Posts Tagged ‘Disordered Eating’

What is conditioning, and how does it affect our lives?

It has been far, far too long since I’ve written a post on the likes of Ron Weasley.  Where is the fire and brimstone?  Where are the charging hordes?  Where are the Kirbys, the Spocks, and the Sonic and Tales?  We all need a little bit of Patton in our lives, and I’ve been remiss in going astray.  So I want to talk first about a very important psychological phenomenon, and second about it’s implications for contemporary lives.


Everyone and their grandma has heard of Ivan Pavlov.  But he was such an important man, and his ideas so profoundly impacted psychology, that he merits a recap.

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist in the late 1800s.  He was a medical researcher, and he made important strides both in organ physiology and in the functioning of the nervous system.  He was particularly interested in the idea of “reflexes,” which is what brought him to his most famous works.

Pavlov was investigating the salivary response to foods when he happened upon a phenomenon now known as classical conditioning. What he found was that dogs salivated not just at the sight of food, but also at the occurrence of “food is coming” signals.  First, the dogs responded only to the food itself.  Then, after having food delivered with the sound of a bell for a certain period of time, the dogs began salivating at the sound of the bell.  Even without food present, the dogs salivated.  They had been conditioned to salivate, and no amount of mental “no no no” would stop the saliva from coming.

What does this mean for human beings?

This means that we can condition responses to just about anything.  Repeat a certain event with a stimuli for a certain amount of time– say, dinner (the event) at six o’clock (the stimuli) or food (again, the event) when I see a Starbucks (again, the stimuli)– we come to expect these things.   Naps in the afternoon, workouts in the morning, the same drinks every time we hang out with the same friends…

Moreover, it is not just a psychological expectation, but a physiological expectation.  I had a professor in college prove this to us.   For two months he would ring a bell then submerge his arm under hot water.  His arm would turn red.   At the end of two months, he rang the bell, without submerging his arm, and his blood vessels opened up, and his arm turned red.  Make no mistakes about it.  Classical conditioning is a very, very real thing.

We also have things called “habits” which are very similar to conditioned responses, only less specific and less strong.   Both are inherent parts of our every day lives.  Both are powerful, and both are hard things to break.

A lot of what we do in life is ruled by habit.  Habit makes things easier.  I always sit in the same seat in class, I eat a lot of the same foods, and I often eat at the same times.  Cool.  These are all helpful things.  But I also have some nasty habits.  I eat every time I come home.  Sometimes this act is so ingrained and subconscious that I have consumed an entire chicken leg before I even know I have food in my mouth.  Yikes.   Some other bad habits I have had in my life are eating while I talk to my mom, walking down the “bad” aisles of grocery stores, and pulling over every time I see a sweet potato cart.  These were subconscious, powerful, and–don’t forget–physiological compulsions.  They ruled my behavior.


It’s not all BAD NEWS BEARS for team humanity, however.  And why not?

Because as easily as we are conditioned to bad habits, we are broken of them. Without the hot water my professor’s arm still turned red, but each day afterwards, when the stimuli of the bell was rung, but the result of the hot water was absent, his arm got a little bit less red.  Within two weeks it didn’t happen at all, and he felt no difference.   He was, by then, conditioned to the new order of things, which was: ring bell, have nothing happen.  Cool!   We can be programmed to respond, but we can also be re-programmed, or de-programmed, to have different responses.

So if I forcibly stop myself from walking to the refrigerator the next time I go home, I will be de-facto starting the de-conditioning process.  Each time I do that it takes me further down that road.  This process is difficult as hell, especially at first, but each time gets easier and easier.  I can build up momentum in this way.  The more and more time we spend actively denying a bad habit, the easier and easier it becomes to let go.

How does this relate to Mr. Weasley?

Well.   It’s about being the hero of your own life. It’s about recognizing your bad habits, and about owning up to them, and facing them dead on.  It’s about being honest with yourself, and determined, and about taking action.  In a lot of ways, it boils down to bravery.  Here, we have the science to back us up.  We know what the road is going to be like.  We know it’s tough, but we also know that it gets easier over time.  We know that we have conditioned ourselves to act a certain way, but we also know that we can de-condition that behavior.   The first time you get yourself past the McDonald’s without pulling over, it’s an enormous struggle, but it’s also a momentous victory.  Huzzah!  And the second time, it’s still a struggle, but it’s yet another victory.  Bad habits suck.  Let’s be real.  But letting them rule your life and perpetuate disordered eating is even more horrific.  Be a Ron Weasley.  Be an Odysseus.  Be Mufasa.  Whatever.  Whoever.  Use every tool you have at your disposal to improve your life, then commit, and do it, god damnit.

