Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Irony of Overeating

"I eat what I want and that makes me feel good.  What's wrong with that?"

There's a painful irony in that.  That's whats wrong.

Eating crap food and overeating overstimulates reward centers.  This makes eating crap and overeating seem extra pleasant. It's why we perceive donuts as tasting really good.  This level of reward stimulation can't occur with healthy foods, because truly healthy foods don't have high calorie counts, or large amounts of fats, sugars, and sodium (which are the cause of the over-stimulus of the brains reward centers).

Healthy foods are very satisfying to eat, definitely enough to live a gratifying and rewarding life.  But junk food and overeating take the flavor reward and sense of elation to abnormal levels.

Once this stimulus occurs, reward seeking habits are initiated and most people will experience a heightened drive to overeat again. And again. This is our brain trying to get repeat access to what caused the rewarding feeling.  When we compare the abnormal elation experienced with eating crap to the comparatively lesser elation of healthy food, we perceive the crap as the more compelling choice. When you remove the crap for a period of time though, your brain can adapt, and you feel very rewarded by healthy foods. Re-introduce lot's of crap food again, and you'll feel driven to seek the crap.

When this drive is occurring, the reasoning part of our brain is impaired, making it harder to recognize the harm in the choice to overeat.  The reward drive can be very influential.

Usually we're aloof to the fact that reasoning is impaired (which is why the impairment is successful), and the altered reasoning caused by reward seeking causes us to perceive that it makes perfect sense to justify overeating.

"Donuts? Makes sense.  Apples? Those are stupid".  Actually, the apple is typically not even on the radar when donuts etc are around.

Because access to the elation caused by eating crap is prioritized by reward seeking brain chemistry and circuitry, we find ways to justify eating crap and overeating.

For most people this causes harm in excess fat gain, and - or harm in chronically cycling between fat gain and loss, and the emotional roller coaster that goes along with that. And also getting caught up in the cycle of adding more exercise to reconcile all the crap we eat.

Most of us have heard and used the expression, "come on, one won't hurt you", to encourage a person to eat some kind of crap. Pick that apart and it can be seen that really this is about covering up the potential harm while exaggerating how good it's going to be.

Drill down further and we find little truth to the sentiment.  It rarely really is "just one". Chances are this justification was used earlier that day or week. You could argue that one piece of whatever isn't harmful, and I would agree with that for many people, for many different occasions.  But what I'm addressing here isn't the actual one time here, one time there indulgence that doesn't result in fat gain.

In reality one large meal results in acid re-flux, indigestion, and constipation.

For many people who struggle with chronic overeating, one piece of cake may trigger appetite.  You know what happens with that?  Often the person will graciously say thank you and enjoy that single piece (or two) in public, but then later in private continue to overeat because the reward driving behavior has been stimulated.  Why would we knowingly contribute to that harm?  Because, ironically, we see crap food and overeating as rewarding.

Does this happen all the time with everyone?  No, but don't use that to discount how frequently this actually occurs with many people who struggle with weight and eating (the majority of the population).

For the few that occasionally overeat and eat crap and don't get caught in these cycles, this doesn't apply to you, and no, you can't use your situation to justify encouraging others to overeat.  This amounts to encouraging harm. What is the point in that?

Most people will gravitate towards feeling they are included in the part of the population that doesn't struggle with eating and fat gain.  This is usually the reward seeking - reasoning - impairing expressing its self to justify eating more.

All this leads to many people who struggle with weight cycling and weight gain to live ironically; wanting to revisit high calorie, high fat, high sugar, high sodium foods so they can have an "enjoyable" experience.  But in reality the weight gain and conflicting emotions cause physical and emotional anguish.

We don't need overeating or frequent junk food to have an enjoyable experience.

One of the more disturbing expressions of this irony is trying to express satisfaction with excess fat gain and obesity with euphemisms like, "love the skin you're in".

This is an effective manipulation of the legitimacy of sense of self worth.

It's important to feel good about ourselves, but it's important to not have that sense veiled by dysfunctional thinking.

An athlete may develop compulsive exercise habits wherein to feel good about themselves they have to appear a certain way, and exercise no matter what.  Those suffering compulsive exercise will often justify their actions by telling themselves they're healthy and fit, exercise is good for them, etc.

A person with a smoking habit may justify that they are their own person and they're going to "stand up for their freedom". The expression of this stance will evoke feelings of personal autonomy, justice, and self aggrandizing, all of which feel good.  The sense of feeling good is a distraction from acknowledging the harm of smoking and that really the smoking should be stopped.

Likewise there is a current trend to use the halo effect of sense of self worth to justify overeating and being unhealthily overweight. The irony in each of these situations is that the actions of the over-exerciser, the smoker, and the over-eater, are demonstrably harmful.  And the reality is, in moments of personal clarity, most people suffering from excess weight gain will feel distraught with their weight and inability to reconcile chronic overeating.

Because sense of self worth is so important, it's easy for well intended people with empathy to be misguided and fall into the trap of supporting chronic overeating while believing they're supporting a persons right to feel okay about being overweight.  This shouldn't be about isolating excess weight to feel good about, it should be about deeper sense of self that goes beyond body composition, that includes the healthy sense of awareness that being chronically overweight is unhealthy and causes harm.

In short, you're okay, the excess body fat isn't... Because the excess body fat is a result of dysfunctional eating and unhealthy behaviors that cause physical and emotional distress. Maintaining the excess fat means maintaining the overeating and distress.  Ironically, being okay with excess body fat, means being okay with self-harming habits and emotional, physical distress. You don't get self worth from that.

The end result of this can only be sustained suffering, where the overeating that caused the excess fat gain and all the typically hidden turmoil that goes with it, to continue, now under the protective veil of sense of self worth.

Where we've gone wrong with this, where the irony of overeating is at play again, is that there is a tendency to "fat shame".  Ironic, since the majority of the population is overweight.

Ironic because the majority of the population encourages others and themselves to overeat, the very action that causes fat gain.

Fat shaming is disrespectful, stereotyping, derogatory, and prejudice. It's a lousy situation to be overweight and endure this mistreatment from others.  Low self esteem is understandable here.

It's important to find a way to self respect, as well as respecting the humanity of others, regardless of body-fat percentage.

It's also important to not use sense of self worth as leverage to justify harmful overeating.

When the legitimacy of personal sense of self worth is superimposed over the real-life physical and emotional health issues tied to excess fat gain, misdirection occurs.

It's already hard enough to escape chronic overeating, a habit who's calling card is denial.  Further enabling this denial isn't helping anyone.

We use celebration, humor, sense of self worth, enjoyment, and expression of care for others as enablers to justify overeating.  Each of these have positive attributes that make it easy to capitulate to the false reasoning that overeating is okay.

And back to the irony of overeating we go.  Chronic overeating and cyclical overeating cause emotional and physical harm, but we sugar coat this harm with heart-string playing manipulative cover-ups.