Sticking to a Diet: Compliance vs. Adherence
You may have noticed that most health care professionals have stopped using the word “compliance” when referring to whether or not people stick with medication regimens or apply sunscreen daily or exercise on a regular basis. The word most often used now is “adherence.” The rationale is that telling patients to comply smacks of issuing a command, whereas asking them to adhere implies that they are partners in their care and can use free will to do what’s best for their health.
Whether or not that bit of semantic reasoning makes anyone feel more inclined to make lifestyle changes, I believe you can use it to your advantage when you’re dieting. Instead of feeling punished because you have to comply with the rules, tell yourself that you are choosing to adhere to a regimen that will pare off pounds and restore your vitality and well-being.
You are in control—and that means being proud of yourself as well as more forgiving; you’re less likely to beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon and have to climb back on.
Why We Overeat and Eat the Wrong Foods
Have you ever wondered why some people—perhaps including you—have a tendency to overeat or eat the wrong foods? Researchers in Germany have discovered the reason for “hedonic hyperphagia,” the scientific term for over- eating for pleasure rather than hunger.
For the study, lab rats were offered three test foods in addition to their standard rat chow pellets: powdered animal chow, a mixture of fat and carbohydrates, and potato chips. The rats ate all three, but they more actively pursued the potato chips. The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and saw that the rats’ brains reacted much more positively to the potato chips than to the other food choices. A long-held belief has been that people and animals want certain foods even when they’re not hungry simply because of the high ratio of fats and carbs. But the rats’ brains lit up much more in response to the potato chips than to the mixture of fats and carbohydrates they were offered. The reward and addiction centers of the brain were most affected, but there were also differences in other centers of the brain.
Obviously, there is something other than the high ratio of fats and carbs that makes potato chips so desirable to rats—and to people. The study’s lead researcher, Tobias Hoch, Ph.D., suggested that the reason some people are able to resist foods like potato chips is that individual taste preferences overrule the reward signal from the food. He also brought up the fact that certain people have more willpower than others. Unfortunately, a lot of us will heed the reward signal and toss willpower out the window. Dr. Hoch believes that if researchers can find the molecular triggers in food that stimulate the reward center, the next step could be developing drugs to block the signal.
Defeat Unhealthy Cravings