Easy Peasy.  Pavlov says so, and he was the man.


06 2011

Complete introductory archives: ~250 posts

I posted a Paleo Archive post about a week ago.   The post covered a lot of important things, but it skimmed over a lot, too.  Lame.   Here, I am trying to mend those gaps.

That original archive provided diverse reading material on why one should eat a paleo-type diet.  It was, however, even at 120 links, brief.    Missing information included dairy, exercise, metabolic regulation, sleep, and, most importantly, diseases of civilization.  Because of that, I have collected information in those gap areas and added them to the archive.  What follows here is a collection of 250 + posts on a variety of topics, hopefully with little overlap, that present a diverse and compelling case for the marriage of evolutionary science and diet.

Coming after this post, in a few days, will be another archive.  This one will be the “Advanced” archive.  Instead of being selected to convince, these posts have been selected instead to prod, question, and provide diverse perspectives.  The topics covered include: how toxic really are grains, fructose, and dairy?, how does one lose weight?, do we supplement?, what are the most important metabolic regulators?, what is a macronutrient, and what sort of ratios should we be eating?, and : what do “primitive” or non-SAD cultures teach us about human health?   It will also include some more technical discussion of phenomenon mentioned in the introductory archive.  This is an archive designed for someone invested in the nuances of paleo diets and science, and will hopefully be as comprehensive as the current zeitgeist actually is.  It will, in addition, evolve over time.

Following that archive will be one regarding the benefits, cautions and recommendations regarding specific foods.  I also foresee an archive specific to exercise, and perhaps another archive specific to paleosphere commentary re: contemporary culture, medicine, and science.  I am also contemplating success stories.  I will never do recipes, ever, because that would be aggressively redundant.  I am a counter and an organizer and a bit manic and a bit OCD, which makes a brain perfect for archiving.  I fear I may be doing this for a long time.

You will note, reading below, that many posts belong in more than one category.  Often, I just chose.  Occasionally I permitted overlap and double posted.  I also found it difficult to make divisions at all.  The categories I ended up with may not have been the wisest choices, but I did what I could.   They follow and are listed in no specific order.

Table of contents:


Specific Diseases and Conditions


Gut, diet, and autoimmune disease



Skin and Acne

Women’s health

Testosterone and men’s health

Health limitations of a vegetarian diet

Allergies and food intolerances

Fructose and Sugar



Inflammation, PUFA and disease

Mental health


Weight loss

Carbs are okay



Disordered eating

Vitamin D

Intermittent fasting and Calorie restriction

Grass fed versus grain fed


China Study

Sustainability Concerns



Exercise and body fat

The Menstrual cycle and exercise metabolism, Part II

The evolutionarily correct guide to running

Can endurance exercise promote cancer?

Specific Diseases and conditions

A cure for migraines?

Ketogenic diet for NBIA (Neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation)

An osteoarthritis recovery story

Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and osteoporosis reprise

Curing arthritis and depression with diet and supplementation

Red meat and strokes

Tooth decay reversal diet

Does Choline deficiency contribute to fatty liver in humans?

Cirrhosis and fructose

Cirrhosis and corn oil

Cirrhosis and fish oil

Why does inflammation cause anemia?

Anemia and exercise

Chronic obstruction pulmonary disease

Malocclusion: Disease of Civilization: Part IX

Ischemic heart attacks: Disease of Civilization

The coronary heart disease epidemic

Peripheral versus ectopic fat: implications for diabetes, your liver, and other diseases

The Vanderbilt protocol for multiple sclerosis

Cardiac disease and adiponectin

Fructose intake and kidney stones

Bowel disease part III: Healing through nutrition

Bone density assessment

Bone disease and lipids

Non-alcoholic fatty lipid disease

Coronary artery disease and vitamin D

Familial Hypercholesterolaemia

Parkinson’s disease

Rheumatoid arthritis and fasting

Rheumatoid arthritis and kidney stones

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Gall stones





Painful joints

Varicose veins

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Acid reflux: a red flag


Diet and recovery from chronic disease


High cancer risk if you’re fat

Omega 3s, Angiogenesis, and Cancer, Part II

Skin texture, cancer, and polyunsaturated (omega) fat

Are high fat, high cholesterol diets linked to breast cancer?

