Cupcake Circuits, Colbert and The Science of Appetite

First, apologies for the recent lack of posts. I was laid off from my job last week and it threw me for a bit of a loop, but I think everything's relatively under control now.

As I was catching up on my feeds this afternoon, I came across this post by Cathering Morgan on Blogher: The Science of Appetite, Weight Loss, and Dieting. Can We Rethink Thin? The post was inspired by a Time Magazine article, The Science of Appetite, which I found fascinating. It begins with the concept of a "cupcake circuit," the elusive and non-quite-understood part of our brain that associates cupcakes (or whatever food it is that creates the serotonin-induced happy dance in your brain) with pleasure, happiness and satiety.

I, like many others, am one of those people that have always struggled with weight. I was a pudgy kid, a teenager that thrived on sugar and alternated between pudgy and starved and eventually, a very overweight adult. However, I witnessed the staggering decline of both my grandmother and mother-in-law due to a lifetime of obesity and diabetes, and as I was starting to experience symptoms of irregular blood-sugar myself, I was freaked out enough to change my habits. So over the course of a few years I changed my diet and became a lot more active and I lost around 60 lbs. and 12% body fat and am now probably healthier than I've ever been in my life.

That said, I still struggle with my weight, and I definitely struggle with my cupcake circuit. I love sweets. They make me happy, and sometimes I crave them so badly that I feel like I'm having a drug withdrawal. I still eat too much sugar, but not nearly as much as I used to and as long as I stay active it seems to be okay. It fascinates me how much influence food often has over our psychological state of being. I try to use exercise as my overall spirit-lifter (for example, I've been more conscientious about my workout lately to counteract the blues of being unemployed) but sometimes, only a cupcake will do.

The article goes on to talk about how humans have historically had too little to eat rather than to much, and how we're adjusting (or not adjusting) to the current abundance of the industrialized nations. Scientists are currently scrambling to understand more about the process of appetite so that they can address the obesity epidemic that has emerged in the U.S. and is now spreading to other countries as they adopt more of our higher-speed, overstressed, fast-food culture.

Morgan also dicussed the recently released book by New York Times science writer Gina Kolata, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, which talks about the history, science and myths of weight loss and the diet culture. I followed Morgan's link to an interview with Kolata on the Colbert Report, and what she had to say sounds interesting. The concept that we should happy even if we're not a size 2 is pretty standard, but she goes into a little bit of why dieting is so hard and just how long we've been doing it. I had no idea that the original low-carb diet was invented by William Banting, an English undertaker, in 1863. According to the arictle The History of Dieting, "British Medical Association immediately attacked this approach, and because Banting was not a scientist, claimed that it had no scientific value and would not work for others. The public however were impressed, and people all over the English speaking world read of his plan and lost weight themselves, not caring about the doubters. So popular did it prove to be, that it was translated into other languages and thus spread even wider." Amazing how much things have changed, and yet how much they've stayed the same!