How to Trick Your Hormones to Help You Lose Weight

bondvit/ShutterstockEven to conscientious eaters, a slice of chocolate cake can be irresistible. What’s baffling is why we sometimes give in to temptation despite our better judgment.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNIH) have found a possible explanation: The second we see delicious-looking food, a hormone in our gut called ghrelin starts sending powerful signals to the brain telling us to eat that cake now.

This finding is one of many in an exploding field of research aimed at uncovering the causes of excess weight. “We’re closer to recognizing just how complicated obesity is,” explains Arya Sharma, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta. The good news, he adds, is that the sooner we unearth what causes us to gain weight and hold on to it, the sooner we can find a cure for obesity, or simply a solution to dropping those extra 10 pounds. (Learn the one habit that helped these six people finally kick those last 10 pounds.) 

For now, weight-loss treatments (typically calorie reduction and exercise) must be maintained for life—but here’s how to harness some surprising new discoveries:

Rethink what’s delicious

mpessaris/ShutterstockUsing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the MNIH researchers studying the gut hormone ghrelin found that it increases the neural response—and, therefore, appetite in regions of the brain responsible for coding the incentive values of food. “In other words, when we see food we like, we are exceedingly compelled to eat it,” says Alain Dagher, a neurologist at MNIH. “Unfortunately, our brains are likely wired to value high-calorie foods, which is important if food is scarce or difficult to obtain,” he explains.

One way to counter this is to increase the appeal of low-calorie foods by thinking about them more positively.

Get your thyroid checked—again

Chris-Tefmes/ShutterstockSmall dips in thyroid function are associated with weight gain, according to…

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