Curious Why We Crave Junk Food? According to Outside Online, a “Hungry” Brain May Be to Blame

Someone brought donuts to the office. Again. And you swore not to eat one. Again. Yet you’re wiping glaze crumbs off your desk. Again. Why is junk food so hard to resist—even when we’re not hungry—when it’s so easy to pass on the kale salad?

Outside recently dug into the question “why do I crave junk food,” and the evidence suggests that our brains, which are adapted to a food environment circa 100,000 BC, may be largely to blame. They cite The Hungry Brain, a book by neurobiologist Stephen Guyenet, who explains that while the human brain is capable of conscious decision-making, its core (the basal ganglia) remains much the same as the most basic animals on earth, including lampreys. Our instincts to seek out calorie-dense foods like sugar, fat, and salty snacks dwell in this “lamprey brain.”

We’re living in drive-thru world with a hunter-gatherer brain

Humans lived as hunter-gatherers in food-scarce environments for tens of thousands of years; these instincts were once essential for survival. We’ve only been in a world where getting food is as easy as driving up to a window or pressing start on the microwave for a blip of our existence. The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which allows us to make smart, rational decisions, simply hasn’t had time to evolve to where it can overpower the lamprey side of our brain completely.

If your attempts to exercise willpower have been futile, it’s likely this struggle between your prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia at work. It doesn’t help that food manufacturers have figured this out. Many purposely put extra fat, sugar and flavor additives to appeal to our basic instincts.

So now what do we do?

We can’t help but crave junk foods—it’s wired in our DNA. But that doesn’t solve the problem for those of us trying to lose weight and stick to healthy diet. Outside addresses this too, looking to Robb Wolf, author of Wired to Eat. Wolf suggests that, in addition to healthy eating, people can also work on factors that contribute to the brain’s ability to make good decisions. Namely, get quality sleep, exercise, and reduce unnecessary stress.

Understanding of how our brains play a role in food cravings is a great start towards a healthier lifestyle and lasting weight loss, but having the right support is important too. If you need help finding the right weight loss solutions, our Rancho Cucamonga weight loss surgery experts are here to help. For a free consultation, call 909-579-3111.

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