Food Reward Is A Dominant Factor In Obesity I Definitely Think. How About You?

Answered on August 12, 2017
Created August 07, 2017 at 2:07 AM

This question has sort of been asked, but more and more as time goes on, I really do think this is the holy grail so to speak of overeating an obesity with most people including myself. First, a few things about myself. I'm a guy that is 6 foot, 29 years old, and I used to weigh 240. I now weigh around 190. My lowest point was around 180. I've gained 10 pounds over the course of a couple years, but I've kept most the weight off for 3 years now.

How have I kept the weight off? I don't buy processed food hardly at all. I buy mostly fruits, veggies, old fashioned oatmeal, lean meats like chicken breast etc. Furthermore, I don't ADD fats or seasonings to food. If I have oatmeal I have it by itself.

It's can be a challenge keeping the weight off, but it's a bigger challenge when super rewarding foods are around. I end up going through this phaze, where I buy a bunch of crap from the store, chips, donuts, pork rinds, corn chips, ice cream, frozen pizzas etc. I go through this phaze because I tell myself in my head, "this time I won't overeat these foods". This time things will be different and I can keep it under control. Nope! Everytime they're around, I start overeating/binging and the inevitable feelings of feeling like crap and gaining a bit of weight too will follow.

I can honestly say, I think Stephan Guyenet the guy who purposed this theory is for the most part right. Food reward from heavily processed high reward foods is the elephant in the room for obesity and being overweight for many but not all people. I know his name has been tossed around here a few times, and I while I'm not affiliated with him in any such way, I do think he's right. A few things to note.

Many people seem to say things like "well of course if you eat bad tasting food you'll eat less", but I feel this is more complicated than that. Admittedly, this is anecdotal, but essentially according to Stephan and what I've witnessed, many people are more susceptible to food reward than others.

He cites obesity experiments where the obese lost weight on bland liquid but the skinny people stayed the same weight. It appears the "naturally thin" people are effected less or not at all by food reward. They may think something tastes good, but signals override desires to eat more of it. My cousin is this way. He is 6 foot (same height as me) an weighs 140 pounds. He has been this way his entire life.

When you go to his house he has nothing but junk food around. The difference between him and myself, is he'll eat just a few chips and he's full whereas I'll want to eat the entire bag before I'm full. This is where I feel genetics plays a role with those that are suceptible to food reward.

But isn't steak tasty and rewarding? Yes it is. The difference I feel from todays food versus say the 1960s and 1970s when obesity was under half of what it is now, is the amount of reward foods have been engineered to have.

Foods now have been engineered to be as hyperpalatable as possible with the right amount of salt, sugar, texture, crunch etc. Back in the 60s Mom might make a juicy steak dinner and bake a loaf of banana bread for the month. On the food reward scale those foods might be a 6-7 even, but those have been replaced by hyperpalatable processed food.

Mom just picked up a microwave pizza and nachos dorritos extreme flavored chips and replaced the banana bread with Krispy Kreme Donuts. Those food are like a 10 on the reward/paltability scale.

The only thing I can do is get rid of these processed foods around my house now. I can't believe I fell for this again. Does anyone have any similair experience to this around here? How do you cope wth the hyperpalatable foods around? How do you avoid buying them altogether?


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1 Answers


on August 12, 2017
at 11:58 AM

For me right now, culinary salt tiggers something that makes me insatiable. 


When my diet is full of added salt, I just can't stop eating and I have a hard time feeling full even when physically stuffed.


I go through periods were I do not add culinary salt to my meals, and this feels great and I actually enjoy all my salt-free meals.


Then I forget about all the suffering that salt caused last time, and I'll naively sprinkle some sea salt on an avocado or a salad.  Then my appetite explodes, and an over-eating cycle begins.


Right now I am 130 lbs, at a healthy weight for a fit 27-year-old woman.


I've worked hard to remove highly rewarding foods from my system. I've been free of refined sugar, wheat, and dairy for 6 years now and thankfully I don't ever act on the rare desire to touch these foods.


As a teen, I used to suffer from extreme overeating and weight problems. Eliminating refined sugar, bread, and butter at the age of 21 has been the biggest factor in helping me balance my appetite and manage my weight as an adult. 


6 years sugar-free is easy, but staying free of salt for more than 6 months seems to be impossible.


Right now I've decided to try a different approach to overeating cycles that begin when I've had salt. Rather than feel bad about eating so much or denying the process, I embrace it and try to support my needs.


I try to trust my body: because if I'm eating so much, then maybe it's because I need a lot of food? Maybe I've been too restrictive in my diet, and I need this overnourishment?


It feels so good not to feel guilty about overeating. In fact, I use all the extra calories to fuel my workouts and build muscle. 


I hope that one day I'll have it all figured out. My mother and brother eat salt, sugar, wheat, and dairy and they eat super moderately, they are the kind of people who may even forget to eat.


As for me, my brain and gut have special needs. I think I've made great progress in eliminating ultra-rewarding foods, sticking to fresh fruits and greens, and maintaning a fit lifesytle. 


I hope one day to find the key to culinary salt so that I may live a moderate life free of food addiction.

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