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.

1 comment:

Marlene Affeld said...

Thanks for your focus on an addiction we all ignore - it is a struggle. Wishing you well. Keep posting.