Tag Archives: food

The Food-Mood Link


Citation: Newswise Life Wire

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Remember Peter Pan? He sprinkled some of Tinkerbell’s Fairy Dust on Wendy, John and Michael Darling and as soon as they managed to think happy thoughts, poof, they became light as a feather and were able to take flight!

Well, I can’t promise that you’ll grow wings and take to the skies, but according to a new report published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology called “Better Moods for Better Eating: How Mood Influences Food Choice,” you can start yourself on the path to becoming as light as a feather. https://cornell.box.com/MoodsAndFoods

Our moods absolutely impact the way we eat. The study indicates that not only do our moods have something to say about the type of foods we choose to eat, but also how much we consume.

Professor Brian Wansink, from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and co-author of the paper claims the study proves that people turn to food to feel good. This means we eat to keep ourselves happy and also to make ourselves feel happy. So, here’s the logic. If we are already feeling happy, we are more likely to eat make more healthful choices when it comes to food.


Just a quick plug for my previous blogs about mindfulness and eating: For those of us who deal with weight loss issues and struggle to maintain a healthy weight, we now know exactly what it is that works against us if we don’t practice becoming more mindful about what we eat. We want to feel happy and we believe that in some way, eating will help us attain that goal. We can intercept the cycle of reaching for foods that may not be the ‘smarter’ choice, through mindfulness.

Associate Professor Meryl P. Gardner, Wansink’s partner and co-author from the University of Delaware’s Lerner College department of Marketing, believes “when we think about the future, it’s almost as if we are physically taking a step back, enabling us to see our more fundamental values – like health and nutrition. We can use that to make wiser choices rather than letting our moods dictate our behavior.”

Yep! That sounds like mindfulness to me.

Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

So, here’s what we now have more reason to know…Being mindful about how we are feeling, checking in under our own hood, and thinking ahead a bit can really help us eat healthier and manage our weight better. The happier we can feel before its time to eat, the more likely we are to choose well and reap the benefits of feeling and looking better.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

I can`t stop binge eating



It Happened to Me: I Can’t Stop Binge Eating

No matter how careful I am during the day, in a cubicle, or in with a group of girlfriends at dinner, there is some part of me that knows when I am alone and I can and will buy and eat an entire box of Fig Newtons and a whole sack of Cheeze-Its.

Apr 30, 2012 at 1:00pm | 200 comments


This is how I see myself. It’s probably how a lot of people see me, too.

If you’ve read a magazine intended for women in the past decade, you’ve probably come across an article by Geneen Roth. A smiling blonde rarely photographed below the shoulders (and always in a black, figure-concealing turtleneck so you aren’t tempted to compare your body against hers), she’s the print publishing world’s go-to expert in binge eating.

In the article I first (sorry for the word choice) devoured, Geneen talked about the broad spectrum of women she’d met in her workshops for binge eaters: wealthy women, broke women, fat women and women of average weight, happy women and depressed women, all of whom had realized that this one part of their lives was not healthy.

There were single women who didn’t date because they were afraid it would hamper their ability to binge, and married women who put locks on their refrigerators and begged their husbands to hide the key at night to prevent them from sneaking out of bed to binge.

I’d never thought I had an Eating Disorder before, but I suddenly saw myself in both of these scenarios.

At the time, I was co-habitating with a nice, slacker guy, one who wasn’t so much enabling as clueless. We moved in together after college, into my first real apartment, and it was the first time I ever really made food choices for myself. (In college, I was always broke, and on a meal plan. Even if I wanted to binge eat, it would be hard to do with $20 in my checking account and having to swipe my card at the commissary at prescribed mealtimes. )

I usually ate healthy, but he ate whatever he wanted. And when he was sleeping or out of the house, I would find myself consuming things like a woodchipper, feeding pretzel rods and barbecue potato chips into my mouth as fast as my teeth could make them into pulp.

When an entire box of Toaster Strudels or Girl Scout cookies went missing in the night, he would either not notice or make a joke of it. I think maybe he thought that this was just something women did, occasionally plunging face first into a Whitman’s Sampler in a tornado of chocolate wrappers and hands, like in the Cathy comics.

It didn’t happen every night — probably once every 10 days or so, depending. I was a careful eater, living in the big city where a size six was still not considered very “thin,” and always one week of low-fat cheese and controlled portions away from my “goal weight.” After a week of savoring vegetarian sushi and making elaborate, healthful salads, I might find myself in Whole Foods, knowing my boyfriend would be out for the night with his friends, and suddenly start filling my basket with wedges of brie, a loaf of zucchini bread, a bag of chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter, and those Paul Newman cookies that taste extra good because the proceeds are going to charity.

Immediately following a binge, I’m filled with guilt over what I’ve just done to my body, but also because there are people out there who are starving and I have this horrendous compulsion to shove mac and cheese into my face so quickly I can’t taste it. I begin fantasizing about living in a place where somebody was making all  of my food choices for me — like jail.

It is a weird, automatic feeling — TV makes me think of someone having a “substance abuse episode” as something that happens suddenly, brought on my some inciting emotional incident. But like other “scoring,” binging often involves a certain amount of planning. I might have zero junk food in the house, and put off a binge as long as I could, reading quietly with a mug of tea, while secretly thinking Pizza, Pizza, Pizza knowing that in the next hour I would probably order an extra large pie and finish the whole thing.

When I lived with my boyfriend, I would put the evidence in a trash bag and take it to the dumpster behind my house, burying the whole thing under another bag in case my he should happen to go back and dig through the trash (not that he would, but you never know.)

While I had the vague feeling that this was all Bad, I never really thought of it as disordered eating. There wasn’t necessarily something that made me binge (a breakup or a bad week at work), I never thought, “I’m an emotional eater” or “I’m using food to cope.” I have the same kind of changeable moods and free-floating anxiety that all people in the world have. But I also have this habit, a routine I can’t seem to break even though it makes me feel sick and awful.

It’s also hard for me to say I have A Problem because like I said, it doesn’t happen all the time. And I never purge, which would be Really Bad instead of just Bad-Bad. I just feel like shit afterward, emotionally and physically. Sometimes, I never feel full, even after taking down eight tacos from the delivery Mexican place and washing them down with that old binger’s standby, a carton of ice cream.

If you’ve ever eaten too much candy too fast, you know the physical sensation. You can practically feel your organs trying to frantically keep up. I usually get headaches and intense nausea. I worry that this is actually bad for my body, that I’m going to get pancreatic cancer or Type II diabetes or just permanently “break” my body’s ability to feel normal feelings of hunger and fullness.

Then there is also The Guilt. I feel fat, disgusting and gluttonous. I feel like the Cathy comic, shoving food in my mouth until I physically cannot eat any more. I don’t have a bad life — I have friendly co-workers and good parents and lots of nice, supportive friends. If you met me and knew, you would wonder why I am doing this. I’m not the Type-A eating disordered girl from the studies and books who uses food to feel in control of her life.

Some of it is probably emotional, that I’m unthinkingly medicating with sugar and fat the same way some girls enjoy three glasses of wine in a bubble bath after a long week. I’m sure another part of it is my body craving this toxic crap when I’m being so good to give it its calories through stuff like tofu cutlets and baked yams.

I am hungry all the time, whether I’m watching what I eat or not. I grew up eating a mix of healthy and processed foods, begging for cookies but resigned to having a reasonable amount of them doled out by my parents after a balanced dinner. But left to my own devices, I can’t self-regulate. I might eat a nutritionist-approved breakfast of yogurt and fruit, a lunch of kale and brown rice and an orange, and grilled seitan and broccoli for dinner. Maybe my body gets scared that it’s never going to have a Dorito again, because after a week of being “good,” I’ll often find my face in a full-sized bag of Cool Ranch.

It’s a testament to the power of the pure-need part of the brain over the reasonable, thinking part that it is nearly impossible to say to myself, “Stop this. Don’t go to the store. Don’t buy the cookies. Don’t even put on your shoes to do it.”

