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Friday, April 24, 2009

Retrain Your Brain for Healthy Eating

David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, is best known for supporting the regulation of nicotine as a drug. Nowadays, he's at the University of California in San Francisco, studying why many of us have trouble avoiding unhealthy foods. He calls it "conditioned hypereating" and, like cigarette smoking, it's an addiction of sorts. We crave high-fat, high-sugar foods even when we're not hungry.

Kessler has written a book on the subject, to be published next week. He argues that many unhealthy foods trigger a brain response that works to reinforce behavior--and the the food industry knows it. "They know what drives people to keep on eating," Kessler said. "It's the next great public health campaign, of changing how we view food, and the food industry has to be a part of it."

Today's culture glamorizes unhealthy eating just as popular culture used to glamorize cigarette smoking, Kessler says. And that underscores the importance of building a new culture, based on healthier choices. It's a subject we blogged about recently.

Making lifestyle changes can be a real challenge. But with the right support, it can be done--and it's up to us as wellness professionals to provide that support. If our clients are any indication, people are ready to do better; they just need a little encouragement.

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