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They say that attitude is everything-and attitude starts with how you think. Henry Ford was right when he said, “if you think you can or cannot, you are right.” Your brain is an incredible machine and like muscles can be trained to increase your success in making any changes, including weight loss and lifestyle strategies. Losing weight starts with having the right thoughts and rehearsals in your brain.

Studies have shown that people with incredible willpower have different brain activity than those with no control, and that "training" the part of the brain that controls willpower can ramp up brain activity. Researchers at CalTech performed a study that seems to support this. They found that dieters who were making a conscious effort to eat better in an effort to lose weight, had a different brain response in their prefrontal cortex than non-dieters. The dieters showed increased brain response to health and tastiness, while the non-dieters only responded to tastiness.

In addition to brain training for will power, chronic stress results in increased levels of cortisol the “stress hormone”. Increased cortisol stems not only from interruptions in the circadian rhythm but is also caused by inadequate sleep, poor nutrition and emotional distress. These “stressors” have a direct relationship to lowered attention, short-term memory loss, and decrease in learning. Stress increases glucocorticoids which results in cellular changes in the hippocampus and a decreased regulation of cortisol.

Of course, exercise helps lower and regulate cortisol levels in the body. Studies have found that exercise can lead to neurogenesis—the creation of new brain cells—and exercising your brain can lead to increased willpower. So, exercising both your body and your brain together can help you push yourself even harder.

"You don't have to train your brain for dieting and weight loss with thinking alone," Dr. Pillar says. "When you exercise regularly and for a duration of at least six months, this actually changes your brain to respond to food cues less often."

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