and how much depends on the balance of strengths between your “top-down” and “bottom-up” thinking, a job for the behavioral brain. When bottom-up thinking wins, off you go for the caramel sundae, and when top-down thinking prevails, you stay snugly in your seat.

Getting the motor areas of the brain involved in the eating scheme is just a way to get you out of your chair and to the nearest food source.
Numerous brain areas are involved in overeating, but four can readily be identifi ed because they leave their telltale sign
on your particular overeating patterns.


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