The more I read, the more I read….the more everything will always make sense, connect, interconnect and then make no sense whatsoever. I love that. This is the exact reason I find myself often getting lost in studying the human brain in relation to our bodies- nobody will ever be able to dissect it. You can’t find the meaning of all the bodies abilities nor its faults and disorders. It is crazy, intriguing and soooo so interesting. But for this post, I have been pondering binge eating and recovery in general. I have one conclusion so far…people, and especially doctors/clinics/dieticians/nutritionists and any ‘unsufferer’ will approach recovery with straight up delusion:
de-lu-sion [dih-loo-zhuhn] Noun. 1. An idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality, typically a symptom of mental disorder.
There are people, then there are those with eating disorders. There are healthy brains, and then there are miswired brains. Note, these are not unhealthy brains, they are just different from the evolutionarily accepted ‘normal’ brain. You’re different. You always will be. Accept that. No recovery is going to cure or fix your miswired brain just like the guy born with one arm will never have both. Oh well… now, whatta we do about that? Well, your run-of-the-mill doctor is going to tell you in recovery ‘every food is good in moderation.’ Right, try telling that to someone who is well over 50% below their body weight/fat set-point. No, and bash me now, but every ‘food’ is not okay in moderation and MANY foods are harmful in recovery in any moderation. (Disclaimer: This is my opinion, I am not a doctor just a successful recoveree.)
Systematically, food, and the result your body/brain take on food (expenditure) is so complex it’s almost worth not even worth considering. There are a billion neural systems activated but biologically the main factor lies in maintenance of an adequate supply of nutrients which will result in energy balance- homeostasis, ahhhh. Now, intertwined in this there are hormonal regulations, ingestion, storage, allergies, and BRAIN firing- plus the three million other problems and side effects which happen when you restimulate the body of a malnourished individual. Fact is, the second that you think about food, smell food, prepare food there is a huge generation of behavioral, autonomic, and endocrine output. Your hypothalamus plays a crucial role in this(which is why I blab so much about a deregulated HPA in eating disorders), and in the homeostatic function in your body. This comes from previous experience with food, prior food thoughts and prior food relations/habits/rituals. It even goes as far back as your childhood diet and actions regarding food way back when. Just the smell of food will send firing from your brain to your body regarding reward, emotions and the social context of the moment as well as past occurrences. ANY, read this again….ANY pathological malfunction or lack of adaptation in the brain’s relationship with food will cause problems. These problems are not always eating disorders but are usually food/health related. Some people are born with pathological obesity. Some will get diabetes, heart disease, cancer soooooooooo much more. But for now, you see how complex this all is.
Note I mentioned all food is not fair game in recovery. I really, truly believe in finding a manageable homeostasis via REAL food (see Free the Animal, Mark’s Daily Apple, Robb Wolf, Archevore, HuntGatherLove, Whole Health Source…most of my blogroll for real food). No packages, no bags, fresh whole real food. Trust me, when you put steak and eggs on ‘no limit to consumption’ category you find out real quick how self limiting the food is. Same goes with foods even of the sweet essence which is a main trigger for eating disordered individuals. Baking three rows of sweet potatoes and allowing yourself free access to 5 pounds of PLAIN potatoes is self limiting. Same goes for plain fruit.You fill up real quick. The reward for your recovery here is your LOSS of interest in food. This loss of interest takes food-on-the-mind-always-looking-for-next-meal to how your body feels when you eat, how you digest food, what food you handle well, and how your blood sugar reacts to food. Seriously, stuff yourself silly on sweet potatoes, cooked plain with nothing added and you realize how sucky and uncomfortably full you are- even try it with rice. Bloated, and uninterested in food. Try it with steak…same result.
Real food is self limiting; it releases your fear IF YOU ALLOW IT of uncontrollable binging. I try not to write a lot about binging because I am no expert but if I saw something like oreos, chocolate cake, or the ever promoted ‘health food’ like fat free yogurt, cereal and oatmeal, chex mix, fiber one bars, protein powder, fat free peanut butter powder as ‘food’ then, therein my brain would have a huge problem. Namely, that stuff isn’t food. I don’t associate food that is not food as such. When I see a box of oreos I think…WTF is that. Really… that’s gross someone puts it in their bodies to me. Orthorexic? Again not in my opinion, oreos are not and will never be meant for human consumption- please, I will pee my pants if you try and convince me they are. Same goes for dairy products which have been pasteurized and have the fat removed from them (can we say processed!!).
But, like all things the ‘cure’ is not all in the diet. You can eat immense amounts of self limiting food but until you tackle the emotions and behavioral attachments, you’re still stuck. Researching addiction you find that it’s about brain chemistry. Neural psychology studies the way the brain wires itself and how it makes us behave the way we do. But, like I mentioned earlier there is no forever cure. You don’t just change your brain chemistry because you eat real food. If you don’t get to the root of your problems in your thought process and resonate with why you do what you do, then you’re going to be stuck with the same emotional s*it but in a healthier body.
