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Feast, Famine, Freedom

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Thoughts of food seem to consume us, weighing heavily on our minds. We hungrily scan the headlines, seeking ways to battle excess pounds. We devour diet advice, to little avail. Despite our good intentions, obesity rates keep climbing. Why is it so hard to stop overeating? “When our stomach begins to growl, too often it drowns out any good advice coming from our brain,” writes psychiatrist Oliver Grimm in his article “Addicted to Food?” Any person may have difficulty with restraint at times, as Grimm explains. For binge eaters, the problem intensifies; the brain's reward system can go haywire. In neurobiological terms, binge eating is not dissimilar to drug addiction. Turn to page 36 for details.

At the other end of the food-behavior scale, a person who has, in effect, too much control over what he or she ingests can suffer from self-imposed starvation. People afflicted with disorders such as anorexia eat too little because their distorted mental image of their body looks larger than reality, explain Christian Eggers and Verena Liebers in “Through a Glass, Darkly,” which starts on page 30. To return to normal weight, anorexics must learn to adjust their flawed perceptions.

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