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A healthy lifestyle, complete with eating well, takes motivation and constant strong dedication to achieve. When the motivation to see the action completed is at its most compelling state, it can only be placated once the behavior has been fulfilled. A lifestyle that involves healthy eating should be what everyone strives to achieve, but all too often there are roadblocks. The continuous development of understanding regarding eating disorders has expanded beyond what use to just be looked at as anorexia and bulimia or disorders that just associated with malnutrition. Just as eating too little can have a negative effect on a person’s health, so can overindulging, or eating too much of the wrong things.
In America today the emphasis is the on-the-go lifestyle, which places a higher incentive to eat junk food as the main staple in one’s diet. The fast food is a quick fix to satisfy the compelling need of hunger. What causes a person to more than satisfy or willingly ignore the motivation to eat is under constant scrutiny; science is finding the links between hormone and gene dysfunction and the onset of eating disorders. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with eating healthily, these factors play heavily on how a person chooses to live their lifestyle.
Brain Structure and Healthy Eating
To start on the path of a healthy eating lifestyle one should begin in the brain. The ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) and the lateral hypothalamus (LH) explain the neurological mechanisms of hunger and satiety (Pinel, 2007). The VHM and the LH seem to work together as a sort of stoplight for a person’s hunger and satiety. The hypothalamus is in charge of changing energy into fat stores, by doing this, the hypothalamus creates an incentive to increase ones calories. To put this into psychological terms, the hypothalamus uses the need for energy to create a psychological force or need for hunger and then food, then calculating the rate and amount of fat storage within the body.
More than three years ago, geneticists conducted a study with the findings reported the startling discovery that nearly half of all people in the U.S. with European ancestry carry a variant of the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene which causes them to gain weight — from three to seven pounds, on average — but worse, puts them at risk for obesity (University of California, 2010). The FTO gene was studied in mice at a lab in Oxford. One set of mice was administered extra copies of the FTO gene, and fed the standard diet along with the other mice. The mice with the added gene gained 22% more weight than the mice with only one set. It was discovered when the FTO gene becomes overactive there is a tendency to consume more food.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors
Intrinsic and Extrinsic factors are the factors that work with healthy eating; these factors need to be considered when diet habits are evaluated. Hereditary factors, or intrinsic factors, such as certain types of eating disorders, can affect many generations within a family. Healthy eating and the act of maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle can be influenced by an eating disorder. An example of this would be a person with an undiagnosed case of anorexia might not be able to control their need to diet, thus stifling their ability to have and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Environmental factors, extrinsic factors, also have the ability to influence someone who is trying to eat healthy. For example, a person working in an ice cream store is likely to gain weight and become obese simply because they have access to fatty food multiple days during the week. Another extrinsic factor, which may influence someone’s eating habits, is how they were raised and taught to eat by their family. If the parents are unhealthy eaters, this will rub off on their children who will then grow up to be unhealthy eaters.
Michigan State University conducted a study of families with children ranging in the one to three years old age range. The study found the mothers who considered their children to be picky eaters were the ones who did not offer fruits and vegetables as often. This study also learned extra attention must be placed on the family approach for eating good healthy food. When the mother and father makes an increased effort to feed their family healthy food the resulting outcome is a more positive role modeling. Eating healthy with eating disorders
Eating healthy is not always possible, especially with someone who has an eating disorder. Even though the reasoning behind a lot of eating disorders is not very clear, there are many factors that are associated with them. Hormones, the environment, genetics, and neurological malfunctions can all be linked to eating disorders. Another factor that is commonly seen in people with an eating disorder is the family dynamic during their puberty years. Families who report being less supportive and less encouraging of the open expression of feelings are particularly prone to producing adolescents afflicted by eating disorders (Dixon et. al., 1989). When some neurological structures malfunction it can effect how people react to food, CT scans of teens exhibiting signs of anorexia show decreased size and functionality of the thalamus, hypothalamus, and other neurological structures (Chowdhury & Lask, 2000).
Science has not figured out yet if it is food association that causes neurological problems, or if it is the neurological problems that contribute to the food association problems. Stanford University has been conducting studies of anorexic patients in therapy; they have come to the conclusion that the therapy works more effectively if the family of the patient were involved with the therapy as well. The researchers were able to see a full anorexic remission rate of 42% as apposed to the 23% of those patients who elected to have individual therapy sessions. For these reasons, the motivation following eating disorders such as anorexia and obesity surrounds a broad array of environmental incentives and psychological drives.
In conclusion, the structures within the brain that work with appetite and satiety are the lateral hypothalamus, aka LH, and the ventromedial hypothalamus, aka VHM. Hunger and the process of eating can be brought on by outside or environmental factors like family gatherings, the quantity of food available, the amount of variety of foods available, and the deliciousness. There are also biological factors that affect a person’s hunger. Some of these are; the obesity associated gene within a person, adolescence and puberty, what the family dynamic is like, and where one works.
Chowdhury, U., Lask, B. (2000). Neurological correlates to eating disorders. European Eating Disorders Review, 8(2), 126-133. Retrieved May 15, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental, Second Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Dixon, K.N., Jones, D., Lake, M., Nemzer, E., Sansone, R., & Stern, S.L. (1989). Family environment in anorexia nervosa and bulimia. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(1), 25-31. Retrieved May 15,
2009, from EBSCOHost Database. Michigan State University (2010, December 16). Mothers’ diets have biggest influence on Pinel, J.J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Stanford University Medical Center (2010, October 11). Family therapy for anorexia twice University of California – Los Angeles (2010, April 20). Obesity gene, carried by more than a third of the US population, leads to brain tissue University of Oxford (2010, December 6). Overactive FTO gene does cause overeating
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