Think yourself fat

It’s not chocolate and booze that are making me fat, it’s all the thinking.

A study in Canada has found that the more you work your brain, the more you want to eat. This is extremely bad news for a large segment of the New Internet Economy -- people who sit at computers all day, thinking about stuff. It’s not bad enough that we lead such a sedentary lifestyle. Now it turns out that the stress of mental work makes us want more food.

Researchers at Laval University reported the study in a recent issue of “Psychosomatic Medicine Journal.” (Don’t you love that there’s a publication called “Psychosomatic Medicine Journal?” I used to subscribe to it, but I thought it was making me sick.)

The researchers measured food consumption after subjects did reading/writing tasks or performed computerized tests. The study was done on 14 students (the white lab rats of humanity), who were turned loose on an all-you-can-eat buffet after performing the 45-minute tests.

Students who read a document and wrote a summary of it ate 24 percent more than students who simply rested in a sitting position during the test period. Students who did the computer test activity ate 29 percent more than those who rested.

“Those who had a more demanding mental task were more stressed and ate more,” said researcher Angelo Tremblay and, yes, that’s his real name.

Tremblay and his fellow researchers found that stress from mental work increased the hormone cortisol and also affected glucose levels, both of which can stimulate appetite.

Unfortunately, other studies have found that brainwork does nothing to burn calories. That seems unfair. Sure, our brains will spur us to visit the buffet again and again, but when it comes time to get rid of those accumulated calories, the brain can’t be bothered. It’s too busy pondering the infield fly rule or trying to remember the name of that cross-eyed kid we knew in third grade.

So what’s to be done? You already know the answer: physical exercise. Most of us don’t do enough manual labor to burn up the calories we consume; we’re too busy sitting at computers, playing Spider Solitaire. Since our brains won’t help burn calories, the only solution is to make our bodies do it through regular workouts, the researchers said.

They did find one glimmer of hope for the exercise-phobic, though that wasn’t their intention.
Because brain chemistry apparently can make us overeat, “mental work is a worse activity than simply doing nothing,” Tremblay said.

So there’s your answer. Stop using your brain so much, and maybe you’ll eat less. If you can stand to sit and stare into space without fidgeting or thinking, you’re all set.

This doesn’t explain why you run into so many stupid people who are also fat. But perhaps even a little bit of thinking is harder work for such mouth-breathers and therefore more stressful.

You’ll notice one important omission in the Canadian study: Television. Sitting and staring at TV is completely passive, but it clearly stimulates those same brain chemicals because nothing makes us want snacks more than televised sporting events. If sitting at a computer and thinking about stuff makes us fat, then sitting in front of a TV should make us HUGE. I know it’s working for me.

Anyway, that’s my theory about this new obesity study. I put a lot of thought into it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat. I’m starving.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, that explains why, after a marathon three days of finding and fixing html code I ate an entire pizza last night.