To Lose Weight, Lay Off the Endocannabinoids!

Cookies for Santa - Christmas crack?‘tis the season… of dietary regret. You might as well sign up with SparkPeople now (it’s free), because it’ll be good to have your program set up and your best-laid plans in place before the holidays. I’m not suggesting you avoid the Christmas cookies and the office parties and the booze – au contraire. If you have to be told that, this late in the game, just enjoy yourself and do penance in the New Year. Don’t bother making New Year’s Resolutions – just make a promise and commitment to yourself.

You know the Lay’s potato chip ad that says “You can’t eat just one”? Do you have certain foods that trigger an insatiable craving for more, more, MORE? According to at least one study, it’s the fat. Because fatty foods – get this – trigger the formation of “endocannabinoids” (yep, you read that right – cannabis-like substances manufactured in our own innards) that trigger, well, a bad case of “the munchies.”

Gives whole new meaning to the term “pot bellied,” doesn’t it?

Consider your “trigger foods.” These are the ones you taste and then can’t get enough of. I have a list – a blessedly short list – of foods that, when I’m serious about losing weight, I try to avoid at all costs.  As you make your list, consider whether this fat-induced Mary Jane production is hindering your weight loss efforts.

Then again, if the holidays are stressing you out, maybe a pat of butter is just what you need to calm your nerves.

When I first started losing weight, bread was one of the things I cut out cold turkey. I like bread. I especially like bread with butter on it. One piece leads to two. Two leads to a sandwich. With cheese. But I can eliminate bread and not feel too deprived; if I don’t taste it – don’t think about it – I can live without it just fine. I don’t feel particularly “deprived.” I think of it with longing; I’m tempted. But…life goes on.

I joined SparkPeople in January 2006, all full of my starry-eyed, New Year’s resolution clean-slatedness and determination, and promptly forgot all about it. Later, determined and committed to success, I was able to put the program to good use – losing nearly 50 pounds.

Since then, I’ve quit smoking. I have a laundry list of excuses, if that won’t do – I mean, seriously, can anyone use “quit smoking” to justify gaining weight – for FIVE YEARS?? As in 2006, I recently renewed acquaintance with SparkPeople. "Oh, yeah, I remember this," I thought. I stepped on the scales. And once again, I weighed just about the same thing I had a year earlier. I browsed through some of the other members’ pages and saw their "before" and "after" shots. If I’d done what I’d said I was going to do, back in January, I’d be at my goal weight now. Instead, I’m right where I was…in January. Nothing has changed.

I look in the mirror and ask myself, once again: Self, do you want to be right where you are now, next year, at Christmas? Although the weight loss goals I’ve set for myself seem overwhelming, a quick mental calculation says they’re not at all unreasonable – and that in less than a year’s time, I can be downright svelte, just by losing 1-2 pounds a week.

The answer to my question, of course, was "no."

So, Self, when are you going to start working on this goal? If not now, when? I know I can do it – I’ve done it before. I know, without a doubt, that I can reach all the goals I’d set for myself. "The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step," Confucious said.

"Just put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving," my mother often said.

Okay, starry-eyed Self, I muttered. Put back that stick of butter. There’s a good start.

Self and I have agreed to simply enjoy the holidays and get cracking on January 1 – it’s not procrastination, now, it’s a plan. Come the New Year, we’ll ride the wave of starry-eyed goal-setting optimism, only we’ll outlast and outshine ‘em all.

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About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at

About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at


  1. There’s no magic in weight loss: eat less and train more

  2. I changed my eating habits and it didn’t make much of a difference. I’m not overweight, but would love to get rid of my belly. It’s not that I don’t know this, but I just can’t seem to grasp constant exercise, which is what I need. I constantly find excuses not to exercise, which is an awful habit.

  3. I’m a little fat. I am 1.80 m and weigh 93 kg. I know I’m fat, but I cann’t get hold of any diet.

  4. I'm planning to go on a diet as soon as I've eaten all the goodies I've recieved during the holidays. LOL. By my estimation, it might be another 2 mos! 
    Enjoyed reading your article, Holly. Got here through one of Jena's blogs.

  5. Our stories are very similar. I’ve been on SparkPeople so long I can’t remember when I started, maybe when it first started. I was 183 and dropped to 174 after I retired in 2002. I lost about 10 more lbs. after I joined SparkPeople. I got down to about 164. I wanted to be 155. Then I quit smoking about 2 years ago. I allowed myself to eat anything as long as I didn’t smoke; so I got back up to 174.

    Recently my weight is between 176 and 181. It’s been a combination of pizza, beer and less exercise that’s got me putting weight on again. For the past few days, I’ve been doing much better. Even though I ate a whole pumpkin pie yesterday, that was all I ate (just 1560 cals.) I also walked 3mi yesterday to buy my pie. I’m not really into holidays, so I’m going to keep exercising and watching my intake again now that I’ve started.
    Louis Frayser recently posted..MenuMy Profile

    • I wanna toke o’ that pie! LOL Did you make it from scratch? ’cause I know you can.

      How ironic – is there anywhere BUT Sparkpeople that we haven’t connected? What’s up with us not being Sparkbuddies?

      And, um – checked your blood sugar lately, Louis?? (Can you really buy a whole pie for just a three mile walk? I mean, I could almost be talked into exercising now, if I can be made to believe that!)
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..It’s Going to Be Another Wild Week!My Profile

      • Hey! It was 7pm and I hadn’t had anything for the whole day. Pizza is so much work(adding toppings), and whatever I eat I usually prepare it. When I saw pie in the store I read the label and it was less than a day’s calories; so I just got that and a can of coffee.

