Never eat more than you can lift.
~ Miss Piggy
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.
~ Luciano Pavarotti,
One Corpse Too Many
TODAY on TV
28 April 2004
Ive been thinking about a note I typed for the psychiatrist yesterday.
His work is less actual therapy and more medication management, though he does some therapy as well. Most his his patients are people who are seeing psychologists or medical doctors and who have been determined to need antidepressants or antipsychotic medications. They see the psychiatrist every month or six weeks or something like that. He does an interview to see how things are going, checks the levels of their medications, determines whether they are working or not, renews their prescriptions and sends them back to their therapists for the actual talk-therapy part of their treatment.
There are very few patients whom he actually sees for weekly or biweekly therapy sessions. Those patients are people Ive come to know quite well through the years because their names pop up over and over again on the weekly dictation.
But there are more new or infrequent patients than regulars, and yesterday there was a new patient who was referred to him to check her medication and determine if she was on the right combination of drugs.
In her list of drugs was one that she had been taking for some time and he questioned it, saying that it "... probably doesnt do much because her eating is more a means of anxiety reduction rather than as the result of true appetite."
Here was a patient I could identify with.
Youd think that someone who has been struggling with weight for most of her life would have a very clear understanding of compulsive eating, comfort eating, eating to reduce anxiety, and all the other non-hunger reasons why we eat, but I dont. I just know that it applies to me.
There was a time, decades ago, when I tried an over the counter diet drug (it was probably one of those that has now been linked to heart problems, since sooner or later they find something harmful in all of these medications, it seems!). The ads all made glowing promises of the help with appetite suppressant.
It was a dismal failure.
I was very disappointed, but as I began to examine me, I began to understand that my eating rarely has anything to do with hunger. Oh sure, when you get up in the morning after 12 hours of no food, there is hunger. If youve been riding in the car all day without a snack, sure there are hunger pangs, but in the normal day, my body doesnt understand true "hunger."
I have been, throughout my life, someone who responds to anything negative by eating. I eat when Im stressed, eat when Im depressed, eat when Im nervous, eat when Im upset. (I even eat to suppress nausea--how weird is that!)
When you eat for all sorts of reason unrelated to hunger, your body loses the ability to understand true hunger. I can be absolutely stuffed with food after a big dinner and find myself famished an hour later (and this is not a joke about Chinese food!)
I dont know how to describe it except to say that its like theres a hole in your soul that you keep trying to fill. Your brain sometimes understands that you cant possibly be really hungry, and yet you keep eating.
Sometimes its just mouth hunger. Looking for that elusive taste that you cant describe and cant quite achieve (no matter how much See's candy you eat, it's not going to taste like it did when you were a kid because they've changed their recipe--but I keep trying)....or that taste that was so good you have to have more, no matter how full you are.
Sometimes there is such a deep hole in your soul that you find yourself eating anything you can grab and dont really even realize youre eating until you suddenly look down and discover that half a loaf of bread is gone and you can hardly walk, youre so stuffed, yet you don't really remember putting it in your mouth.
A hunger like this responds to trigger foods. They are hair-triggers. A fleeting thought passing through your head is enough to send you into the kitchen "grazing."
I truly understand why alcoholics drink and I understand the saying that "one drink is too many and ten drinks isnt enough."
With every "diet" (or "eating plan" or whatever euphimism I choose to call it this time) I begin, the first week is the hardest. Thats the week when the system is getting cleansed of all those triggers. Theyre all still there, of course, but after a week it seems that the urges subside significantly. Broccoli becomes a treat. A dinner without salad and vegetables seems incomplete. The brain begins to act normal again.
But let those triggers go hog wild again (an appropriately descriptive phrase!) and all those good habits go out the window in a flash. I went to get an apple out of the vegetable bin today and realized that I hadnt opened the bin in over a week.
Its kind of a "which comes first, the chicken or the egg" scenario. Do I feel wonderful because I am eating right or am I eating right because life is going so well? Conversely, does life feel like it's fallen apart, so I find I'm eating all the wrong stuff, or am I depressed because I'm making such bad food choices? Or are both scenarios a combination of both?
Ive tried to understand it over the years, in an attempt to control it, but when Im eating well, I dont need to control anything, and when Im not eating well, I dont care enough about myself to want to try!
It becomes a dieting mobius strip and its hard to know how to get off. After all these years, I guess Ive accepted that Im never going to conquer it. Or maybe even understand it.