©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

Popular magazines are filled with pictures of food and glossy retouched photos of models at an “ideal weight.” Many pictures are accompanied by diet instructions for “how you can look like this, too!” Right! Inappropriate expectations of how you should look (when compared against models who may be six feet tall and borderline anorexic) can take its toll, especially if you already have issues related to self-esteem and personal boundaries.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million worldwide are now classified as obese. Another billion are overweight. The main cause, experts say, is an undesirable diet, including an increased reliance on highly processed foods.

Obesity brings with it many negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and some cancers, a negative impact on sexual activity—and it can be lethal to your brain.

Recently the news has pointed out a correlation between obesity and brain problems. One article was even entitled: Obese People Have Severe Brain Degeneration. Indeed a study published in the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reported that women who are obese throughout life are more likely to lose brain tissue than those who maintain a more optimum weight. Loss of brain tissue has been linked to cognitive decline.

Other studies have found that obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory; and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions); in the hippocampus (long-term memory); in the basal ganglia (movement); in the corona radiate (white matter comprised of axons); and in the parietal lobes (sensory processing.) Not a pretty picture.

It is important to figure out what is an appropriate weight for you and then maintain it. Are there situations when weight-gain is caused by abnormal body function or a side-effect of medication. Sure. Studies have shown, however, that it is much more likely to reflect a lifestyle where there are more calories ingested than are burned. For most people, maintaining optimum weight will require managing their caloric intake on a daily basis and balancing it with physical exercise.

Jean Carper wrote that overeating weakens brain cells and primes them for damage. A slight restriction in calories ingested may help immunize brain cells against damage and disease, making nerve cells stronger and more resistant to damage (e.g., put stress on the brain cells causing them to grow stronger). Every calorie not eaten and not burned means fewer free radicals to attack brain cells (or to attack your skin creating wrinkles).

When you think you are hungry, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. If your hunger pangs diminish you probably were thirsty. If you continue to be hungry then your brain and body may need food.

Eat slightly fewer calories each day than you might otherwise be tempted to indulge. Use the energy saved to engage in activities you enjoy. Endeavor to eat most of your food earlier in the day rather than later. Mark Bricklin advised that humans need to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. This can be very helpful in assisting you to maintain an optimum weight. And living at an optimum weight is better for your brain.