Eating makes many of us happy… it just takes some of us longer to feel the pleasure. There’s an entire emotional complexity to why people overeat. Many times it’s to keep emotional issues suppressed. But there could be an additional reason for overeating. New evidence shows that obese people eat more because they don’t get that pleasure as quickly as everyone else.
That pleasure of filling your belly with your favorite food is not just in your head. There’s a real chemical explanation for what is going on. According to a new study, obese people’s diminished ability to experience the pleasure of eating prompts them to overindulge until they get their satisfaction. Researchers found that the obese may have fewer pleasure receptors in their brains.
“The research reveals obese people may have fewer dopamine receptors, so they overeat to compensate for this reward deficit,” says Eric Stice, a psychology researcher at the University of Texas in Austin. Stice has studied eating disorders and obesity for almost two decades.
It’s a human evolutionary trait that our brains release dopamine, the so-called “pleasure chemical.” In our more primitive state, dopamine probably served as a reward to the body for consuming life-sustaining nutrition.