There is no shortage of resources on how excess weight affects the body – cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, bone and joint health, metabolic issues, risk for cancer, and a few other problems – but did you know weight can also affect your brain?
We associate weight loss as progressing towards the healthier end of the spectrum but before you get to the improved focus and better mental clarity benefits of weight loss, your brain undergo temporary changes that will feel totally counterproductive.
Here are 3 surprising ways weight loss affects your brain:
1. Your brain goes into sabotage mode
So you’ve been dropping some pounds, tracking your healthy food choices, and ticking off your daily workout goals, making you feel more energetic, excited and in control. However, why does it feel like all your brain is doing is trying to tempt you into eating some more or reaching for that bag of Cheetos on the grocery aisle?
Science says this is an absolutely normal physiological response. In a recent research study, they observed people who lost 10% of their total bodyweight and found that their body’s leptin stores dropped together with the weight loss.
Leptin is a hormone that signals your brain to stop eating and gives you the feeling of satiety. Leptin is released by fat cells, so if you shrunk down those fat stores, your body responds by reducing leptin release to signal energy deficiency to the brain. In response, the brain answers back by ramping up your caloric intake – hence the cravings for high-calorie, fatty foods that will cause your leptin levels to clim back up.
When you feel this happening, doctors recommend this quick fix: Get more sleep!
Dr. Darria Gillespie, a professor at the University of Tennesee says that sleep deprivation throws off your body’s leptin levels and affects your other hormones. Make sure to supplement regular exercise, stress reduction, and lower sugar intake with quality sleep to help your hormones get back on track.
2. Your brain grows bigger
One recent study concluded that excess body fat has a correlation with lower brain volume which could potentially lead to cognitive issues that occur with aging. This effect was more significantly observed among the participants who had large fat stores in their midsections.
Scientists say this may be because your belly fat produces cytokines – small proteins that in excess amounts can become inflammatory and affect other neurotransmitters negatively, causing a decrease in lower brain volume. Naturally, shedding the excess weight can decrease the inflammation and stop your brain from shrinking.
Matthew Capolongo, a performance enhancement specialist at a New York-based athlete center, says that incorporating high intensity cardio exercises into your regular workout routine can increase brain volume.
Capolongo also says that a larger brain volume allows you to do problem solving, complex tasks, and process information better.
3. Your brain gets tuned up
A group of women participated in a study and found that those who lost weight from undergoing bariatric surgery, exhibited better results on performance tests involving organizing, strategizing, and planning skills.
Dr. Cintia Cercato from University of Sao Paulo says that after the women lost weight post-surgery, their brain metabolism rates shifted back to a lower, normal level.
Their brains had to work harder to perform the executive functions due to the excess weight they were carrying. Losing that excess weight gave their brain the tune-up it needed to operate better.
Read the full article on My Fitness Pal’s blog here.