Overweight? Executive Function Training may be What You Need

In the US, millions of Americans struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. In young adults, impulsivity and inefficient inhibitory control are key risk factors for engaging in unhealthy and uncontrolled eating habits. Impulse and inhibitory control are part of executive functioning which occurs in the frontal lobes of the brain with connections to other key brain regions, such as the limbic system. Training executive functioning in addition to helping your clients adapt to other healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercising regularly, practicing good sleep hygiene, and not purchasing processed foods may be effective in helping your client lose weight.

A study conducted on 210 undergraduate students at the University of Michigan found that young adults who performed poorly on impulse control measures chose tasty-unhealthy food options more frequently than tasty-healthy food options in a laboratory-controlled food choice task. Previous studies in children showed similar findings by demonstrating that children with lower cognitive control opted for more unhealthy food options than children with higher cognitive control. The researchers also collected participants’ BMI and found no direct relationship between impulse control measures and BMI despite prior studies demonstrating that individuals with poor impulse control tend to have higher BMI. 

What Does This Mean for You? 

If you are working with a client who has executive function deficits and is trying to improve their health, you may want to work with your client on improving their impulse and inhibitory control. HappyNeuron Pro exercises that target specifically these aspects of executive function include Basketball in New York, Towers of Hanoi, and Hurray for Change! By working with your client on these exercises and by having your client perform bridging activities with you, your client can build these important cognitive skills and translate them into their daily lives by managing their health and adopting healthy habits. 

Health and weight management are life skills that are beneficial for all people as healthy body weight, regular exercise, balanced diet, and good sleep schedule are part of preventative health care. Medical incidents such as traumatic brain injury or the onset of psychosis can cause someone to experience cognitive deficits in regards to executive functioning which can impact their ability to manage their health independently. By working with your client on building essential cognitive skills in addition to developing and implementing good health habits, you can set your client up to live well for years. 


A study of 210 undergraduate students showed a link between poor impulse control and the favoring of unhealthy food choices. While researchers thought that there may be a link between BMI and impulse control, no link was found in this study despite evidence from previous studies that lower impulse control is associated with higher BMI. People working with cognitively impaired individuals who are struggling with their weight may want to work on inhibitory and impulse control as improving these components of executive functioning may help clients better manage their health and body weight. By practicing these cognitive skills and helping clients adapt pro-health habits, clinicians can help clients live healthier lives. 


Jasinska, A. J., Yasuda, M., Burant, C. F., Gregor, N., Khatri, S., Sweet, M., & Falk, E. B. (2012). Impulsivity and inhibitory control deficits are associated with unhealthy eating in young adults. Appetite, 59(3), 738–747. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.08.001
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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