Monday, June 27, 2011

Thank You, Dr. Kessler

Yesterday, someone ate ALL my salad. I ended up heading to the grocery store to buy a new big package of salad along with some lean ground turkey that was on sale. In a rare twist, I actually got to go alone.

It was evening, around 7pm, and I wandered the aisles for the few other items I remembered I needed. As I wandered, vividly it came back to me: the many, many times I have gone to that very store, alone, wandering those very aisles on a binge run. I sometimes would do it around that time of evening, after the little one was asleep, leaving an older child (teen) in charge while I'd run to the store 5 minutes away "for milk." Only, it was actually a binge run. I'd wander the aisles, grab some chips, some ice cream, a few candy bars, whatever. And then I'd go home and eat it. Sometimes I would be "nice" and give a candy bar to the babysitting kid, and then when they went back to doing their own thing, I'd eat the rest of the stuff. Alone. Eating until 10pm.

Last night for some reason those foods kept nagging my brain. It's hard to explain; I wasn't craving them. I wasn't considering buying them. I wasn't struggling. I knew I was staying on plan. But this one part of me way in the back of my head was saying, "I can't wait until I can binge again."

There is nothing on this earth that is going to take away my past. There is no therapy or drug or diet that can erase the pathways in my brain that were worn over and over again for more than a decade... the binge pathways... the ones I used to default to every day. I am building new pathways now and it is easier to travel them instead of diverting down those binge alleys, but that addict part of me that loved the behavior, that needed the behavior, that MISSES the behavior, was saying, "when I binge again, I will have that ice cream, and those chips, and that candy. Oh boy, I cannot wait!" And that is kind of scary.

Consciously of course I know I never want to binge again. I don't PLAN to binge again. I am terrified because one binge leads to an awful lot of out-of-control eating that lasts for days or weeks or months. It is like falling off a cliff. And it is way, way easier to stand here on the top of the mountain and just STAY HERE than it is to throw myself down the hill and try to crawl and climb my way back up. I know. I have done it so.many.times. Scary.

I dream of it. I imagine it. I remember it. All the wonderful feelings that come with a binge. I remember the high and the calming effect of the food and how the world disappears for awhile and all my troubles are gone just for that few moments. But I also remember the pain, the agony, the excruciating physical and emotional fallout that comes with giving in to an addiction. I remember, and I DO NOT want to go through it again. EVER. It is an painful a withdrawal as I can imagine.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating. The way he explains things... the very precise, scientific explanation behind our sense of inability to control our eating... it is profound. I cried when I first truly understood that I am not a freak. EVERYONE's brains work this way. It is just the sum of my experiences and my behaviors and the things I have done and eaten that have formed these pathways in my brain. It's not ME. It's my damned amygdala. But the only one who can change it is me. As Dr. Kessler so compassionately said, "It's no one's FAULT." And there is a way out. And I am on it. I am, by my everyday behavior and response to food and eating, forming those new pathways that can sort of overlay the old, binge ones. I was thinking about that as I drove home. I took the same road I have taken every day for 15 years to get home. It's a four-lane road, but part was under construction that night. The two right hand lanes were blocked off, and there were cones directing us to drive in one of the left-hand lanes. As I pondered whether I would EVER be able to adjust to the new pathways I am forming and how difficult it is not to go back to the old, I noticed something. Even though I have driven in the right-hand lane of that road every day for 15 years, it did not take a monumental effort for me to shift to driving on the left. I couldn't go on auto-pilot like I often do, but I just had to have a perception shift that the lane I was driving in was MY LANE, and that no, I should not go driving over on the right when it is blocked off by cones.

Once the pathways are formed, we CAN stay on them by paying attention. We CAN choose not to go back to the old pathways. It is NOT impossible. But they are always there. Always there.

Thank you Dr. Kessler for helping me to understand that there is a scientific, biological basis for what I have gone through. Thank you for being compassionate and trying to help people break free from the prison of compulsive overeating. Thank you, because I pretty much muddled along for years figuring this out on my own, and now, it finally all makes sense.