No matter how careful I am during the day, in a cubicle, or in with a group of girlfriends at dinner, there is some part of me that knows when I am alone and I can and will buy and eat an entire box of Fig Newtons and a whole sack of Cheeze-Its.

I’ve been binging for several years now, and I probably won’t stop until someone figures out what I do and is horrified by it, too. I have told myself again and again that I’ll quit, that I’ll go to a Geneen Roth workshop, that I’ll start a journal, but I always go back. I wish it were as simple as filling the fridge with healthy alternatives, or freezing my credit card in a bowl of water, but somehow I always find a way around it, and there I am, a whole pizza gone, wanting to cry.

One look at Wikipedia and you’ll see why my problem is such a grey-area when it comes to treatment. The entry on binge eating disorder (or BED) begins by stating that it’s the most common eating disorder in the United States, and then the very next sentence admits that it’s not officially classified as an eating disorder.

I’ve considered OA and support groups, there’s still part of me that thinks I’m not “that bad,” and that I would feel like an interloper. I picture the people who are there who are actually killing themselves with food, and worry that all I could say would be, “I normally eat pretty healthy but every two weeks or so I eat so much I stand in front of a mirror calling myself a fucking fatass or dump dish soap into a box of brownie bites.”

I’d like to see a psychiatrist and a nutritionist and one of those hormone specialists who promises to test your blood and fix you with shots and patches and a custom diet. But right now, my insurance doesn’t cover mental health care, and I can’t afford to pay for excess private treatment.

It doesn’t help that I’ve known women who were anorexics or bulimics (who have an officially classified ED) who were turned away from private facilities for not being “severe” enough. So for now, it seems unlikely that I’ll seek treatment aside from being careful not to diet so severely that I “trigger” a binge, and to try not to be alone too much with the contents of my cupboards.

Because binge eaters aren’t always visibly affected weight-wise (mine falls someplace in the upper register of the “healthy” BMI for a 30-year-old woman of my modest stature), it’s unlikely that anybody will know unless I tell them or they look through my trash.

But I hope if you’re like me, this at least helps you to know that there are others of us out there, hiding their garbage, feeling equally clueless about the next step.

3 Ways to Sleep Better


3 Nutrients To Help You Sleep Better

Posted: 08/01/2013 8:23 am EDT

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nutrients sleep

By: By Deborah Enos, CN, LiveScience Columnist
Published: 07/28/2013 09:55 AM EDT on LiveScience

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but the U.S. seems to have become a nation obsessed with pills. If something doesn’t work right, no worries, there’s a pill for that.

So when we have trouble sleeping, naturally, we go see the doctor for a prescription. Who cares that we might try to sleepwalk our way behind the wheel of a car? At least we’re sleeping, right? Wrong!

If you ask me, prescriptions, especially those with severe and dangerous side effects, should always be a last resort.

There could be many reasons for not sleeping well, and stress often plays a role, but quite a few studies have shown that getting the right nutrients can help you get a good night’s rest. Why not try eating right, before popping an Ambien?

Here’s a look at three common sleep problems that have been linked to vitamin or mineral deficiencies:

Trouble getting to sleep: Magnesium plays a key role in the bodily function that regulates sleep. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and in fact, a 2006 analysis in the journal Medical Hypothesis suggests that such a deficiency may even be the cause of most major depression and mental health problems.

Bottom line: magnesium is an extremely important mineral. You’ll find it in dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts, beans and lentils and some types of fish.

Trouble staying asleep: Potassium supplements may be helpful to those who have trouble sleeping through the night, according to a 1991 study in the journal Sleep. Of course, although potassium is available in pill form, I prefer to get most of my nutrients directly from their sources by eating a healthy diet.

When most people think about potassium, they think bananas. Bananas do contain a fair amount of this mineral (about 10% of the daily value), but they aren’t the best source. Beans, leafy greens and baked potatoes are the best sources. Avocados are a great source too — good news for the guacamole lovers!

Tired during the day: There is a strong correlation between excessive daytime sleepiness and vitamin D deficiency, a 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found. The sun’s rays are the best source for this vitamin, but not everyone can get the necessary sun exposure due to climate or skin cancer concerns.