The first two steps, after ACCEPTANCE in recovery lie in eating REAL food and maintaining real nourishment. But an even bigger personal step totally unrelated to weight and recovery is learning to verbalize why we do what we do and why we seem to have so little control over certain behaviors(like binging and constant food preoccupation). Anyone who has starved themselves into a catecholamine high or anyone who has caught themselves in an unreal situation post binging on 923456234 calories knows that once you start it is HARD AS ALL LIVING HELL to stop. This, on both sides of the see-saw is all in your brain.
Catecholamines are “fight-or-flight” hormones released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. They are part of the sympathetic nervous system.They are called catecholamines because they contain a catechol or 3,4-dihydroxyphenyl group. They are derived from the amino acid tyrosine.In the human body, the most abundant catecholamines are epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and dopamine, all of which are produced from phenylalanine and tyrosine. Various stimulant drugs are catecholamine analogs.
So why do we go to extremes? Why do we starve or why do we feel an uncontrollable love-hate urge to stuff a box of oreos in a gallon of cake icing and go to town? This unearth feeling of losing all control makes you stop thinking rationally and you do all kinds of stuff, most notably all the bad behavior you’re trying to fix. SO instead of spending endless hours and sleepless nights trying to figure out why you starve or why you binge you just need to accept that your brain chemistry is abnormal and that’s life. You need to learn to manage it with food- reeeeeeal food. The reason could come from a variety of shit that happened in THE PAST, but guess what, RIGHT NOW in this moment and in your recovery you need to realize that at some point along the way your brain chemistry CHANGED, and that change brought your new wiring, a new you. Regardless of whether you got raped, whether you were a fat kid or whether you faced immensely damaging trauma… the reason for your problem now is because at some point you rewired your brain such that binging or starving sets off some kind of reward. End of story, you can’t argue that.
For the binger, take a minute to realize that if you lost interest in high fat, high sugar food before it was consumed you wouldn’t have the fat stores to reproduce and you wouldn’t be in a predicament to begin with. But your brain has been rewired so this is the case You were born with a brain that expects to get real food, and take the real nutrition from it and use it accordingly. Problem is, in the current age we suffer through we are constantly bombarded by extremely tasty food and it is super cheap and always available with very, very little effort. HYPERPALITABOLIY RUNS OUR LIVES. From feeling overly intense emotions to having overly stimulating food around at all hours everyday it’s damn near impossible to learn normal. And all this junk food, fake food and processed food has got everything combined together…salt, sugar, fake fat, plus a bolus of added flavor enhancers (MSG anyone??) and artificial goodness (modified food starch, splenda). From a very good read, I recommend to everyone at GNOLLS:
Characteristics Of Successful Snack Food(aka…addictive food)
If you were to design a profitable and successful snack food, you’d want it to have several characteristics: http://www.gnolls.org/2074/why-snack-food-is-addictive-the-grand-unified-theory-of-snack-appeal/
- It would be made of cheap ingredients, allowing a high profit margin.
Since our government heavily subsidizes industrial grain production, you’d make them of grains and grain products…corn, wheat, and soy. Mostly corn, because it’s so heavily overproduced that we’re forced, by law, to feed it to our cars!
- It would be shelf-stable and require no preparation, so that it could be kept without refrigeration, taken anywhere, and eaten at any time.
Therefore, you’d make it out of highly-processed ingredients that are shelf-stable, pump it full of preservatives so that it could survive for months in a vending machine, and enclose it in lots of disposable packaging so it wouldn’t get damaged in transit.
- It would concentrate the tastes we’ve evolved to enjoy far beyond their natural amounts, and as much as our technology allows.
This would be the supernormal stimuli of fatty, salty, umami, and sweet: MSG, crystalline sugar, seed oils, fruit juices, “natural and artificial flavors”.
- Finally, it would not be satiating.
No matter how much you ate, you would never be satisfied.
Every time you allow yourself to partake in a meal of unreal food the malfunctioning neural circuits which we have accepted do not work correctly are strengthened- like a cocaine addict who takes just one more hit. Now you are left completely at a loss when trying to figure out why you do what you do you and resort to assuming helplessness. The only blame is the part of your brain that aint working but you needed to have accepted it. Most of ‘our’ minds operate purely on impulse so doing something like saying I WILL NEVER BIINGE OR STARVE AGAIN probably won’t get you too far. Same with self blame and self hate- reaction to impulse.
- Our brains are going to have f8cked up neural circuits and they are going to fire, you just have to engage other circuits to weaken them (eat real food, plain). You can’t reinforce them 24/7
- Don’t do stupid things. If you binige, you’re going to eat all the oreos if you buy them. Don’t go browsing the junk food isle at the gas station, don’t drool over a vending machine and do your best to turn the channel when the new brownie cereal commercial comes on.
