New Research Shows Food Thoughts Will Make You Fat


We all know and, for the most part (reluctantly at least) accept, that Christmas time is not going to bring about any weight loss records. Most of us count ourselves lucky if we escape the season with the belt buckle in the same place it started. But at least it’s easy to justify any short-term weight gain that may follow our festive activities. After all, if you can’t let the diet go and gobble up whatever takes your fancy at Christmas, when can you? We accept the consequences of the day, and (hopefully) get back on track before the New Year hits.

But what we definitely do not want to accept, and what seems more than a little unfair, is the idea that we could unwittingly be expanding our bellies without actually indulging. Yet according to new research by food scientists the mere act of drooling over or fantasizing about unhealthy foods could trigger a hormonal reaction telling your body to store fat. What a truly horrible idea! To add insult to injury for us gals, a New York experiment chronicled in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that men have a greater natural ability to switch off food thoughts, and thus save themselves actual or imagined excesses. Humph.

But it’s not all bad news. The scientists speculate that a greater understanding of how this process works could assist in the production of effective weight loss medication. And in the meantime there’s evidence to suggest that athletes (or indeed anyone looking for increased energy) could harness the power of this process by thinking about energy foods prior to a big event. I guess it’s a handy trick to have when you’re out and about without a snack. Now if only I could learn how to daydream about protein rather than chocolate …

View the 2-minute podcast on this story here.

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Kat x



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  1. Lisa says:

    Interesting. It does sound far fetched but who knows?

    I’ve always been frustrated because I’m eating soooo much healthier than I used to. Whole grains, fruits and fresh, organic veggies while cutting out all refined carbs and dairy. Instead of fast food for lunch, I’m eating a large salad with with tons of veggies and 1 tablespoon of light vinaigrette every day. I also started fast walking 45 minutes a day. Guess how much weight I’ve lost? 2 lbs in 6 weeks.

    I’m getting close to menopause and taking meds that may cause weight gain so that might be part of it. It’s aggravating that people look at me and assume I eat junk food all day like my 6’4″ and 180 lb hubby.

    1. Kat says:

      Hi Lisa,
      That definitely sounds frustrating. The good news is that you’ve made a great start by being so health-focused for 6 weeks, but the bad news is that sometimes it can take much longer for that to ‘re-set’ your metabolism. It’s partly about neural patterns – if your body has had a pattern of storing fat for months and years then it really can take (perhaps not an equivalent time) a while to change that pattern. Food and exercise is the best place to start, but it’s just that – a start. I do believe your thoughts play a part as well, retraining the brain, so to speak. Expecting and believing that you will and are losing weight.
      Having said all that, are you including enough protein and good fat in your diet? Many people struggle with weight loss when they focus too much on salads, veg, fruit etc and not enough on protein and fat – those are the two most important macronutrients when it comes to fat loss.

  2. David Arenson says:

    Hi Lisa.
    As Kat points out, there are numerous factors affecting your metabolism. Healthy food does not immediately lead to weight loss. It’s essential not to starve your body. Many people false believe that a diet will lead to weight loss, when all it does is make your body go into starvation mode. Regular eating of protein and good quality fats is a foundation. See Kat’s other articles for some great ideas about omega 3’s in particular. Also, there are probably hormonal factors involved. I would advocate additional soya foods as a replacement for meat, Tempeh is a fermented soya bean paste. Have wild meats 1-2 weeks max. (e.g. kangaroo)

    Eat small portions regularly. Snacks keep our blood sugar levels balanced.

    And most importantly: 1. Drinks loads of reverse osmosis filtered water
    2. Build muscle via weight-bearing exercise. Best plan is to get a personal trainer and train 3 times a week. Muscle replaces fat, and works for you by increasing your metabolism, which will in turn, burn more fat. Good luck!

    1. Kat says:

      @ Dave – great comment, thanks for chipping in! ALthough I don’t agree with the recommendation to include soy foods. My personal feeling on soy, based on the research I’ve done, is that it shouldn’t even be labeled a food. Even if organic and fermented. The hormonal implications are just too damaging. The book “The Whole Soy Story” by Kayla Daniels is a great reference point.

  3. Fish Eyed Dave says:

    Hi Kat, I must say the soy debate is confusing. There are numerous journal articles spouting forth the benefits of soy, anti-cancer, anti-tumour, lowers cholesterol, anti-ageing, weight-loss. There is an abundance of science showing its benefits. Yet on the other side, there is also a lot of talk about its dangers. In terms of science, the benefits of soy are winning outright at the moment. Not to say that the science is correct. Science is always changing with new evidence. However, not having read the book. “the whole soy story” I can’t really comment. All I can definitely say is that I have eaten whole soya beans, and can personally guarantee their health benefits as a whole food, provided they are not genetically modified, and preferably organic. But whether processed soy in its numerous forms is beneficial is highly questionable. Important take-home pointers regarding soy – be wary if any hormonal issues exist. As part of a balanced diet, remember variety variety variety. Be careful of processed foods, as nowadays they’re putting soya in everything – soya flour, soya oil, soya protein….etc. Too much of a good thing, is not good, so have nothing in excess except for greens! Happy living!

  4. Kat Eden says:

    Dave – I’m still not a soy fan, but your comment is (as always) very well considered, and well written, and you’re right of course that science can’t always be trusted. Thanks for chiming in.

Comments are closed.

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