        Now it’s a new day, and I’m out of food again. Time to prepare a real meal.
        Louis Frayser recently posted..Addicted to…My Profile

  6. One’s trigger food might arrive in the form of bite-size snacks. This cruel invention tricks us into thinking that we’re not really eating that much. That’s how I view M&M’s, anyway.

    How many of them would I eat if each melt-in-your-mouth candy were the size of a Big Mac? That’s the real secret to weight loss – you can’t carry 50 lbs. of candy in your pocket!



  7. Endocannabinoid is one of those nouns that just sounds cool and makes me want to add it to my collection for later use:)

  8. Christmas cookies don’t count for calories or cholesterol. It’s a rule.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. big word!!! hmm, i actually have a plan to gain weight…i guess i’m not in this club! studying has made me interestingly thin.
    Jovie Onyema recently posted..Your Secret Desire For FailureMy Profile

  10. Trigger food for me: POPCORN! I’m a fool for it. for me its either none at all or give me the whole bowl!

  11. I joined SparkPeople, too, on your recommendation. Changed my eating habits and didn’t lose an ounce. What I need to get all starry-eyed and motivated about it exercise. That’s my GOAL, now. Not a dream, not a pledge, not a resolution, but a GOAL. 🙂
    Marian Allen recently posted..Friday Recommends – Happy NewsMy Profile

    • Did you log every bite (I mean EVERY bite – one after-dinner peppermint is easily 35 calories, so it’s really easy to forget a “bite”)? Did you stay within the recommended calorie range? Did you keep it interesting? (I can never stick to the “canned” meal plan on any diet – I have to play and experiment in the kitchen or it gets too boring, far too fast.)

      Exercise is essential to looking great and toned, but if you really are carrying any extra “fluff,” then cutting out enough calories to put you in a slight deficit (3500-7000 a week, max) should really be doing the trick.

      The #1 key for me? Using those blasted trackers and a food scale, and staying away from complex dishes that don’t come with nutritional information.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..It’s Going to Be Another Wild Week!My Profile

      • No, I did not log every bite. I really believe that the problem is exercise. When I lost the weight I wanted to lose, it was with a combination of dietary change and exercise. When I regained weight, it was when I stopped exercising.
        Marian Allen recently posted..Trailing Clouds of GloryMy Profile

        • I agree Marian. I’ve never had a weight problem until recently and the only thing that has changed is my lack of activity because of an arthritic problem. Eating and those endocannabinoids are likely one side of the equation.

          I’m not sure, this is new for me and I’ve always been able to see my toes in the shower until last year, even after decades of Christmas dinners:)

    • I’ve been working on the popular SparkPeople mini-goal of “Exercise at least 10 minutes each day.” I don’t think I’ve lost any weight from it, but I feel better just knowing that I can carve out a little space in the day for moving.
      Cheryl recently posted..Not Scrooges after allMy Profile

  12. Yep, carbs of any kind. While I like fatty foods, I’m OK with them as long as they aren’t combined with carbs. Of course right now I’m doing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet again, which is really very low-carb, so that makes life easier that way … luckily I”m not really plugged into the “holiday” stuff right now anyway. I guess I’ll need to make latkes on Tuesday, though.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Holly! Endocannabinoids indeed …
    Hadass recently posted..On FearMy Profile

  13. There are other studies that point to the carbohydrates, sugars and grains as the highly addictive substance – see Davis’ “Wheat Belly” and Taube’s “Why We Get Fat”.

    • Oh, what do they know? 😉 That is so true, Tracey, but if we go with ALL the studies, we pretty much just have to turn ourselves into air ferns and live somewhere there’s no pollution.

      Or die. Since that’s just not a viable option, in my book, I’m gonna stick to giggling over endocannabinoids (for today, at any rate) and plan a better-balanced diet (that naturally includes a few “healthy” mock-marijuana makers, like olive oil, maybe?) for the new year. Going Paleo actually worked well for me for a couple of weeks, but I need more fiber than I was getting from that.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..To Lose Weight, Lay Off the Endocannabinoids!My Profile

  14. I am doomed.

    Okay, I’ll have a salad for lunch and start planning. I have discovered that I do not succeed without planning, so that’s the next Goal.

    Thank you, Holly. I like having a name to call something by–although in this case, I would prefer a nickname. Endocannabinoids is quite a mouthful. Oh, well. Better the word that a piece of cake.


  15. but it all tastes so good!

  16. January 1, huh? So I would still have a couple of weeks to gird my loins and all that? I did put the Sparkpeople Cookbook on my Christmas list. If Santa comes through with that, I will really have no excuse.

    Also, endocannabinoids. Duuuude.
    Cheryl recently posted..Not Scrooges after allMy Profile

  17. hey Holly, great read. There are definitely foods that trigger the “gotta have more” feeling. Usually I try to ignore it, although sometimes those brownies are just down right irresistable. Have you ever started with “I just want 1 brownie”, and had to go bake a new pan because you ran out too fast? 😀

    Congrats on the quit smoking. I am trying to go through that one right now. it is rough, but I will get there.
    James recently posted..Taking Action To Achieve Your Dreams and GoalsMy Profile

  18. Holly, this is fantastic info! yes, there are certain foods (brownies, fresh-baked bread, and any kind of pie!) that I am helpless before and if I want to be successful on a diet, I just can’t have them in the house!! I never knew exactly why before your post. Endocannabinoids…who knew?

    entertaining and helpful…thanks!