Cancer in non-industrialized cultures

Cancer rates among the Inuit

Cancer and the immune system

Prostate cancer paradox

Cancer and ketones

Skin cancer

Colorectal cancer and cholesterol

A holistic approach to cancer

How to protect yourself against cancer with food

Sunlight and melanoma

Glucose, lactate and cancer

Glycemic load and breast cancer

Could fructose promote cancer?

Carnosine, colons, and cancer

Fruit and vegetables and cancer risk

Omega 6 speeds up cancer development

Vitamin D and cancer

How to cause a (skin) cancer epidemic

DHA and Angiogenesis: the bottom line

Body mass index and cancer deaths in various US states

Your gut, diet, and autoimmune disease:

9 Steps to perfect health part 5: HEAL YOUR GUT

Autoimmune disease and ancestral diet trials

The gut-brain-skin axis

Is your gut leaky?

Gut flora and body composition

Stress and your gut

What’s up with your gut?  Beneficial bacteria, good digestive health, and your immune system

Conquering autoimmune disease by deleting grains

How to restore digestive health

The leaky gut

The human colon in evolution series


The diabetes epidemic

Why low carb for diabetes: a summary

The paleolithic diet for diabetes: clinical trial (part IV)

Why a ketogenic (low carb) diet reverses kidney damage in type I and type II diabetics

Diabetes I and II versus Diet

Diabetes and hunger

PaNu and type II diabetes

Diabetes and heart failure

Fat storage in pancreas and in insulin-sensitive tissues in development of type II diabetes

Mechanisms linking obesity to insulin resistance and type II diabetes

Lipotoxicity or tired pancreas? Abnormal fat deposition as possible precursor to type II diabetes

Diabetes update


The big sleep

Getting better sleep

Sleep and the circadian rhythm

Poor sleep may make you and your liver fat

Frequent sleep disruption increases risk of kidney and heart disease

Is 8 uninterrupted hours flawed conventional wisdom?

17 ways to improve your sleep

Sound cues and circadian rhythms

Sleep and oxidative stress

How light affects our sleep

Sleep and the immune system

Getting over the afternoon slump

F Lux software to make your life better

Skin and acne

Loren Cordain’s dietary cure for acne (ebook purchase and reviews)

The gut-brain-skin axis

Acne relief: fish oil and the paleo diet

Acne: disease of civilization

Weston A Price on Acne

Age spots

Dry skin

Women’s health/hormones

Dietary fat and ovarian cancer

What is PCOS?


Intermittent fasting for hypothyroidism

Meat is medicine: PCOS and female infertility

Micronutrient deficiency: an over-looked cause of hypothyroidism

Omega 6 fats supress thyroid signalling

PCOS and Low carb: is pregnancy a side effect?

How to grow a healthy baby

Maternal diet and heart development

Maternal diet effects offspring preferences

But Dad’s diet counts too

High fat diet and fertility

Gluten, thyroid, and autoimmunity

The contraceptive pill: if we don’t talk about it, it’ll all be OK?

Women’s set points

Fatty liver as a cause of PCOS?

Evolutionary disconnect and earlier puberty

MUST READ: Wise choices, healthy bodies: Diet for the prevention of women’s diseases

Natural PMS relief

Thyroid and Vitamin D Continued

Menstrual cramps

PCOS – Weston A Price


Thyroid and iodine

Thyroid basic physiology


Testosterone: not so manly after all?

Testosterone, Men’s health

The testosterone report: a young man’s trial and success

Protein-driven Lust

How to naturally increase testosterone

How to build muscle

The holistic treatment of men’s diseases

Soy: playing with poison

The health limitations of a vegetarian diet:

Vegetarian nutrient deficiencies

Vegetarianism: what the science tells us

Real Health Debate: Richard Nikoley debates paleo against vegetarian advocates

Carnosine: the latest uh oh for vegans and vegetarians

Latest uh oh for vegans and vegetarians: Creatine

More truth about raw vegan diets

Butter versus Margarine

Meat, sleeping babies, vitamin B12, and why eating meat is a must for mothers

Eat meat for better reproductive health

How many vegetables per day?  Probably not as many as you think.

