Diets Make You Feel Bad. Try Training Your Brain Instead.

A recent New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope shared that “there’s mounting scientific evidence to suggest that diets don’t work. Research shows that food restriction just makes you want to eat more. And over the long term, dieting can backfire, triggering your body’s survival defenses, slowing your metabolism and making it even harder to lose weight in the future.”

The alternative is to is a new approach to healthy eating based on brain science. According to Dr. Judson Brewer “the paradigms around willpower don’t work, you have to start by knowing how your mind works.”

One tip offered by Dr. Brewer, mapping your eating habits, is outlined below. Read the full article, including more tips and links to additional resources, can be found at

Mapping Your Eating Habits.

Use this exercise to work on an eating behavior you’d like to change, like excessive snacking or ordering fast food. Our eating habits have three elements: a trigger, a behavior and a result. By mapping your habits, you can provide your brain with new information about how the habit really makes you feel. You can download a worksheet on Dr. Brewer’s website to help you with this exercise.

  • Start by choosing one eating behavior you’d like to change. Maybe you want to snack less during the day, cut back on takeout or indulgences like cookies, potato chips or ice cream. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these foods, you’ve identified this as a problematic eating behavior. Why is that?

  • Now think about what triggers this behavior. Is it an emotion, like anger or stress, or are you rewarding yourself with a treat? Or it could be a situation, like watching television or grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

  • Focus on the result. Before you eat, ask yourself some questions. What am I getting from this? How will eating this food make me feel? Think about how you felt the last time you ate it. Did you enjoy it? Did you end up eating too much? Did you feel uncomfortably full or nauseous? Did you feel guilty later and beat yourself up for eating it? Thinking about how a food makes you feel before, during and after you eat updates the information your brain has about how rewarding (or not) a food really is. And it can help break the hold a particular food has on you.