Are you unsuccessful at losing weight? What if I told you it’s all in your head? Really. Research from UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas has shown that certain foods work with your brain to sabotage your efforts. The researchers found that specific fats, once ingested, make a beeline for the brain. Upon arriving at the brain, these fats simply shut off the satiety switch and instead cause the brain to send messages to the body telling it to ignore any appetite-suppressing signals from hormones such as insulin and leptin.

Researchers found that one particular type of fat — palmitic acid — may be the main culprit in the brain/fat appetite-suppressing system. Palmitic acid is found in palm oil and animal fats. It is added to many processed foods and foods high in animal fat such as ice cream. Your body can also make palmitic acid out of excess carbohydrates and protein.

Palmitic acid isn’t all bad. Some saturated fats, such as palmitic acid, are key components for transmitting messages across cell membranes. These fats combine with protein receptors on the cell membrane and promote the action or inhibition of specific hormones. For example, the fight/flight response of adrenaline — the adrenal gland secretes adrenaline which signals a protein at the cell membrane. That protein combines with a saturated fat that stimulates a cascade of events whereby parts of the body “react” to the surge of adrenaline: increased heart rate, blood flow to muscles and production of glucose.

Your body’s main goal is always survival. So perhaps an increased ingestion of saturated fat causes a reduction in appetite-suppressing signals as a way to promote energy storage for future use — you know — for times of starvation.

The researchers found that not only does an increased intake of palmitic acid not suppress your appetite; it also causes you to eat more for the next three days. So that pizza and ice cream combo on Friday night might just be the reason you blow your diet for the entire weekend.

Does this mean you have to give up all of your favorite decadent foods? Absolutely not, if you can, like Gertrude Baines, live a life of moderation and abstention. Baines was the world’s oldest woman until her death last Friday at the age of 115. Although she liked her bacon crispy and enjoyed fried chicken, she never drank, smoked or fooled around. But she did smile frequently. OK, so not everything in moderation.

When counseling patients, I find that many people have trouble eating ice cream in moderation — me included. If ice cream is a food that you find hard to resist, you can practice aversion therapy. This doesn’t mean bathing in freezing cold ice cream or anything sadistic like that. Instead, practice the art of tapping away your troubles.

EFT therapy (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a tapping therapy similar to acupuncture but, instead of needles, makes use of the human tendency to use our hands to comfort ourselves. Remember the scene in “Home Alone” where Macaulay Culkin slaps his cheeks and screams upon realizing that he was in fact “home alone?” Or how about the aptly named statue “The Thinker,” a man deep in thought with his hand on his chin and his fingers to his lips? In both instances, these characters comfort themselves with their own touch. Can you imagine having the ability to touch yourself in certain ways and suddenly have no taste for ice cream? Ooops, Freudian slip. But Ben & Jerry will not be happy once the masses are equipped with the EFT tapping technique.

EFT begins by measuring your stress level on a scale of 0-10 for a particular event such as, “How much do I want ice cream?” A 10 means you really want ice cream. Next you proceed with a tapping sequence beginning at the “karate chop” point on the hand while saying, “Even though I have an intense craving for ice cream. I deeply and completely accept myself.” Next tap the following eight spots while saying, “I want ice cream but I don’t want to overeat.” Tap the inner eyebrow, the outer eyebrow, the bone directly under the eye, the divot between your lip and nose, the curve under your lip, your collarbone, your armpit and the top of your head. You tap each area three times consecutively while repeating a statement pertinent to your “issue.” After about seven to 10 rounds of tapping and repeating the phrases, you re-measure your “intensity” toward the ice cream and your intensity rating should drop to zero. To be sure the EFT is effective, finish with a round of tapping while repeating a phrase which reinforces your changed behavior. “I don’t need ice cream. Ice cream does not cause me to overeat.” Voila, now you have a tool to help you control your appetite, your weight and anything else you wish.

Elizabeth is registered dietitian and certified holistic chef. To learn more please visit her website

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