Monday, April 27, 2009

too much yes

Alas, there can also be such a thing as too much yes.

Despite several years of working toward finding that point of moderation, I still find myself in situations (notice the passive terminology there—part of the problem perhaps?) where my intake valve gets stuck in the “on” position. This weekend was the perfect example. Burger and fries on Friday. No problem. A little no, a little yes. S’mores by the campfire on Saturday. No problem. A little no, a little yes. Cookout at my brother’s on Sunday. Big problem. All yes. Yes, yes, and more yes. To the point of complete and utter discomfort for the rest of the evening. Too much yes.

I used to swing wildly and widely between the extremes of too much no and too much yes. Diets. Vilifying foods or groups of foods. Counting calories obsessively. Too much no. Binging. Unable to step away from the potluck table. Ordering too much out of an uncontrollable fear of not having enough. Too much yes.

Over the last several years, I have worked toward an all-things-in-moderation mentality. I restrict, but don’t outlaw, sugar, gluten, and dairy 90% of the time because I just feel better when I do. But I also eat a piece of sugar and white flour laden cake at a birthday party for the exact same reason—I just feel better when I do. I eat clean, I eat healthy, I eat a reasonable amount. Most of the time. Most.

Somewhere in my spirit I can’t break this classic starve-binge cycle, particularly the binge loop, no matter what I do behaviorally. At least 85-90% of the time I eat moderately and happily. I eat things I enjoy, and I enjoy the things I eat. I don’t feel deprived, I don’t feel hungry, I don’t feel compulsive or anxious. I just eat. At home. At work. At a friend’s house. At Chipotle. I just eat, and I’m fine.

But then I go to a cookout. To a potluck. To a sit-down restaurant. A switch is flipped, the intake valve turned on, all restraints removed. Why? My mind begins rationalizing. I just want to eat like everyone else is eating (although I’m not—I’m eating much, much MORE). It’s a special occasion (like a Friday… or a Saturday). I won’t get the opportunity to eat this/like this again for a while (like until NEXT Friday or Saturday).

The classic model would suggest I’m binging in these situations because I am starving myself in others. But that is no longer true, at least not in a dietary sense. This same model would also suggest that I’m vilifying the foods that trigger me, therefore causing me to gorge on them from time to time in rebellion. This is also no longer true—I don’t treat these foods as “bad” any other time, I simply eat them in moderation.

So what causes the “safety” on my intake valve to come off? Why, when unlimited options are placed in front of me, do I become a pistol cocked and fully loaded? And why can I be reasonable and healthy at one place during one moment in time, but be completely unable to restrain myself the next?

What am I hungry for that causes me to eat in such a way? These are the questions I am seeking to explore.

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