Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Male Dysmorphic Disorder

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The disadvantage of working in the mental health field is that all my colleagues like to diagnose each other....to label whatever minor or major weirdness in an effort to hone one's clinical skills and alleviate boredom during slow periods at work. One such co-worker suggested that I may be suffering from a dysmorphic disorder; more commonly known as an eating disorder due to a false self image of one's own body.

Well hell........as if I don't have enough to worry about.

I really don't think I have an eating disorder. Sure, I like food but the tendency to overeat and eat the wrong foods don't come from any deep seated psychological trauma, just bad habits. Though I often feel guilty if I've overindulged, I've certainly never contemplated purging as a means of canceling out a big pig out. I hate vomiting. Thinking about it makes me want to..well..vomit.

I also don't believe I have a faulty self image of myself. I think I'm fat but I know that I'm not near the gut dragging size of many men my age. I spent some time in the courthouse yesterday doing what I do most times when I'm summoned to testify about a case; sit in the hallway and wait, and wait, and wait. While waiting I was noticing all the lawyers scurrying to and fro with enormous bellies protruding like cowcatchers on locomotives. Even cops, who I assumed must keep some level of fitness for their jobs, looked like they were about to give birth to twins. I loved it because it made the self image I had of my body soar.

So what do I want? To be like the photo above?

Not really. I just want to have a flattened stomach. A defined chest and arms. Legs too would be nice. I want to wear clothing because I like them rather to hide my body. I want to be slimmer so that I can be more active. I want to be healthier so that I can live longer. As my role model and hero Terry says, "I want to extend my best if used by date".

I'm pretty sure that the guy at work is wrong about his diagnosis of my mental disorder. At least that's what the voices are telling me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Wasn't Always Fat

Lately I've been thinking about being fat and how that transformation happened while I wasn't paying any attention. Being fat is still a relatively unexplored country for me. I use to be thin. Scrawny, as a matter of fact.

I was the stereotypical 98-pound weakling for a good deal of my puberty. Right about the time of 17, I hit 120 pounds and stayed at that weight for over a decade. It was frustrating. No matter what I ate or what I did....my weight stayed a rock solid 120.

So I quit worrying about it. I ate whatever I wanted with the confidence that it would have no effect. I slowed down and pursued more sedentary activities with the thought that exercise would do nothing but make me sore. Then....little by little...year after year....calories and gravity started to do it's magic around my body's mid-section. Being nuevo fat as opposed to being a big guy in the first place, my fat is not distributed evenly. I'm not portly. I'm not chubby. I'm certainly not jolly about my body. I have a hanging gut that my frame is having difficulty supporting. The type of fat that I am actually hurts....and that pain holds me back in efforts to get back the body I dimly remember.

It truly sucks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Imagine that you sit down for breakfast one fine morning to a heaping bowl of about 46 sugar cubes. It would probably make even the least health conscious among us gag with that much sweetness all at once. Yet, this is about how much sugar a lot of us will eat during the day.

Now, imagine two 1 lb bags of sugar plopped on your table and being told that it's part of your diet for the week. Think you would start to get an idea of why it's difficult to lose weight and stave off diabetes?

Imagine up to 150 of those one pound bags each and every year.

It's easy to let sugar slip into our diet. There is sugar in everything. Lots of foods have sugars in them naturally..but food manufacturers aren't content to leave well enough alone and dump more in the form of syrups to make it more tasty, therefore attractive, so as to make money. You can't even get away with foods that declare "low sugar or no sugar added" since the alternative is artificial sweeteners that either have the same effect on your body or may do far worse damage in the long run.

It even appears that the more "healthy" a particular food product is touted as being, the more sugar it has. I was looking around in the grocery yesterday for some breakfast bars that I could slip into my desk for a quick meal when needed. All the healthy and diet bars had a sugar content roughly twice as much as a Snickers candy bar....and I'm willing to bet a Snickers would taste better, it would certainly be cheaper. It is an ongoing struggle to find foods that are convenient and cheap without being loaded with sugar.

Or sodium....but don't get me started on that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Emotional Eating

A drug is typically defined as a substance that produces a metabolic change in the body. Sometimes those changes affect the chemistry in our brains and can alter our mood. That's why alcohol has been so popular since humans first stumbled across it; despite the fact that it really tastes downright nasty. Don't give me any of that connoisseur crap about fine wines and beers...it's all flavorings to mask the fact that you are drinking spoiled grapes and grains. People drink for the effect of alcohol, period, and that effect is that it makes you feel good. The trap many people find themselves in is using alcohol to feel good, then using it not to feel bad, then using it whenever they do feel bad because they seem to feel bad pretty much all the time.

It's very much the same with food. Our brains have been hardwired by evolution to respond in a positive manner when we eat. When we have stress or feel lousy, our brains send out signals to do something to fix the problem. The brain doesn't really know the difference between the discomfort of having your leg bitten off by a saber toothed lion or anxiety of a boss chewing out your ass at work. All the brain knows is that it is uncomfortable...and the brain is all about comfort.

Of course, what's more comforting than eating? Your mouth is engaged. Your stomach is getting filled. Your brain is happy....and when your brain is happy, so are you.

Yet we slip oh so easily into the same trap with all other drugs. Over the years, you find yourself eating as a response to any emotion. We no longer eat because we are hungry. We eat as a coping mechanism.

We get fat.

We feel depressed about being fat.

So we eat because we are depressed.

We get fatter.

One hell of a merry-go-round that some of us ride trying to figure how to get off. The only way I have come up with is to take a pause before I go after that donut, or bag of chips, or soda....and ask myself why I am eating. Usually, I come up the answer that I'm bored or stressed. Hardly ever is it because I am actually hungry.

The pisser is that one cannot quit eating like we would tell an alcoholic or crack addict to quit using their drug of abuse. Still, it is fairly accepted theory in addiction treatment that it's not the drug that causes our addiction but a developed mindset that links emotion to the use of a drug. Addicts are not treated by simply taking away their drug but by helping them change the way they think.

No easy task...whether it be heroin or nachos.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Know How to Cook

strips of lean pork
greeen and red pepper
red cabbage
water chestnut
snow pea pod
daikon radish
...over a bed of rice

with a bit of hot sauce, of course

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Duper Bowl

I've never been able to get worked up about Super Bowl Sundays. My friends think that I'm just kidding when they ask me "which team I'm rooting for" and I reply that I don't even know who is playing. I find watching football on TV to be rather boring. In fact, watching just about any sport on TV pretty much fails to hold my interest. There is something intrinsically weird about sitting on one's rear end and shoveling junk food down one's throat while watching athletes perform. Going to a game at a stadium is a bit different; it's more of an event and I can appreciate the entertainment value though it wears thin for me after an hour or so.

I actually wish I did like watching sports on TV. I would always have something to watch. My cable has about a dozen channels with some type of football game going on 24/7.

But maybe that would be a bad thing. Can I afford to spend every evening and day-off plopped in front of the tube watching athletes rather than trying to become one?