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How to educate the brain reward system, and lose weight!

Cómo educar el sistema de recompensa cerebral, ¡y perder peso!

Why can a piece of cake bring us so much happiness? Or can a video of kittens on the networks make us stay glued for hours searching for similar images? Well, in both cases, the answer is in our brain reward system. It is a circuit of neurons that allows us to search, choose and regulate everything that gives us gratification. It is a normal process that has allowed us to survive and advance as a species. However, there are certain behaviors that alter this mechanism, making us more vulnerable to making unhealthy decisions, by seeking, for example, well-being in food, cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. But, if we learn to educate it, we can turn this system into our best ally to lose weight and become more focused, productive and happy people.


How does this system work?

—>For the sensation of reward to occur, the brain must release neurotransmitter hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA, which are responsible for “communicating” the message of pleasure.(1)


—> The brain reward system not only regulates what we find pleasurable, but also helps us learn, memorize environmental stimuli and repeat behaviors. Therefore, if the system identifies a behavior or substance that causes us pleasure, it tries to repeat that experience, regardless of whether it is good or bad for us.


—>When we develop an addiction, whether to food, sugar, substances or even the Internet, it is more difficult to control it, since our brain receives the message to repeat what makes us feel good. It focuses on that feeling of reward or satisfaction and does not analyze whether the effect is positive.


—>But we have the ability to analyze it and modify the system in a way that works in our favor.


How to educate our reward system?


  • Identify and analyze

Observe what gives you pleasure and analyze how good it is for you. For example, check if you want to feel good by drinking daily, eating junk food, or doing an activity that has negative consequences or is not good for you. Face it and accept what is happening as a reality.


  • Find a good replacement

There is nothing irreplaceable. Whatever you have used to enjoy that feeling of reward, you can replace it with something that helps you improve, lose weight and achieve greater well-being. And above all, it helps you “associate” this new habit with the idea of ​​reward. If, for example, you achieved satisfaction by eating ice cream, cakes or something sweet, replace that meal with a piece of dark chocolate or with 10 minutes of dancing or exercise. Cocoa and physical activity also generate dopamine and, although at first it may be less pleasant, as the days go by you will see that the changes they produce in you are worth it. (2)


  • Reinforces positive behaviors

This will help you cope better with stress, reducing its negative effect on dopamine levels and will also help you overcome withdrawal syndrome, by lowering the exaggerated dopamine load that your previous behaviors or habits generated. To achieve this you can listen to your favorite music, try healthy food options, participate in group activities or watch a couple of inspiring videos on your social networks that support the change.(3)


Our brain is more moldable than we imagine. It is never too late to “reset” it so that each of our behaviors is one more step towards greater well-being.

If you want to learn more and have easy-to-use tools, download the 28-day DALE plan , based on the Behavior Change Method. In four weeks you can lay the foundations for a real transformation that will not only be reflected in your weight, but in the way you organize yourself, prioritize tasks, and the way you make the right decisions in your daily routine. Remember that every negative habit we leave behind is a BIG step towards our best version.


Your team Santo Remedio




1.Robert G. Lewis, Ermanno Florio, Daniela Punzo, and Emiliana Borrelli. The Brain’s Reward System in Health and Disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2022 Apr 8.Published in final edited form as: Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021; 1344: 57–69.doi:10.1007/978-3-030-81147-1_4


2.Maren M Michaelsen  1 , Tobias Esch 2. Motivation and reward mechanisms in health behavior change processes. ReviewBrain Res. 2021 Apr 15;1757:147309. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147309. Epub 2021 Jan 29.


3.Ja-Hyun Baik. Stress and the dopaminergic reward system. Exp Mol Med. 2020 Dec; 52(12): 1879–1890.Published online 2020 Dec 1. doi:10.1038/s12276-020-00532-4



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