Three and a half years ago, I made one of the best decisions of my life. As my New Year's resolution, I gave up dieting, stopped worrying about my weight, and learned to eat mindfully. Now I eat whenever I'm hungry, and I've lost 10 pounds.
This was me at age 13, when I started my first diet. I look at that picture now, and I think, you did not need a diet, you needed a fashion consult. (Laughter) But I thought I needed to lose weight, and when I gained it back, of course I blamed myself. And for the next three decades, I was on and off various diets. No matter what I tried, the weight I'd lost always came back. I'm sure many of you know the feeling.
As a neuroscientist, I wondered, why is this so hard? Obviously, how much you weigh depends on how much you eat and how much energy you burn. What most people don't realize is that hunger and energy use are controlled by the brain, mostly without your awareness. Your brain does a lot of its work behind the scenes, and that is a good thing, because your conscious mind -- how do we put this politely? -- it's easily distracted. It's good that you don't have to remember to breathe when you get caught up in a movie. You don't forget how to walk because you're thinking about what to have for dinner.