There are a few food sources of vitamin D, such as swordfish, salmon, tuna and fortified foods, but this is one case where I would suggest supplementation. It’s not likely that you would get enough of the sunshine vitamin from food alone.

Healthy Bites appears on LiveScience on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!


Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ]]>

The anorexic brain


The Anorexic Brain

Neuroimaging improves understanding of eating disorder

By Meghan Rosen

Web edition: July 26, 2013
Print edition: August 10, 2013; Vol.184 #3 (p. 20)

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Luke Lucas

In a spacious hotel room not far from the beach in La Jolla, Calif., Kelsey Heenan gripped her fiancé’s hand. Heenan, a 20-year-old anorexic woman, couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Walter Kaye, director of the eating disorders program at the University of California, San Diego, was telling a handful of rapt patients and their family members what the latest brain imaging research suggested about their disorder.

It’s not your fault, he told them.

Heenan had always assumed that she was to blame for her illness. Kaye’s data told a different story. He handed out a pile of black-and-white brain scans — some showed the brains of healthy people, others were from people with anorexia nervosa. The scans didn’t look the same. “People were shocked,” Heenan says. But above all, she remembers, the group seemed to sigh in relief, breathing out years of buried guilt about the disorder. “It’s something in the way I was wired — it’s something I didn’t choose to do,” Heenan says. “It was pretty freeing to know that there could be something else going on.”

Years of psychological and behavioral research have helped scientists better understand some signs and triggers of anorexia. But that knowledge hasn’t straightened out the disorder’s tangled roots, or pointed scientists to a therapy that works for everyone. “Anorexia has a high death rate, it’s expensive to treat and people are chronically ill,” says Kaye.

Kaye’s program uses a therapy called family-based treatment, or FBT, to teach adolescents and their families how to manage anorexia. A year after therapy, about half of the patients treated with FBT recover. In the world of eating disorders, that’s success: FBT is considered one of the very best treatments doctors have. To many scientists, that just highlights how much about anorexia remains unknown.

Kaye and others are looking to the brain for answers. Using brain imaging tools and other methods to explore what’s going on in patients’ minds, researchers have scraped together clues that suggest anorexics are wired differently than healthy people. The mental brakes people use to curb impulsive instincts, for example, might get jammed in people with anorexia. Some studies suggest that just a taste of sugar can send parts of the brain barrelling into overdrive. Other brain areas appear numb to tastes — and even sensations such as pain. For people with anorexia, a sharp pang of hunger might register instead as a dull thud.

The mishmash of different brain imaging data is just beginning to highlight the neural roots of anorexia, Kaye says. But because starvation physically changes the brain, researchers can run into trouble teasing out whether glitchy brain wiring causes anorexia, or vice versa. Still, Kaye thinks understanding what’s going on in the brain may spark new treatment ideas. It may also help the eating disorder shake off some of its noxious stereotypes.

“One of the biggest problems is that people do not take this disease seriously,” says James Lock, an eating disorders researcher at Stanford University who cowrote the book on family-based treatment. “No one gets upset at a child who has cancer,” he says. “If the treatment is hard, parents still do it because they know they need to do it to make their child well.”

Pop culture often paints anorexics as willful young women who go on diets to be beautiful, he says. But, “you can’t just choose to be anorexic,” Lock adds. “The brain data may help counteract some of the mythology.”


View larger image | Studies of the brains of people with anorexia have revealed a number of complex brain circuits that show changes in activity compared with healthy people.
Medical RF, adapted by M. Atarod

Beyond dieting

A society that glamorizes thinness can encourage unhealthy eating behaviors in kids, scientists have shown. A 2011 study of Minnesota high school students reported that more than half of girls had dieted within the past year. Just under a sixth had used diet pills, vomiting, laxatives or diuretics.

But a true eating disorder goes well beyond an unhealthy diet. Anorexia involves malnutrition, excessive weight loss and often faulty thinking about one of the body’s most basic drives: hunger. The disorder is also rare. Less than 1 percent of girls develop anorexia. The disease crops up in boys too, but adolescent girls — especially in wealthy countries such as the U.S., Australia and Japan — are most likely to suffer from the illness.

As the disease progresses, people with anorexia become intensely afraid of getting fat and stick to extreme diets or exercise schedules to drop pounds. They also misjudge their own weight. Beyond these diagnostic hallmarks, patients’ symptoms can vary. Some refuse to eat, others binge and purge. Some live for years with the illness, others yo-yo between weight gain and loss. Though most anorexics gain back some weight within five years of becoming ill, anorexia is the deadliest of all mental disorders.

Though anorexia tends to run in families, scientists haven’t yet hammered out the suite of genes at play. Some individuals are particularly vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. In these people, stressful life changes, such as heading off to college, can tip the mental scales toward anorexia.

For decades, scientists have known that anorexic children behave a little differently. In school and sports, anorexic kids strive for perfection. Though Heenan, a former college basketball player, didn’t notice her symptoms creeping in until the end of high school, she remembers initiating strict practice regimens as a child. Starting in second grade, Heenan spent hours perfecting her jump shot, shooting the ball again and again until she had the technique exactly right — until her form was flawless.

“It’s very rare for me to see a person with anorexia in my office who isn’t a straight-A student,” Lock says. Even at an early age, people who later develop the eating disorder tend to exert an almost superhuman ability to practice, focus or study. “They will work and work and work,” says Lock. “The problem is they don’t know when to stop.”

In fact, many scientists think anorexics’ brains might be wired for willpower, for good and ill. Using new imaging tools that let scientists watch as a person’s mental gears grind through different tasks, researchers are starting to pin down how anorexic brains work overtime.

Control signs


Images of high-calorie foods (left) switched on a self-control center in the brains of anorexic women. Pictures of objects on plates kept the control center quiet.
Courtesy of S. Brooks

To glimpse the circuits that govern self-control, experimental neuropsychologist Samantha Brooks uses functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, a tool that measures and maps brain activity. Last year, she and colleagues scanned volunteers as they imagined eating high-calorie foods, such as chocolate cake and French fries, or using inedible objects such as clothespins piled on a plate. One result gave Brooks a jolt. A center of self-control in anorexics’ brains sprung to life when the volunteers thought about food — but only in the women who severely restricted their calories, her team reported March 2012 in PLOS ONE.

The control center, two golf ball–sized chunks of tissue called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC, helps stamp out primitive urges. “They put a brake on your impulsive behaviors,” says Brooks, now at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

For Brooks, discovering the DLPFC data was like finding a tiny vein of gold in a heap of granite. The control center could be the nugget that reveals how anorexics clamp down on their appetites. So she and her colleagues devised an experiment to test anorexics’ DLPFC. Using a memory task known to engage the brain region, the researchers quizzed volunteers while showing them subliminal images. The quizzes tested working memory, the mental tool that lets people hold  phone numbers in their heads while hunting for a pen and paper. Compared with healthy people, anorexics tended to get more answers right, Brooks’ team wrote June 2012 in Consciousness and Cognition. “The patients were really good,” Brooks says. “They hardly made any mistakes.”

A turbocharged working memory could help anorexics hold on to rules they set for themselves about food. “It’s like saying ‘I will only eat a salad at noon, I will only eat a salad at noon,’ over and over in your mind,” says Brooks. These mantras may become so ingrained that an anorexic person can’t escape them.

But looking at subliminal images of food distracted anorexics from the memory task. “Then they did just as well as the healthy people,” Brooks says. The results suggest that anorexic people might tap into their DLPFC control circuits when faced with food.

James Lock has also seen signs of self-control circuits gone awry in people with eating disorders. In 2011, he and colleagues scanned the brains of teenagers with different eating disorders while signaling them to push a button. While volunteers lay inside the fMRI machine, researchers flashed pictures of different letters on an interior screen. For every letter but “X,” Lock’s group told the teens to push a button. During the task, anorexic teens who obsessively cut calories tended to have more active visual circuits than healthy teens or those with bulimia, a disorder that compels people to binge and purge. The result isn’t easy to explain, says Lock. “Anorexics may just be more focused in on the task.”

Bulimics’ brains told a simpler story. When teens with bulimia saw the letter “X,” broad swaths of their brains danced with activity — more so than the healthy or calorie-cutting anorexic volunteers, Lock’s team reported in theAmerican Journal of Psychiatry. For bulimics, controlling the impulse to push the button may take more brain power than for others, Lock says.

Though the data don’t reveal differences in self-control between anorexics and healthy people, Lock thinks that anorexics’ well-documented ability to swat away urges probably does have signatures in the brain. He notes that his study was small, and that the “healthy” people he used as a control group might have shared similarities with anorexics. “The people who tend to volunteer are generally pretty high performers,” he says. “The chances are good that my controls are a little bit more like anorexics than bulimics.”

Still, Lock’s results offered another flicker of proof that people with eating disorders might have glitches in their self-control circuits. A tight rein on urges could help steer anorexics toward illness, but the parts of their brain tuned into rewards, such as sugary snacks, may also be a little off track.


When an anorexic woman unexpectedly gets a taste of sugar (yellow) or misses out on it (blue), her brain’s reward circuitry shows more activity than a healthy-weight or obese woman’s. Anorexics’ reward-processing systems may be out of order.
G. Frank et al/Neuropsychopharmacology2012

Sugar low

For many anorexics, food just doesn’t taste very good. A classic symptom of the disorder is anhedonia, or trouble experiencing pleasure. Parts of Heenan’s past reflect the symptom. When she was ill, she had trouble remembering favorite dishes from childhood, for example — a blank spot common to anorexics. “I think I enjoyed some things,” she says. Beyond frozen yogurt, she can’t really rattle off a list.

After Heenan started seriously restricting her calories in college, only one aspect of food made her feel satisfied. Skipping, rather than eating, meals felt good, she says. Some of Heenan’s symptoms may have stemmed from frays in her reward wiring, the brain circuitry connecting food to pleasure. In the past few years, researchers have found that the chemicals coursing through healthy people’s reward circuits aren’t quite the same in anorexics. And studies in rodents have linked chemical changes in reward circuitry to under- and overeating.

anorexiaTo find out whether under- and overweight people had altered brain chemistry, eating disorder researcher Guido Frank of the University of Colorado Denver studied anorexic, healthy-weight and obese women. He and his colleagues trained volunteers to link images, such as orange or purple shapes, with the taste of a sweet solution, slightly salty water or no liquid. Then, the researchers scanned the women’s brains while showing them the shapes and dispensing tiny squirts of flavors. But the team threw in a twist: Sometimes the flavors didn’t match up with the right images.

When anorexics got an unexpected hit of sugar, a surge of activity bloomed in their brains. Obese people had the opposite response: Their brains didn’t register the surprise. Healthy-weight women fit somewhere in the middle, Frank’s team reported August 2012, in Neuropsychopharmacology. While obese people might not be sensitive to sweets anymore, a little sugar rush goes a long way for anorexics. “It’s just too much stimulation for them,” Frank says.

One of the lively regions in anorexics’ brains was the ventral striatum, a lump of nerve cells that’s part of a person’s reward circuitry. The lump picks up signals from dopamine, a chemical that rushes in when most people see a sugary treat.

Frank says that it’s possible cutting calories could sculpt a person’s brain chemistry, but he thinks some young people are just more likely to become sugar-sensitive than others. Frank suspects anorexics’ dopamine-sensing equipment might be out of alignment to begin with. And he may be onto something. Recently, researchers in Kaye’s lab at UCSD showed that the same chemical that makes people perk up when a coworker brings in a box of doughnuts might actually trigger anxiety in anorexics.

Mixed signals

Usually a rush of dopamine triggers euphoria or a boost of energy, says Ursula Bailer, a psychiatrist and neuroimaging researcher at UCSD. Anorexics don’t seem to pick up those good feelings.

When Bailer and colleagues gave volunteers amphetamine, a drug known to trigger dopamine release, and then asked them to rate their feelings, healthy people stuck to a familiar script. The drug made them feel intensely happy, Bailer’s team described March 2012 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Researchers linked the volunteers’ happy feelings to a wave of dopamine flooding the brain, using an imaging technique to track the chemical’s levels.

But anorexics said something different. “People with anorexia didn’t feel euphoria — they got anxious,” Bailer says. And the more dopamine coursing through anorexics’ brains, the more anxious they felt. Anorexics’ reaction to the chemical could help explain why they steer clear of food — or at least foods that healthy people find tempting. “Anorexics don’t usually get anxious if you give them a plate of cucumbers,” Bailer says.

Beyond the anxiety finding, one other aspect of the study sticks out: Instead of examining sick patients, Bailer, Kaye and colleagues recruited women who had recovered from anorexia. By studying people whose brains are no longer starving, Kaye’s team hopes to sidestep the chicken-and-egg question of whether specific brain signatures predispose people to anorexia or whether anorexia carves those signatures in the brain.

Though Kaye says that there’s still a lot scientists don’t know about anorexia, he’s convinced it’s a disorder that starts in the brain. Compared with healthy children, anorexic children’s brains are getting different signals, he says. “Parents have to realize that it’s very hard for these kids to change.”

Kaye thinks imaging data can help families reframe their beliefs about anorexia, which might help them handle tough treatments. He thinks the data can also offer new insights into therapies tailored for anorexics’ specific traits.

Sensory underload

One trait Kaye has focused on is anorexics’ sense of awareness of their bodies. Peel back the outer lobes of the brain by the temples, and the bit that handles body awareness pops into view. These regions, little islands of tissue called the insula, are one of the first brain areas to register pain, taste and other sensations. When people hold their breath, for example, and feel the panicky claws of air hunger, “the insula lights up like crazy,” Kaye says.

Kaye and colleagues have shown that the insulas of people with anorexia seem to be somewhat dulled to sensations. In a recent study, his team strapped heat-delivering gadgets to volunteers’ arms and cranked the devices to painfully hot temperatures while measuring insula activity via fMRI.

Compared with healthy volunteers, bits of recovered anorexics’ insulas dimmed when the researchers turned up the heat. But when researchers simply warned that pain was coming, other parts of the brain region flared brightly, Kaye’s team reported in January in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. For people who have had anorexia, actually feeling pain didn’t seem as bad as anticipating it. “They don’t seem to be sensing things correctly,” says Kaye.

If anorexics can’t detect sensations like pain properly, they may also have trouble picking up other signals from the body, such as hunger. Typically when people get hungry, their insulas rev up to let them know. And in healthy hungry people, a taste of sugar really gets the insula excited. For anorexics, this hunger-sensing part of the brain seems numb. Parts of the insula barely perked up when recovered anorexic volunteers tasted sugar, Kaye’s team showed this June in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The findings “may help us understand why people can starve themselves and not get hungry,” Kaye says.

Though the brain region that tells people they’re hungry might have trouble detecting sweet signals, some reward circuits seem to overreact to the same cues. Combined with a tendency to swap happiness for anxiety, and a mental vise grip on behavior, anorexics might have just enough snags in their brain wiring to tip them toward disease.

Now, Kaye’s group hopes to tap neuroimaging data for new treatment ideas. One day, he thinks doctors might be able to help anorexics “train” their insulas using biofeedback. With real-time brain scanning, patients could watch as their insulas struggle to pick up sugar signals, and then practice strengthening the response. More effective treatment options could potentially spare anorexics the relapses many patients suffer.

Heenan says she’s one of the lucky ones. Four years have passed since she first saw the anorexic brain images at UCSD. In the months following her treatment, Heenan and her family worked together to rebuild her relationship with food. At first, her fiancé picked out all her meals, but step by step, Heenan earned autonomy over her diet. Today, Heenan, a coordinator for Minneapolis’ public schools, is married and has a new puppy. “Life can be good,” she says. “Life can be fun. I want other people to know the freedom that I do.”

Searching for treatments

The bowl of pasta sitting in front of Kelsey Heenan didn’t look especially scary.

Spaghetti, chopped asparagus and chunks of chicken glistened in an olive oil sauce. Usually, such savory fare might make a person’s mouth water. But when Heenan’s fiancé served her a portion, she started sobbing. “You can’t do this to me,” she told him. “I thought you loved me!”

Heenan was confronting her “fear foods” at the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research at UCSD. Therapists in her treatment program, Intensive Multi-Family Therapy, spend five days teaching anorexic patients and families about the disorder and how to encourage healthy eating. “There’s no blame,” says Christina Wierenga, a clinical neuropsychologist at UCSD. “The focus is just on having the parent refeed the child.” Therapists lay out healthy meals and portion sizes for teens, bolster parents’ self-confidence and hammer home the dangers of not eating. Heenan compares the experience to boot camp. But by the end of her time at the center, she says, “I was starting to see glimpses of what life could be like as a healthy person.”

Treatment options for anorexia include a broad mix of behavioral and medication-based therapies. Most don’t work very well, and many lack the support of evidence-based trials. Hospitalizing patients can boost short-term weight gain, “but when people go home they lose all the weight again,” says Stanford University’s James Lock, one of the architects of family-based treatment. That treatment is currently considered the most effective therapy for adolescent anorexics.

In a 2010 clinical trial, half of teens who underwent FBT maintained a normal weight a year after therapy. In contrast, only a fifth of teens treated with adolescent-focused individual therapy, which aims to help kids cope with emotions without using starvation, hit the healthy weight goal.

Few good options exist for adult anorexics, a group notorious for dropping out of therapy. New work hints that cognitive remediation therapy, or CRT, which uses cognitive exercises to change anorexics’ behaviors, has potential. After two months of CRT, only 13 percent of patients abandoned treatment, and most regained some weight, Lock and colleagues reported in the April International Journal of Eating Disorders. Researchers still need to find out, however, if CRT helps patients keep weight on long-term. —Meghan Rosen


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This Morning, This chance


Good morning

No matter what you see when you open your eyes: A man snoring happily in his sleep, a roof from 1953, bottles from yesterday, a terrible mess that need to be cleaned up, a stylish expensive room, thin paper walls, or just your dreams lingering on, it is your life. Right now, this is what it consists of. But what you don`t know is how the rest of the day will be. Sure, you might already have planned it, but there is always small rooms were you can wedge in moments of good life. Just think about people you might smile to. And what about the things you can see along the way? The friend you could call, the words you can read ? The ideas you might get? You can also often choose the type of food that will touch your taste buds, before the nerve cells bring the nutritious news to the brain that call forth gusto or disgust? You get up, start doing what you must: Making breakfast, awakening your sleepy children, bringing in the paper, making plans, and for some it will be making sure that you don`t burn the last rice, ignore the beetles on the floor, or to try to not

0cd7a1c44711f5174def5ec9b2b513b1think about past regrets. It can also be looking after your sick child (through the stress it`s still possible to enjoy their wonderful faces) or hoping your mother-in law haven`t made that “special breakfast” again.

No matter what you do, if you take a long or short shower, if you brush your own or someone else`s teeth (or don`t even own a toothbrush), if you must go to work or will spend the day on the beach, if you say hello to noone or the man/women of your dreams you have small choices all the time. You can focus on the delight when warm water from the shower touch your skin. How they touch your skin, or how the dropslook on the imagewall. You can feel how good it is to brush away yesterday`s news, or, if you prefer, brush so hard that the toothbrush looks like a tornado afterwards. You can look at it this way, or that way. Your choice. Your life. And sure, some things are harder to change than others, but that doesn`t mean you can`t drag new air into your lungs, let the smell of fresh coffee enter your nose, think about a pleasant memory or dream about your future. Your thoughts are free.

No matter where you live, the sun will go up, and then go down. Sometimes its cloudy, but it`ll still be there, preparing for a new show, resting its rays on the clouds or just wanting to remind you that there is something you can miss and therefore long for.

So begins this new day, filled with different activities. And if you want, you can make this normal day more special. Like they said on an old computer game:
“What are you waiting for? Christmas?”7460b6c188abd43ea44720ecedd77316