Yale scientists have figured out that women’s brains respond to being exposed to chocolate or a milkshake with brain activity that is similar to that of a drug addict who is exposed to their drug of choice. And that exposure to tasteless food doesn’t do the same thing.
News break of the century, right?
Here’s the thing. Drugs don’t introduce those feel-good chemicals into the brain. They stimulate a release of them. They are in your brain in the first place so that you are rewarded for doing things that ensure your survival and the survival of your species: like eating. So it makes perfect sense that being exposed to a food that is a) delicious, b) high in calories and c) high in fat is going to prompt your brain to reward you.
Music effects the brain the same way, but you don’t hear anyone suggesting that we’re all addicted to it.
The Yale scientists drew a correlation between a drug addict finding some relief by being removed from exposure to their drug of choice, and obese people needing relief from being exposed to an overwhelming array of food choices and advertisements for fast food.
If we could just stop seeing food, we wouldn’t want it? Or maybe they mean that if we were only exposed to food that didn’t make us feel good, we wouldn’t be fat. Because, as we all know, not being fat is the most important thing.
There are some people who have a collection of traits that make them more likely to abuse or become dependent on a substance, or to turn a habit or hobby into a compulsion. That’s why everyone who has ever woken up with a hangover or snorted a line of coke isn’t an addict. That’s why most people can take a gambling vacation to Vegas, and don’t end up spending their kid’s college fund on internet poker afterward.
But all of us (or mostly all of us) have brains that respond with a release of feel-good chemicals when we eat. It’s what keeps us eating. It’s why we don’t get so busy with our lives that we starve to death. Our bodies have powerful systems in place to ensure our most basic survival needs, and it doesn’t get much more basic than food.
There is something very irresponsible, it seems to me, about equating a body’s natural response system with drug dependence. It isn’t fair. It also feeds into the dangerous belief that there is something wrong with us and if we could just fix it, we could all fit into some perfect social mold.
There is a comment in that Huffington Post article that suggests that fat people should be sent to prison. That isn’t the first time I’ve read someone stating that fat people are offensive enough to be criminally offensive and should be jailed, or have our children taken from us, or be forced into “treatment” as drastic as weight loss surgery. Do we really need Yale scientists fueling this kind of ignorance?