Vitamin K2 and MK4:  essential nutrients only found in animal fats

Fat soluble Vitamin Musings

Diets high in fish and meat linked to stronger bones

Nutrient breakdown and speculation of 30 bananas a day vegan advocate

Plants and plant compounds are not essential or magic

This link contains more than a dozen links to academic articles on the B12 risks of a vegetarian diet

Allergies and food intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances reveal the true human diet

Histamine intolerances

Food hypersensitivity: where does it start?

Beef allergies? Part II

Allergies and hay fever

What can modern toxicology tell us about food toxins and intolerances?

The baffling rise in seasonal allergies: obesity or global warming?

Fructose and sugar concerns:

Fructose and gout

Sugar: The Bitter Truth, a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig

Commentary re: Lustig’s lecture

There is no such thing as a macronutrient: why not all carbohydrates are equal

Studies suggest fructose is uniquely fattening

Fructose’s role in fatty liver disease

Fructose increases vulnerability to oxidative stress

Could fructose promote cancer?

Hepatic insulin resistance

Fructose makes bellies fat

Fructose, vitamin D, and calcium

When glucose makes a mess

A diet high in sugar can cause health damage even when a person is not overweight


How dairy entered the human diet

Dairy and its effects on insulin secretion

Mark Sisson’s definitive guide to dairy

Devil in the milk

Dairy fat and diabetes

Casein versus gluten

Why grains are bad:

Why grains are bad, or how to keep feces out of your bloodstream, a chapter out of Robb Wolf’s book: The Paleo Solution

The argument against cereal grains

Wheat-germ agglutinin: It isn’t all about gluten

Meat versus wheat: statistics from the China Study

Gluten and gall bladders

Gluten sensitivity: why celiac is the tip of the iceberg

Celiac and fat-soluble vitamins

The dangers of wheat

Can gluten contribute to irritable bowel syndrome?

Gluten, thyroid, and autoimmunity

Gluten intolerance is a brain problem

Gluten-free January data analysis: health effects of a gluten-free trial

Why wheat is a concealed cause of many diseases Part III

Lactose intolerance: often a result of wheat derived bowel disease

The China Study: Wheat flour, rice, and cardiovascular disease

A new “China study” links wheat with weight gain

Inflammation, omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fats, and disease:

Allergy, asthma, and autoimmunity start the same way

PUFA and the brain

Why omega 6 fats and inflammation leads to brain deterioration and Alzheimer’s

The case against omega 6s

Omega fats and cardiovascular disease

Omega 3s, Angiogenesis, and Cancer, Part II

Omega 3 fatty acids for muscle growth: promising potential

US Omga 6 and omega 3 consumption over the last 100 years

Have seed oils caused a multigenerational obesity epidemic?

Corn oil and cancer: reality strikes again

Skin texture, cancer, and polyunsaturated (omega) fat

Mark Sisson’s Definitive guide to fats

A comprehensive list of omega 6 and omega 3 content of different foods.

Perilous and precious: understanding PUFA

Mental health:

Anxiety, bipolar, mental health and diet

Gluten: it messes with your head

Dietary protein and serotonin

Depression, anxiety, obesity

Schizophrenia and gluten

Carbs are bad news for the brain (Alzheimer’s)

Diet and violence

ADHD, mood dysregulation, and micronutrients

Food elimination diet and ADHD

ADHD and omega 3

More on wheat and serious mental illness

How to prevent spending the last ten years of your life in a diaper and wheelchair

Autism and ketogenic diets

Magnesium and the brain

Metals and the mind

Moods and the immune system

Nutrition and mental development

Why a paleo diet increases longevity:

Paleo primates live longer, live healthier

The life expectancy of hunter-gatherers

Paleo life expectancy

The role of lean muscle mass and organ reserve in aging

High animal protein diet links to increased longevity

Living healthier longer: The Lipid Hypothesis has Officially Failed: Part II

Glucose restriction increases lifespan of human cells

How insulin controls aging

Intermittent fasting prolongs life in mammals

Life extension: part II

Weight loss:

17 reasons you’re not losing weight

Get real, get motivated

The body fat setpoint: how to change it

Why we get fat: food toxins

What is the best exercise for fat loss? Part V

The Perfect Health Diet for Weight Loss

Food reward: a dominant factor in obesity, part I

Fasting insulin and weight loss

Why “heart healthy” grains make us fat

Why snacking makes us both weak and fat

Kurt Harris’s How to lose weight

Where are the fat carnivores?

The secret benefits of being lean: Leangains

How lean should one be?

Growth hormone, insulin resistance, and body fat accumulation

Stephen Guyenet’s recent thoughts on carbohydrate and reward

Carb Sane Blog

But why carbohydrates are not the devil, either:

Are carbs the enemy?

There is no such thing as a macronutrient: why not all carbohydrates are equal

Views on insulin and obesity

Dangers of zero carb diets: can there be a carbohydrate deficiency?

Hunter-gatherer macronutrient ratios: More data

Estimates of nutrients and fatty acids in East African paleolithic diets: less hunting, more gathering?

Who said paleolithic diets had high fat percentages?

Cholesterol and heart disease, or, surprise, why everything conventional wisdom told you was wrong, again:

Meta-analysis finds no evidence that saturated fat promotes heart disease

Does dietary fat increase cholesterol or promote heart disease?

Statins and the cholesterol hypothesis, part I

Can a statin neutralize the cardiovascular risk of unhealthy dietary choices?

Dirty little secrets of the fat-heart hypothesis

Coronary heart disease: possible culprits part II

The Choline Smackdown (why you should save your liver and eat cholesterol containing foods) and again here, this time emphasizing the high nutrient density of a cholesterol-rich diet

When your brain is hungry for cholesterol

The diet-heart hypothesis, oxidized LDL, part II

The China Study: Cholesterol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease


The new science of stress and stress resistance

Worms and stress

15 ways to fight stress

Cortisol, stress, excessive gluconeogenesis, and visceral fat accumulation

Cortisol response to stress is much more elevated with carbohydrate intake than with protein or fat

Disordered Eating

Proof that Orthorexia exists

Neurobiology of binge eating

Therapy versus life

Why did we evolve a taste for sweetness?

Sugar addiction

Sugar is addictive

Hyperinsulinemia and anorexia?

Food addiction: harder to kick than cocaine?

Carb junkies?

Rats binge on pure fat but escape with sanity in tact

You are how you eat

Feel deprived?  Throw a hearty fuck you at American culture

Curbing physiological drivers of binge eating with a paleo diet

Vitamin D

Everyone needs sunlight.  I’ll give you one link and let it lie.

Intra serum 25 D level variations

Vitamin D via insolation: the only route in the north

Vitamin D home testing

Alzheimer’s and vitamin D

Vitamin D and the kidney

H1N1 Vitamin D3 and innate immunity

Vitamin D and the colon

Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction

Check out Leangains, possibly the BEST IF guide

What happens to your body when you fast?

Intermittent fasting prolongs life in mammals

Health benefits to intermittent fasting

How to intermittent fast

Intermittent fasting, set point, and leptin

Top ten fasting myths debunked

Intermittent fasting and infrequent meals: two meals a day

What I eat while fasting

Who shouldn’t try fasting?

Muscle loss and short term fasting

Intermittent fasting and reduced inflammation

The China Study: Does calorie restriction increase longevity?

Calorie restriction: partial restoration, not enhancement

Calorie restricted monkeys part II

Grass-fed versus grain-fed

The practically paleo guide to conventional meat

Low omega 6 to 3 ratio: grain fed beef or industrial oils?

Wild versus grass versus grain fed ruminants

More on grass-fed bison

Grass fed dieters see improved platelets, fatty acid profiles

The differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef

Why fiber may not be all that good for you after all:

Fiber Menace

Dietary fiber and mineral availability

Colorectal cancer and fiber

The human colon and evolution, part III

The statistical debunking of the China Study:

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

The China Study: a thorough and diverse series of statistical analyses

Meat Versus Wheat: the China study

Sustainability concerns:

Vegetarian Myth review

Meat: A benign Extravagance review

Meat is medicine: how cows are helping revive desert ecosystems in Africa

Kurt Harris’s manifesto for diet and for life:

Paleo 2.0





05 2011

Paleo Success Part 3 of millions

Pamela is an enormously beautiful 23 year old soul from Michigan who rocks my world.  She’s a humor-writer, so she writes a blog on cool stuff and smart things she thinks.  She has just started paleo and is writing a series of posts on her journey.  What I love about it is that she’s totally geeked on her progress, but also realistic about the way it’s changing her relationship with food.   Like Pam, I admit, too, that my “problems” with sugar, cravings, and overeating didn’t really get going until I got thin/healthy/paleo.    I think that has a lot to do with (outside of the biology of cravings) drastic dietary change, stupid norms, and deprivation in our society of wicked abundance.

In any case.   With great care, awareness, and kick ass passion, Pam is happy and healthy and moving forward like a champion.


04 2011

Dopamine signalling findings: Support for a physiological theory of disordered eating and motivation to keep on keepin’ on

Today I woke up to a really awesome, generous surprise in my inbox.   One of my best friends, we’ll call him Dan, recently attended a lecture by Frank Guido, a neuroscientist at the University at Denver.  Dan took great notes, and he took enormously gracious initiative to type them up and send them to me.  And now I am going to pass them along to you.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the details of any of Guido’s studies.  All I’ve got are the take-aways.   So I’m going to put a little bit of faith in Guido’s science (epistemologists say science is a faith anyway) and allow this awesome gift to inform my life and methods.


Guido’s talk focused on dopamine level comparisons between anorexic, bulimic, and obese patients.  Recall that dopamine is a pleasure hormone, stimulated by the act of fulfilling survival needs.  This is (partly) why we eat, and (partly) why we have sex, and all of those other very basic, very human, very animal things.  One thing that’s both fascinating and important to note is that dopamine, while pleasurable, is associated primarily with survival, and not with pleasure.  Therefore, with dopamine signalling, our bodies are trying to make us “healthy.”   They are doing what they can with the resources they have available.  They don’t want to make us have fun.  They want to fix us.  This, in my humble and highly uninformed opinion, supports the “set point” theory of weight loss.  Your body, for one reason or another, has a certain idea of what your “correct” body size is, and will adjust your dopamine regulation accordingly.   So what do you do with this information?  Maybe that means you want to allow yourself to put on a few pounds.  It could help you feel more satisfied.  Or maybe it means you can now more easily forgive yourself for your cravings.  Or perhaps you want to buckle down and fight anyway.   It’s your body, and your decision.


Anyway, first, Guido notes that Anorexic subjects generally have high dopamine levels in their cerebral spinal fluid.  This is because anorexic subjects “are good at delaying rewards,” and “have an elevated drive to avoid harm.”   Bulimic
subjects, on the other hand, have low dopamine levels in their cerebral spinal fluid.  This, according to Guido, correlates to bulimic subjects being “impulsive,” and “having reduced inhibition.”  Third, obese subjects experience lower and lower dopamine receptors the higher their BMI.  This suggests that our bodies give us less and less reward for eating if we are overweight.  This makes sense.  Also, according to Guido, obese subjects ” are also impulsive and poor inhibitors.”

Then Guido discusses his experiment.  In an fMRI, researchers measured dopamine responses to sweet flavors.
This is what they found:

Anorexia nervosa patients experience an increased dopamine response to sweet flavors. We can infer from this information that anorexic patients are hypersensitive to self-harm (i.e. weight change).  Their bodies give them high amounts of satiation for eating.   That’s quite enough!, says the sensitive patient.

Binge eating and obese patients have decreased dopamine responses to sweet flavors.  This means that they need more stimulation to feel satisfied. Binge eaters have developed a “food tolerance,” — much like we discussed before, with drug habituation.   (Read: Food addiction: harder to kick than cocaine?)  Moreover, the more frequently someone binged, the more dopamine they required to feel satisfaction.


Yikes.  So what do we conclude?

The more frequently someone binges, the lower his dopamine response.   Guido also notes that the more (calorie) restricted he is, the lower his dopamine response.  These facts mean that:

1)  If you severely calorie restrict or under-eat in any fashion, or are underweight according to your “set point,” your body is going to try to get you to eat more.   It will require you to eat more food to feel satisfied.  It will do this until you ingest the “proper” amount of calories or until you reach the “proper” weight.  Therefore, it is not necessarily your fault if you feel so restricted and so unsatisfied.  Your body might be veritably begging you to eat.

2)   Your body gives you less and less reward the more and more you binge.  This is because it is habituated to the behavior.  So what do you do about it?  You should binge less.  I KNOW!  CRAZY IDEA!  The thing is:  this motivates me to reach for food less often. It helps me stop.  Because if I don’t binge now, it’s going to make my life easier later.  And how nice would that be?    Every single time I refuse food it is going to get easier and easier to refuse, and my body will get more and more adjusted to my new eating habits.  I will begin to feel more satisfaction from a normal diet, and I won’t have to eat so much to feel satisfied.  Just like my body got conditioned to eating way too much, I can recondition my body to eat the proper amount of food.  All it takes is a first step, and as much diligence as I can muster throughout.

So keep on keepin’ on!  Each time you do a good food behavior you are making it easier to do it the next time.  If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.  For real.

Thanks Dan!


04 2011

Re-define yourself

Here’s another mental roadblock.  The thing about this one, though, is that we all face it, whether we know it or not.  And it goes like this:


What do I mean by “inertia”?  Inertia is a property of matter defined by resistance to changes in motion.   It means that cars don’t like stopping, boats don’t like turning, and planets like to keep going around the sun in their designated trajectories.   When used abstractly, however, inertia refers to all of the mental resistance we encounter when trying to do anything, ranging from trying to get a project done, to confronting an emotion, or to making personal changes.

The point of this post is that, as human beings, we don’t like change.  We resist it.  And often we don’t like challenges, so we resist those, too.  Often this is manifested in really obvious ways, such as my insistence on walking a block further to go to Family Mart (clearly superior!) instead of 7-11 (which is actually the same exact store as Family Mart).  Or perhaps: we all know people who have heard of the paleolithic diet (perhaps we’ve tried to convince them ourselves?) but just don’t want to give it the time of day.  Compelled by fear or inertia or both, friends and family members daily come up with some pretty nifty rationalizations that make their current course of action continue to be the best one in their own minds.  Whether it actually is or not is not the question.  The important thing here is the mental attitude, and the strong, almost irresistable impulse to never change.

This is a pretty well-known fact.  People don’t like change.  Why am I beating a dead horse?   Because I think it goes even deeper than that.

Sometimes we actively want change.  Sometimes we pursue it.  Sometimes we even achieve it.   We do this by making a conscious decision (not always!), by committing ourselves to new pathways, and by following through.  But it doesn’t always stick, and progress is really difficult, and one reason this is true is because we’re stuck in the same ideas of ourselves.
I’m currently pretty thin.  That happened about a year ago.  Up until that point, however, I battled weight loss and body image issues for eight years.  There were a lot of things going on, and I could probably write a book (have I already?) on them.  Yet one phenomenon was particularly vicious.  Every time I started gaining momentum, I up and threw it away. I pinched my thighs after a week or two of good eating and they felt different.  I noticed and this was so cool.  So naturally the first thing I did was walk into the pantry.  For a long time I wrote this off as my desire to “treat myself” for my progress, but after many years and deeper reflection I realized that my thoughts were far more twisted.  My body had changed, and that was weird.  I was in a place where I could be more confident, and that was weird, too.  Stefani (that’s my given name) is not hot.  Stefani is not thin.  Stefani is not confident.  These changes do not line up with who I am.   I need to prevent that change.  I need to put a little weight back on.

And I did it!  I swear to Hera I did this for years. It was never something I was conscious of.  Instead, this monster watched me from the deep folds of my subconscious, and every time I started getting somewhere reached out and dropped this huge rock of inertia (recall: resistance to change) on top of my progress.

I find myself wrestling with the same subconscious resistance to this day.  It’s like… we have this image of ourselves.  A physical image.  And we have this idea of ourselves, this mental, psychological, personality type thing.  And we don’t rock the boat.  Ever.   Whether it’s by other people or ourselves, our unconscious minds work really hard to preserve norms.  Everybody’s does.  It’s how we’re built.

Except it might be worse in people who are struggling.  Your resistance to change might be compounded by feelings of unworthiness. I often thought: “Stefani is not thin, pretty, or confident, therefore I need to restore the qualities that made her otherwise,” but it was much worse when I thought: “Stefani does not deserve to be thin, pretty, or confident, therefore I need to restore the qualities that made her otherwise.”     This is another reason that it is so, absolutely vital to love yourself. It is vital to forgive yourself.  And it is vital to realize that whatever you’re wrestling with is not your fault.  Only after practicing these self-loving mental habits can we dig ourselves out of the mental pits of unworth, and begin to really see progress in our physical, as well as mental, health.

That said, once we’re in decent mental condition and walking on the path of progress, we’ve got to safeguard against subconscious inertia.  We’ve got to break that mental mode.  We’ve got to be in charge of our emotions and our brains, and to make sure the riptide never pulls us back under.   Subconscious perceptions of ourselves are enormously powerful.   Recognizing that fact can help you re-define yourself, and make sure that that definition sticks.


04 2011

Break your bad thinking habits

A lot of this blog focuses on cultivating good habits and getting rid of the nasty ones.  We do this mostly by analyzing our behavior, by thinking up new strategies, and by moving forward with constant awareness.   Constant analysis and reevaluation is important.  I stand by that.

Sort of.

Because constant analysis also means that we spend a lot of time thinking.  About food. Why did I binge?  How can I recover?  Why do I feel bad about myself?  How do I turn that around?  We use our brains a lot – which I will never say is a bad thing — but in search of psychological freedom, we eventually have to learn how to plain old let go.

Sometimes, what we need is to use our brains less.

I’ve often entertained the idea that the healthiest relationship with food is defined by not thinking about food.  I find this to be more and more true over time.  I’ve talked with a lot of you who feel similarly.  If I’m not thinking about food, I’m not obsessing over it.  I’m being natural.  I’m being instinctive.  I’m being spontaneous.  And I’m being… well, free.   Most of us envy this state.  We see it as a distant goal. And, honestly, for as long as I’ve been wrestling with food and with these health/body image/diet issues, it’s continued to be a distant goal for me.

My point being: I have broken bad habits with the power of thought.  However, a lot of the mental anguish is still hanging around.  I feel deprived, I ache for foods, I hate my body for not being able to metabolize sweet potatoes without making me balloon… Moreover, I plan every day super carefully, strategizing the best way to maximize my enjoyment of food while still clinging on to self-esteem, worrying about being too hungry or not hungry enough… generally I feel fine, and I act fine, but on occasion… I want all of the thoughts… about food, about my body and about my worth to just fucking go away.

So, what now?

Just do it.

Stop your negative or obsessive thoughts.  Just– stop. Never let your brain go to a negative place.  When you feel it coming, derail it.  Distract it.  I find that a lot of the success I experience these days comes from my ability to shut off thoughts before they really get going.  Shut it off and walk away.  Don’t let yourself think about your last binge or your thighs or tomorrow’s food at all.  Promise yourself you can dwell on it later if you want, but for right now, you are in this very present moment, and you are being good and psychologically, and everything be damned if you’re going to let thoughts that are nothing but bad habits keep messing up your life.

Because they are habits.  We have conditioned ourselves to think certain ways about ourselves and the world just by a matter of practice.  You can try and think your way past your negative thoughts all you want, but when it comes down to it, you’re still obsessing over them.  Positivity is enormously important.  But it’s not the only way to play the game.   This is just like the “throw a towel over the mirror” strategy.  Don’t look.  Don’t think.  Distract yourself.  Say “no” fiercely and deny your brain the ease of old thought patterns.

Shutting down certain thought patterns helps me feel better, and it also helps me point blank stop eating and stop having cravings.  Is something coming on?  Am I about to get really bored and start grazing?   Have I just subconsciously walked into the kitchen?  Immediately I recognize the urge coming.  Nope!  Gone.  It’s like… here’s a good example. I used to think about dying when I went to sleep at night, and it gave me panic attacks.  Panic attacks are really unpleasant, so it became supremely important that I learn how to turn off that thought process. Now, when I see the thought of death coming– sort of by predicting the path of my future thoughts– I just force my brain to go in another direction.   So.  It’s hard.  It’s definitely hard.  But practice turning it off.   Say no and turn it around and think about something else you like.  Like sex!  Or men!  Or the novel you’re currently reading!  Anything.  I promise, I promise, I promise: take charge of your brain.  Deny it wallowing.  Exercise your will in this way. Decrease the amount of negative feelings you have, Liberate your brain for better thoughts, and recondition yourself to obsess less.

Sometimes I think keeping a leash on our brain is all that we really need to get through this.  The name of the game here is psychological freedom, so what we need is to be in control, and to only permit ourselves to think things we enjoy thinking.   This isn’t always the wisest strategy, since we do need to think through problems, but once resolved, we’ve just got to let them go.  A large percentage of my readership is composed of perfectionists.  Perfectionists tend to seek out weak spots and dwell on them, push themselves inordinately hard, and punish themselves unduly.   This is not the way to happiness. Instead, just be good to yourself and stop nitpicking and breathe.  “Wake up, regain your humor,” says the Way of the Peaceful Warrior.  “Do not worry, you are already free!”





04 2011