Brad King, MFS
Much attention has been focused on why we tend to eat more at certain times of the year than others. The fact remains that excessive overeating at this time of year can't always be blamed on a lack of discipline. What researchers have uncovered is that unbalanced brain chemistry may hold the key to our weight-gaining woes..
Much attention has been focused on why we tend to eat more at certain times of the year than others. The fact remains that excessive overeating at this time of year can't always be blamed on a lack of discipline. What researchers have uncovered is that unbalanced brain chemistry may hold the key to our weight-gaining woes.
Brain Chemistry Gone Awry
Research performed as far back as the 1970s revealed that low levels of a specific neurotransmitter (a chemical that transfers messages around the brain) called serotonin created an almost uncontrollable desire to overeat especially sweet and starchy foods. Further research indicates that there is a direct link between low serotonin levels and obesity (due to overeating).
Serotonin levels are negatively affected by excess stress, lack of sleep, negative emotions, insufficient protein intake, and low exposure to sunlight, all of which tend to dominate during the holiday season.
Excess stress (in-laws, shopping, lineups, etc.) enhances the body's production of the powerful stress hormone cortisol. A myriad of research supports the fact that excess cortisol clearly leads to overeating and weight gain-especially in the abdominal region. In fact, research appearing in the Journal of Endocrinology Investigation (2003) showed that higher morning cortisol levels were associated with higher levels of abdominal obesity in men. Research also confirms that excess cortisol is associated with lower serotonin levels.
Let There be Light
Serotonin levels are also affected by the amount of sunlight we receive; during the fall and winter months, days are shorter and sunlight is at a premium. This time of year also happens to be our peak time for experiencing excessive overeating.
A study appearing in the Lancet (December 2002) shed some light-no pun intended-on this issue. Researchers drew blood from the jugular veins (brain-blood vessels) of 101 healthy men at different intervals over a one-year period. This study showed that brain serotonin levels were greatly reduced during fall and winter and highest during spring and summer. Researchers were most surprised by the fact that serotonin levels seem to be directly related to how much sunlight is available at any given time.
The verdict is in. If you want to maintain your present condition or experience healthy weight loss during the holiday season, here are some proven steps to follow: