Monday, January 8, 2018

The Neuroscience Of Weight Loss

What does your brain have to do with weight loss?

As a psychoanalyst and specialist in food, weight and body image issues, my area of expertise is the psychology of eating.  Whether someone has an unhappy, unhealthy relationship to food or is struggling with an eating disorder, I help them look at what's eating "at" them instead of focusing on what they are eating.  

Yet, many people find it difficult to create permanent, sustainable weight loss, and for some of them, there are physiological issues that make it difficult to lose weight and keep it off.  That's why I was so intrigued when I heard about a new device that helps people regulate their hunger, appetite and gain health through neuroscience.  

The research is really compelling and so many people have benefited from his, that I thought I would introduce you to this device as a complement to the psychological piece.  

I invited neuroscientist Dr. Jason McKeon to tell you more about his revolutionary new approach.  Take it away, Jason!!

The Neuroscience Of Weight Loss
by Dr. Jason McKeown  
It’s becoming more apparent that people don’t realise just how challenging sustained weight loss is. Only 5% of dieting attempts actually succeed for a significant amount of time.
As I see it, we only have two options when it comes to weight loss: 
1)    The highly desirable, fast, all-in approach that can shift the pounds on the scales quite drastically. Typically, this is about hitting an impending target like a wedding, holiday or dress size.
2)    The slower, health driven approach to change a lifestyle, which doesn’t have an end point, and doesn’t use the scales as the sole judge of success.
Nearly everyone wants the first and it’s easy to see why. We live in an instant world. Social media, fast food, Netflix, Uber, even quick-fix diets! It’s quantifiable, done quickly, and easy to move on to the next thing. However, that’s not how weight loss works.
We like to blame will-power for its role in weight regain. Namely that our will-power eventually wanes and we give in to the forbidden fruit, and the weight piles back on. Psychology and neurology play a massive role in this.
The neuroscience behind it all is both complicated and hard to influence. When it comes to fat storage, the cornerstone is an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. It literally controls how much fat you store. That’s great if it naturally keeps you lean, but an eye-opener for anyone who struggles with their weight because it’s very good at storing fat.
 In fact, if you adopt a radical diet, or begin an intense exercise regime, your hypothalamus adjusts to prevent your weight from going down. It has been programmed to store fat with ridiculous efficiency. 
 So, when you diet, it’s your hypothalamus that makes you hungry. It also decreases metabolic rate, changes metabolic hormone, and makes you feel low and unmotivated.
These biological mechanisms make it a David & Goliath feat to lose weight and keep it off. Especially if you have held too much body fat, have been obese for a long time, or if you have something which negatively influences fat storage like medication, diabetes, thyroid problems, or even genetics.
Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ TV show for example; insane weight loss results. Yet, these guys were followed up after a few years and not only did they regain all of the weight, but interestingly their metabolic rate was actually lower than when they first went on the show. They were actually worse off than before they started their diet. In my opinion, this happened because they went too hard too fast and their body bounced back (thanks to the hypothalamus).
So, what can actually be done?

First, we need to rid ourselves of this mind-set that ‘people aren’t trying hard enough’ or are ‘lazy’. Yes, consistency with nutrition and physical activity are crucial to weight and overall health, but the real issue is the hypothalamus and we can’t just ‘will power’ our way through it.

Second, forget about diets. Diets have an exceptionally high failure rate. As mentioned earlier, 95% of the time you will not succeed. Yo-yo dieting actually increases your chances of gaining weight.

Third, ditch the quick-fix approach and replace it by being smart and consistent. Small but positive changes in lifestyle will make the journey much more manageable. Improving food choices to complement a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to a ‘six-week starvation diet’, will not cause a massive rebound in your metabolism. Incorporating physical activity into an enjoyable lifestyle will pay dividends for weight loss and your overall health.

An open-ended mind-set is crucial, but admittedly can be difficult to accept. While some people, whose hypothalamus keeps them lean, can appear to eat what they want, that may not apply to you. So, it will take consistency and discipline, particularly if you want to rewrite the neural pathways that drive the psychology and neuroscience, which have been reinforced daily within your brain for years.

Stimulating the hypothalamus correctly will ultimately make weight loss easier. I have two roles related to this – I work as a physician, and I also hold an academic position at UC San Diego’s Center for Brain & Cognition. The focus of my work there is to try and influence the hypothalamus using neurostimulation (small electrical impulses).

Previously this technology has only been implanted, which is both risky and expensive. However, it does work rather well. What we do at UC San Diego is to try and make the technology non-invasive. What we’ve created is called Modius and it’s a headset that can be worn for 60 minutes a day to send an electrical pulse targeting the hypothalamus.

Will this mean you can do nothing and get shredded? Absolutely not. But, what we are finding is that many people have used the device to make the entire weight loss journey more manageable. Particularly, when it comes to curbing appetite, or getting over that dreaded plateau where people just can’t lose any more weight. If you want to try it out, we’ll be at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) January 9 – 12 in Las Vegas.

The neuroscience of weight loss is a complicated area that extends deep into both the psychology and biology of the entire body. The most successful approach to it is the smart, steady and long-term method. And, even with new technology like Modius, this is still a journey that needs determination, commitment and a positive shift in lifestyle.  We’ll be with you every step of your journey with us!

Check out the Modius device here:

Read the science behind this device here:

This is Dr. McKeown wearing the Modius device:

Dr. Jason McKeown spends his days running a medical device company in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and researching brain stimulation at the University of California, San Diego. In his spare time, he likes to relax by working as an Emergency Medicine Doctor.  

Here's his official bio:   Dr. Jason McKeown is a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Obstetrics from Queen’s University, Belfast. He is a member of the Association of British Neurologists and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and is a Visiting Scholar at the UCSD Center for Brain & Cognition.  In 2015 Jason was invited onto the Propel Programme by InvestNI – a business accelerator aimed at ‘high caliber entrepreneurs who have the passion and energy to succeed on the international stage’.  Upon his completion of the programme, Neurovalens was awarded Company of the Year 2015.


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