My husband and I have been joking around about how mean the Wii Fit is. It gets all up in your face about being obese, and then when you fail to lose weight, quizzes you like, “What the hell is your problem, Fatass?!”
We have been giggling all weekend about a crack he made about the Wii Fit: “It does the plank or it gets the hose again!”
I am addicted to the ScienceDaily RSS feed. An article popped up this morning about the increase of grehlin, the “hunger hormone”, during times of stress. The study was done on mice, but grehlin has been studied in humans and shown to be part of the complex hunger/satiation response in humans. Coming swiftly on the heels of the recent Shapely Prose discussion about the link between obesity and depression, and my own recent depressive crisis, my curiousity was piqued.
To bastardize fillyjonk’s title, yeah, its just another delivery from the Duh Truck. Anyone who has spent five minutes of their life contemplating their eating behaviors could tell that when they are stressed and/or depressed, their eating behaviors change. Some people might eat less, thus allowing that grehlin to hang out in their bodies longer and provide that antidepressent effect the article hypothesizes about, and some people might eat more in response to the increased grehlin levels because, well, hunger is very, very effective signal from the body.
My own personal experiences with bingeing and purging seems to dovetail nicely with those theories. I would restrict, restrict, restrict my intake until I literally couldn’t take it anymore, and my hands shook and my mouth watered from hunger and the extremes of will it took to avoid food. And then I would fall face-first into a pile of whatever was available, usually bland, carby foods like cookies and pretzels and ice cream. I would binge until the pain in my stomach was undeniable, and then almost immediately purge. The feeling after a purge, which lasted for hours, was a sublime feeling of lightness, emptiness, and numbness. Like floating face-up in a warm pool on a quiet night, like dreams of being out of your body. Hours later when the hunger returned, I would welcome it, physically and mentally. I would tell myself, “Hunger is only a sensation, you can choose to ignore it. It isn’t pain and it doesn’t force you to do anything.” And that would sustain me– that and the post-purge high, until I couldn’t stand it anymore and did it all over again.
What does it mean? I don’t know. I am too lost in the forest to do anything but point out the trees right now. But if I had to guess, I’d say, this might be another good reason old-fashioned dieting fails. A person who wants to lose weight begins to restrict calories. That restriction causes more grehlin to be floating out and about, because that person gets very hungry between diet meals. Then, something stressful enters the picture– a normal everyday event or the onset of a depressive episode– and levels of grehlin soar. The person is hammered both by the stressful event which may be affecting their mood, and plain ol’ hunger, which makes people irritable even with no major stressors. Their body is beating out the message, “Eat and you’ll feel better,” so they eat. They break the Holy Diet Commandments. They eat Off Plan or Without Portion Control or At the Wrong Time of Day. Whatever brief mood-boost the relief from hunger provided doesn’t last long, as now the person must battle the original stressor and the feelings of failure and disappointment from straying from their diet. They blame themselves, and call it a failure of willpower, a return to the bad comfort-eating habits, or a sign that they are subconsciously sabotaging themselves. Its easy to see how for certain– most!– individuals, this means long-term dieting efforts are doomed to failure, especially in depressed people, who are already primed to interpret events such as described in a negative, pessimistic, self-defeating fashion.
The good news for me is that I made it the whole weekend without crying. For me, though, the major feature of my depression doesn’t seem to be feeling sad all of the time, but feeling like a zombie with limited capacity to feel the range of emotions I normally do, with thoughts at the extreme negative side of the spectrum, and with a severe hampering of my ability to get things done like I am used to getting them done, at work and at home. However, some hope has begun to surreptitiously creep in that this can all change, now that I am actually being treated for my depression, now that I have accepted that it is something I can change and need help to do so.
This weekend was tough, though. I seriously contemplated a return to very severe restriction on the dieting front. I thought about doing a crash liquid diet for two weeks, which in the past has netted me up to ten pounds “lost.” Of course, the majority of that is water weight and intestinal weight, but the rational part of my brain likes to pretend it doesn’t know that sometimes. I had to resist the urge, when making the week’s grocery list on Sunday, to consult my huge pile of “diet” recipes and to sneak them into the week’s meal plans.
Instead, I let IE be the guide. I bought foods I felt like eating. I made strawberry shortcake last night with “real” cake (not fat-free angel food cake), real sugar, lowfat Cool Whip. I bought peanut butter cookies just because I felt like it. I bought ice cream for the freezer, simply because I might want some, I like ice cream in the summer. I strolled the produce section, choosing salad veggies that looked yummy, and made homemade ranch dressing (sour cream, mayonnaise! O the humanity!) to slather on top. I bought bone-in chicken breasts with the skin still on for roasting, because that is how you make chicken that doesn’t taste like Soylent Green. Mmm, salads and strawberries and chicken breasts cooked with the skin on. What’s not to love? Mae’s Tummy says “Thank You!”