I hope I can use what I have learned to help others who read my blog. I want to share so much, but struggle to put it all into words. I truly hope the strategies I have learned will help someone, anyone, understand and gain control of their eating. And I hope and pray that I can stay on this path to freedom that I am on. I know it is likely I will have some lapses, but I am going to fight with all that I have to change the habits that turned me into a binge eater in the first place. I think I have a good start.


jess said...

I just finished reading his book! It has, without a doubt, changed the way I view food and my reactions to it.

Princess Dieter said...

That book changed my life last year and is still changing it this year. The single book I recommend the most to binge eaters/chronic overeaters. Or, as he'd call us, conditioned hypereaters.

I'm in the DE-conditioning, or new-conditioning process. :D

Becca said...

Thank you for such an informative post. I am going to have to read that book and hopefully it helps me with my weight loss plan!

Sarah said...

My aunt in law came to visit-- she had read his book and was down 60 pounds. I was shocked and amazed. This woman who had always limped was up and down off the floor (because she could!!!) He's on Twitter btw-- doesn't tweet much but worth the follow.

I have not read his book in but in my years of maintenance now I have come to realize that it does get easier. It just takes TIME. It takes time for new habits to become your new normal. It takes time for your body to readjust... the physiology of this process is one that I don't think people give much credit too sadly. I'm working on becoming an RD and all the SCIENCE I have had to study has only reinforced my belief that it takes time to physically change. It's a mental battle while this happens because our bodies are programmed not only by years of evolution but also by a lifetime of bad habits....

You can do this-- sticking with it over and over is the key. I often say it is what we do when when don;t have the mojo that makes the biggest difference. Hanging on by the skin of our teeth sometimes is all we've got but it's far better than resetting our biological weightloss clock over and over again.

Happy for you and your ah-ha moment!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good post - you have a way with words. Thank you.

Jill said...

Thank you for this post! It really hit a chord with me and I am going to order the book today! Ironically I wrote a post on my blog today about stopping a binge. This post could not have come at a more perfect time for me! Thank you for the inspiration!!!

Thomas said...

I actually never read the book but a friends mother did. She actually was able to change her ways and lost over 24lbs. I don't know if it was the book or realization itself.

Madame: The Journey said...

I've been able to curtail my overreating, but am really interested in reading that book. Seems very insightful.

Anonymous said...

I read that book this spring on a flight home from Seattle. It is an awakening to see how much money the food industry spends on our eating habits...and how our eating habits become trained by the foods we eat that are pre-packaged and prepared by the food industry! It reinforces the idea of eating "clean" and helps me want to make more simple food choices.

Lori said...

I have had those same type thoughts - like "I'll be glad when I can eat 'x' again" or "as much as I want..."

I'm glad to know that is normal!

Dillypoo said...

You always seem to find just the right words. You are awesome!

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Norway, way fewer of the people were fat. And it wasn't because the fast food and crap wasn't available: it was. And people are larger there now than they used to be. However, fast food, chips, chocolate, twinkies...they were all taxed. They cost more than anything else. Those companies didn't have the same lobbying power as they do in the states, and quite frankly, when the state pays for healthcare, they seem to care more about public health...because it hits them in the pocket book if people are unhealthy.
It is good to have an awareness of our environment and how it prompts us to overeat, or to eat certain things. Another site I found very helpful was the NYT "What the World Eats."

Dawn said...

I used to binge like this...I totally recognise the thinking that says...I'm going to buy this and have that, next binge mmmmmm.
I didn't stop doing it in any knowledgeable way. I stopped binging and didn't have a single binge, not one. AT MY FATTEST. I spent about 18 months just eating with the family, neither gaining, nor losing never binging. Since December I've been on a diet and lost 5 sizes so far and I've never reverted to the now very old binge behaviour. I never understood why or how this happened. it just did. From your post I realise I may have written over the binge behaviour with new behaviour. it feels like it makes a lot of sense to me. I'm glad to be rid of binging, hopefully forever.

Anonymous said...

This must be on most everyone's mind today. I wrote about it too, but not nearly as well. I had not thought about those little fantasy binges I have. Oh the many iterations of a binge. How elaborate the schemes.

And yea, your blog DOES help. Oh buddy does it ever.

Anonymous said...

The book has passed across my desk but I have not read it. I fondly remember the nights of binge shopping trips. I don't fondly remember the eating of the items but the anticipation was addictive.