The latest post in Stephan Guyunet’s ongoing series about food reward and how it affects obesity (or body-fat set point) is out, and it comes with recommendations for how to lower body-fat. I’ve been waiting for this post for a while. I’ve really enjoyed reading about food reward theory, but was unclear about how to put it into practice. I was more than a little worried that I would have to be even more strict about my food choices. Luckily, that isn’t the case. But before we get to my thoughts on that, let’s do a quick overview of food reward theory for those of you new to the concept.
What the heck is food reward anyway?
“Food reward is the process by which eating specific foods reinforces behaviors that favor the acquisition and consumption of the food in question.”(1) Our brain rewards us for good behavior – behavior that it perceives as positive for our survival – and discourages behavior that it perceives as threatening. As you can imagine, this was quite useful for the survival of our species. Fire causes pain, so don’t touch fire, etc. This same system of reward also extends to food. There are several qualities in food that we are programmed to seek out, such as: fat, starch, sugar, salt, meatiness, absence of bitterness (though we can learn to like this in the right context [i.e. beer]), certain food textures, certain aromas, and caloric-dense foods.(2) In the natural environment, foods that contained a high amount of sugar/salt/etc. would have been very limited in quantity, and prized whenever found. As these food qualities were important to our survival, it is completely natural to crave them. Continue reading