Big Brain, Small Waist

By Kelsey Lyon / October 26, 2012

New York Times best-selling author Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FAC, spoke with us about her fascinating new book on food addiction, The Hunger Fix: The 3 Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction ($25.99; Rodale), out this month.

Why are we so fat? As a society, we inadvertently built a way of living that is incompatible with our biological blueprint. We made physical activity a moot point with remote controls, computers, elevators and cars. Instead of planting and harvesting whole foods, we manufacture synthetic foods that our bodies reject and also cannot handle. Once people tasted the waters of lazy boys and hyperpalatable foods (sugary/starchy/fatty/salty combinations), it became hard to convince them to eat natural foods and become more physically active. Soon, the New Normal was overweight or obese and sedentary.

Is food addiction inherited or learned? Both. The study of epigenetics has proven that children inherit the lifestyle choices of their parents. If a parent is living with food addiction, consuming hyperpalatables, this is often coupled with poor stress management as well as a sedentary lifestyle. A child may be born with a healthy and promising epigenome, but is raised in an environment surrounded with people, places and things that enable food addiction. The child then consumes the hyperpalatables and undergoes the epigenetic changes of food addiction.

What is epigenetics and how can it help slim us down? Epigenetics is a field of science in which we study how lifestyle choices affect how your genes talk to the rest of the body. The genes cannot be changed. But their message to every part of the body can. A gene with a potential for obesity can be silenced by meditation, whole foods (especially vegetables), and regular physical activity. These same lifestyle choices grow a bigger, smarter and more vigilant brain (the prefrontal cortex). The sharper the PFC, the better the lifestyle choices, which in turn result in a smaller waist. The Hunger Fix motto is “Big Brain, Small Waist.”