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January 28, 2009

Healthy Weight Loss: Is It Harder for Women to Say No?

1055107_stop_spam_signThe headlines were abuzz last week with results of the latest study that 'proved' women are at some sort of biological disadvantage compared to men. This time, it's whether we're able to resist our favorite foods as easily as men can.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, presented 13 women and 10 men with their favorite foods after a 20-hour fast.  They were allowed to smell and taste the foods but not eat them -- indeed, to try to inhibit their desire to eat -- while their brain activity was monitored through a PET scan.  The result: Both the women and men did appear to succeed in making themselves feel less hungry but the brain scans showed more activity on the part of women.  This was interpreted as the women's brains not being entirely in sync with what the women thought they were feeling. That they were actually feeling more hungry than they thought.  Or something like that.

Is there any truth to this?  
To answer that question, my BIG question is:  Was there any attempt to look at the women's previous history of restrained eating? You know, the typical (unfortunately) woman's approach to eating -- "I would love it, but I shouldn't."  "I need to lose X number of pounds, and if I eat my favorite food -- which is high in calories, fat, carbs, etc., etc., I'll be fat the rest of my life, be a bad person, etc., etc., etc."

According to one thoughtful expert in this area, who shall remain anonymous until I can get her permission to quote her (which I should have done before now but oh, well), "It is well-known that people who are trying to restrain [that is, diet] have different responses to 'external' stimuli about food [that is, exposure to food -- you know, like, walking through the mall smelling the Cinnabons], and it is well known that more women diet, and have dieted, than men."  

Simply put, if we have a history of dieting, which almost carves the diet mentality into our brains, it's gonna make it harder for us to say no to food, especially that which we think we shouldn't have.

A BIG caveat:  If we are successful at again adopting mindful eating (or intuitive eating or attuned eating or normal eating -- you choose the term) -- that is, eating like we were born to do -- I doubt we'd show any more brain activity than men when faced with our favorite foods and told we can't eat them. Because we are no longer restrained eaters.  So there is hope that we don't have to be forever victims of our previous folly of dieting.

Just my thoughts on the subject.  :-)  Have a great day!!

Photo by Mzacha

Posted by Marsha on January 28, 2009 | Permalink


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