Everybody’s Got ‘Em

What are they? Frustrating life situations that can be neither avoided nor faced. We don’t know how to handle the stress of an upcoming exam, or the boss’s attitude. Or the conflict with our partner over how to discipline the kids. Or the worry about whether to break the budget and replace the threadbare tires, or take a risky chance by waiting a few more months. Or any one of a thousand things that we feel helpless to solve, but unable to stop thinking about.

This stalemate or standoff causes nervous energy to build up in the brain, and the clever brain comes up with a mechanism to shove all this rackety energy aside. It needs someplace to go, so it spills over and gets displaced into a kind of mental dumpster. Our relationship with food is a widely available dumpster, because everybody eats, and much of what is presented to us as allegedly being edible is actually trash. So it’s an ideal match, in a perverse sort of way.

Decisions, decisions…

Should I eat that last waffle, or save it for breakfast? Is it okay to have my “cheat day” early, at my friend’s birthday party? Aren’t the prices at the health food store just ridiculous? Maybe I should put some time into researching how to make vegetables really taste good. Of course I know that throwing up is a terrible way to control the calories, but what if I just did it once in a while? Is there really such a thing as a negative-calorie food?

And on and on and on, with the phenomenon known as “food noise,” the annoying and omnipresent background chatter that plagues most people who are trying to lose weight. This is where the Brainweighve app comes in handy. From the user manual:

The app helps you identify the situations in your life that you cannot face or are frustrated with, and then it helps you create Action Plans to deal with each one. This stops the overflow brain energy production. Also, you will learn to rechannel the overflow brain energy to non-harmful displacement behaviors…

Getting rid of “food noise” is a big step toward getting rid of food abuse, also known as overeating. The worst kind of food noise is the eating urge, and the clue to its deceptiveness is right there in the word, which implies urgency, which tricks a person into feeling like it’s a life-or-death situation, an existential crisis, a mortal threat. “Stuff something into your pie-hole this very minute, or it could be all over for you!”

The worst kind of food noise is the stern directive that says “EAT NOW.” So, what can this smartphone app do about that?

For in-the-moment, immediate stressful situations with eating urges, you should tap the Rescue button. The Rescue area asks you what is bothering you the most in your life, at that moment, and then helps you come up with an Action Plan.

Displacement is a couple of different things, starting with the brain’s trick of taking nervous energy and transforming it into a mechanism for rationalizing and justifying our most harmful habits — “I’ll feel better if I just eat something.” In a different but related sense, displacement is the method of co-opting that false illusion of rescue and turning it into an actionable plan.

The actual helpful suggestion might be, “I’ll feel better if I spend this rogue energy on doing something I love.” Or even, “I’ll feel better if I do something to address the problem whose avoidance generated this random, rogue energy in the first place.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “https://brainweighve.com/brainweighveusermanual_06252023.pdf,” BrainWeighve.com, undated
Image by blairwang/CC BY 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources