Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Killing bad habits & conceiving good habits

I know I've already mentioned this book, "Brain Over Binge," that I've been reading, and actually just finished last night. I've essentially been torturing everyone I know by telling them this book might be the key to curing all of our neuroses. Responses vary.

 I think if you are interested in really employing the technique the author recommends, you should read the book.

But I'll tell you about a few points that have really hit home with me.

1. Diets are the root of all evil. The first diet a person embarks on has the potential to ruin their relationship with food and/or their body for the rest of their lives.

2. Emotional eating is bull shit. When I feel an emotion and I want to eat, it's because I've trained my brain that when I am stressed, bored, etc., it's time to eat. I've created a bad habit. It's breakable just like any other bad habit.

3. When I have an urge to eat and I'm not actually hungry, that impulse is not coming from the true Me. When I listen to my true self, I find it's easier than it's ever been to put food out of my mind.

The advice in this book seems over-simplistic. Want to stop over-eating? Then stop doing it. That's what it all comes down to. The book tells you how. I don't want to reveal the author's whole methodology, which is why I was a little cryptic above.

While reading "Brain Over Binge" I decided I was going to try to break some bad habits and start new ones. The general consensus seems to be that it takes about three weeks to start a new, good habit. Who knows how long it takes to break old, bad habits? Doing so involves stopping an activity for long enough that the synapses in that part of the brain weaken until the habit disappears.

The most important bad habit I am breaking is impulsive eating. I get an urge to eat and sometimes I can't even focus until I eat something, regardless of whether I'm hungry or not. That is complete bull shit. That impulse is not coming from Me, and knowing that, I've been able to shut that voice out without much effort. I'm a little surprised, actually, at how easy it's been so far, and a little nervous that it's going to stop working. I'm trying to have faith in the process.

The new good habit I'm starting is eating when I am hungry, and stopping when I am satisfied. A novel idea, right? If I listen to my true self when I'm eating, I can recognize when I have had enough to eat. It's usually when I've slowed down a little, and maybe leaned back or put my fork down. Sometimes it's when I've had a surprisingly small amount of food. Sometimes it's when I've eaten the whole sandwich. Here's a little photo essay of my leftovers from the last two days.

Breakfast. Left: toast with jam. 
Right: granola, berries, yogurt. Normally I would have eaten all of this.
Lunch. Left: bean burrito. Right: Pulled beef sandwich. I notice I feel hungrier at lunch time. I may be waiting too long to eat.

Dinner. Left: pork chop & warm potato salad. Right: Mac & cheese w/ bacon.

Normally I would have managed to polish off my entire dinner, each night. At the very least I would have eaten the potato salad and the bacon because they're my favorite parts of each meal.

You'll notice my meals are not exactly the healthiest meals I could be eating. The idea is to avoid a sense of deprivation, which would feel like a diet, which usually results in a "binge" of sorts; usually at least a few days of eating way too much food. I do enjoy vegetables, I swear. I'll be making more of an effort to incorporate them into my meals.

You may also notice I didn't show you any snacks. Day 1 I didn't eat any snacks, which is VERY unusual for me. Day 2 I had a handful of granola and a few chocolate chips. And then I stopped. Normally I would have eaten ALL of the chocolate chips, but I felt only the smallest desire to do that.

Another thing: I haven't mentioned weight. I decided to stop weighing myself. It was making me feel terrible. So I quit. I might weigh myself in a few weeks, but for now I think it's basically useless. 

I have pretty high hopes for this process, and I've been feeling pretty excited about it, which is more than I can say for just about any diet or cleanse I've ever been on. It's a completely different attitude, actually. I approach diets with a sense of dread, and I've approached this with excitement and hope. That right there might be enough.


  1. Hm. I'm uncomfortable with this because they've got "bulimia" on the cover and for the author to suggest that bulimics can overcome something like that by treating the disorder like a bad habit is off-putting to say the least.

    I battled that disorder off and on for 20 years and it was a harrowing experience. It took ten years of therapy and twenty years of Buddhism for me to overcome it. Not that my path is the path for every bulimic. But for the author to imply that it's simply "mind over matter" to overcome an eating disorder, a deeply emotional and psychological disorder at that, as though it's just a bad habit is sort of infuriating to me. But to each his own. I'm obviously going to be super sensitive about this topic.

    I'm going to go eat some french fries now so I feel better.

    Just kidding!

  2. I can't find this on Amazon Canada! Grr. Is this a new release in the States?

    It looks really good and from what you say, the method is reasonable.

  3. Mandy -- I was really curious what you would think of this approach. The author was herself bulimic for many years and said she'd tried years of therapy and different medications until she stumbled across a book on alcohol addiction that caused a light-bulb moment for her. It seems ridiculously simply when you're applying it to a serious issue like bulimia, and I obviously can't speak to its effectiveness in that regard. I just hope that it works for overeating! I think that what is true is that the scientific community isn't really sure how to "cure" bulimia, and I don't think they completely understand the root cause (not that there need be a singular root cause). In any case, I am so glad that you found ways to rid yourself of bulimia. I think that is completely amazing.

    WC - I downloaded it on kindle ... Try the book's site, they have a few links to different sellers.

  4. I can't speak to the bulimia issue - I've never fought that battle but I know many people who have (including my mom) and I think it's probably different for everybody.

    What's interesting to me is the appetite stuff. I've been cutting back, and I'm doing old-fashioned calorie counting, in conjunction with an increase in veggie consumption and a carb reduction (not elimination, I still eat a few berries and all-bran with my yogurt in the morning), and I've found my appetite has gone way, way down. I'm not sure what's causing that - it could be that I've cut out booze (SOB!) or that I'm not exercising (between gyms) but it's really interesting to me to suddenly not be ravenous at noon, and to push away half of my dinner un-eaten.

    Related: I recently read this article about how there are places in Japan where the eating habit that's promoted is to eat until you're 80% full. It makes so much sense to me - since they say you can't tell you're full for like 20 minutes. Stop eating at 80%, and you'll feel full enough after about 20 minutes.

  5. I used to use a push-away method to keep myself from eating everything. My problem was that I lived alone for so long, and ate a lot of packaged foods that were intended as family meals... and never would set aside leftovers. It was a bit ridiculous, and I'm not in the worst of shape, but I didn't need to be putting myself through that.

    So I started to purposely leave something on my plate at each meal. It worked out pretty well, and was second nature... primarily during lunch. But then I fell out of it again.

    Although, all is good now, since I'm actually in a family environment and food is more evenly distributed. ::nods::

    And, I want mac'n'cheese with bacon now.

  6. The stomach definitely shrinks! I'm afraid to drink alcohol because I lose that sense of whether or not I'm full, and then oftentimes it just makes me hungrier. That eating to 80% fullness thing sounds really familiar ... I eat really slowly so hopefully that will help keep me in tune with when I've had enough.

    TTT - I like the push-away thing. Like, once that's happened, meal-time is over!

  7. I am a TOTAL emotional eater. I am trying now to really see if I am hungry, or just bored or angry. Sometimes it's hard to tell...