Are you Addicted to Food?

Students in the Health Fitness Specialist degree programs learn to work with clients suffering from a variety of addictions. How does a personal help get a client adequate resources and offer support to stop smoking? How would a youth fitness coach provide a positive role model for children in terms of alcohol consumption? How does a personal trainer educate a client on the negative effects of alcohol? How would a strength coach deter collegiate athletes from using dangerous or even addictive “supplements” and drugs? But food? What would a health fitness professional do to help someone who is addicted to food?  A personal trainer can hardly tell a client to stop eating or to continually diminish their calorie intake.

In episodes three and four of The Skinny on Obesity series, Dr. Robert Lustig discusses the change in our hormones and the changes in our brains that have led to increased consumption and even addiction. He additionally shares a link for those of you interested in finding out about food addiction and whether or not you may be addicted.  He also does a wonderful job explaining how what he calls the “industrial global diet” has altered the way we eat.

Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig discusses the importance of leptin in regard to obesity. Leptin is a hormone that resides in your fat cells and tells your brain when you are full. The odd thing is that obese individuals have a great deal of leptin. Doesn’t it seem like their brains would be turned off in terms of hunger? After all, that is what leptin does, right? What is stopping that signal?

The answer: insulin.

Insulin’s job is to store fat. It also blocks leptin’s message to the brain, causing an individual to continually feel hungry.

But where did the insulin come from? Why is there an increase in insulin in our bodies? According to Dr. Lustig, it is the “industrial global diet.”

“Individuals are making more insulin as a result of the new industrial global dietdiet.  Insulin blocks leptin at the brain and makes a person store more energy and makes a person hungry.  There’s your vicious cycle,” says Lustig.

Health fitness specialists may be wondering how it is that people could eat more than their bodies were designed to eat. And those health fitness specialist lacking in education would likely say it is a sheer lack of willpower.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Gone are the days of blaming people for being lazy. Dr. Lustig reveals that obesity is a biochemical issue. “Because of the increased insulin and the interrupted leptin message to the brain, the starvation signal is not reaching the brain. When leptin’s message to the brain is blocked by insulin, the body thinks it is starving.”

Dr. Lustig also goes on to discuss the importance of the neurotransmitter dopamine and how it affects the nucleus accumbens, or the “reward center” in the brain.  “Dopamine conveys feelings of pleasure,” said Elissa Epel, “and because the dopamine response is blunted, obese people are constantly living with an urge they cannot satisfy. This in turn causes people to overeat to get the same effect of dopamine.”

Cognitive changes have occurred and you can’t willpower that away. This is less about motivation and more about science.  Stay tuned, there are three more episodes in The Skinny on Obesity series.

See the Globe University website if you are interested in pursuing personal trainer education and becoming a health fitness specialist.