Seriously, many people will waste their entire lives suffering because they would rather die, lose a foot; lose their vision than give up _______. Stop being a baby, use your noggin and accept it. Food while healing is medication. Some is off limits- A LOT IS NOT.
Hormones: most binge eaters want to binge after a ‘normal meal’. Read up on hypoglycemia and how to manage it with a lower carbohydrate lifestyle. Eating sugary, starchy crap in the context of suffering hypoglycemia is going to whack out your blood glucose and insulin around and make you hungry and further increase your cravings. It’s a cycle…
A smart man once said this:
“We must realize, however, that all living cells are continuously subject to imperfect nutrition and that overt mental disease is known to result from malnutrition, as, for example, in pellagra. In the light of these considerations, we would be foolhardy indeed to take for granted that the nutrition of the brain cells is automatically satisfactory in those who are afflicted or threatened with mild or severe mental disease.” -Dr. Roger J, Williams, writing in Nutrition Against Disease.
In the book, Nutrition Against Disease, author Dr. Roger J, Williams points out that like all other living cells, brain cells often receive less than perfect nutrition. He goes on to observe that brain cells get nutrition from blood, which in turn gets its nutrients from the food we eat each day.At first, it takes a while to get past that and let your body readjust to a new way. Psychologically, your brain may want to get that rush back, even at the expense of feeling bad later. It’s the same reason why people like to smoke. They cultivate an addiction and then enjoy the pleasure of satiating that addiction. So you need to deal with:
Filling a void.
Making up for previous deprivation in life.
Fear of deprivation.
Fear of change.
It has to do with healthfulness, and mindfulness, and gratitude, and forgiveness. It has to do with having a free mind, and using food to fuel that beautiful, free (yet oddly functioning) mind.
To geek out on you, in relation to your brain, an unidentified woo I admire quoted this: Low dopaminergic tone is one critical pathophysiological process in obesity.Dopamine is a major metabolic regulator. A key feature of garden variety obesity, as well as hibernation, is a functional downregulation of dopamine receptors. Dopamine binding completely orients cell-level metabolism around in favor of glucose metabolism. This prevents hyperinsulinemia. Peripheral dopamine binding suppresses insulin production from the pancreas, preventing hypoglycemia after eating, and prenting lipogenesis. When dopamine is blocked, or when dopamine receptors are functionally downregulated during obesity (glucose excess results in the downregulation), the cells shift to a preference for fat metabolism, which paradoxically induces glucose intolerance and hyperinsulinemia and fat gain. Low dopamine also reduces psychomotor activity (energy-sparing) and promotes sleepiness/inattentiveness, another common complaint in obesity as well as in hibernation. One thing neither talked about is the most satifying foods are fats. Only carbs have a special neuropeptide that modulates the hypothalamic tracts. That directly modulates the median forebrain bundle……Carbs…..not fat of protein. Behavior is a result of what the brain is perceiving(aka the reaction to unreal food).
Emily Deans of Evolutionary Psychology says : Even if we assume there is no specific “brain disorder” that causes binging, it seems clear to me that most binge eaters have at least a conditioned psychological aversion to food. This is why they binge. They try to restrict or moderate their intake during the day only to gorge on it later in a binge. Even if we assume there is no neurobiology causing binging the way there is causing heroin use, we can’t argue or deny that there is a clear cut psychological food aversion found in binge eaters. They love and they hate food.
‘Liking’ a food does not make you necessarily ‘want’ a food, and it is the ‘wanting’ of foods that typifies the chronic overeating that leads to obesity- acceptance my friends. I think the similarity between the hyperpalatable industrial food and the hard drugs is that they are all (somewhat metaphorically) poisons, but we take the dose anyway, and need bigger and bigger amounts.
Some helpful hints…drop caffeine, get good sleep, go outside, drop ANY lowfat product from your diet and the most obvious eat food naturally available prior to the agricultural and industrial revolution. This is the easiest way to deflame your massively inflamed brain.
As Sophia at Burp and Slurp recently said: “Let me tell you something about bingeing and purging: there are few experiences as maniacal and hedonistic as it. It’s a mad, jagged jumble of ecstasy, anxiety and self-hatred as you stuff food after food into your mouth. You’re scared to death and at the same time craving it all. You abhor your “greed” and lack of control, yet you “reward” yourself with uninhibited indulgence. You’re feeling exhilarated by the action of the feast, yet unable to enjoy the taste and pleasure of satiety because you are stuffing yourself so frantically, gulping down the food just for the sake of sensory. You feel like you can eat and eat and still gain no satisfaction, yet your stomach is swelling painfully and the sharp pains in your abdomen feels like it’s a sack bulging with shards of pointy rocks.”