My last blog post was a confession that the eating that I had been keeping such careful control over for the past two years or so had gone off the rails a bit. I wish I could report that I immediately got it together and went back to my wheat free, Weight Watchers ways, but that is definitely not true. Instead, I have continued to eat poorly and make bad choices and gain weight and generally do a bad job of taking care of my eating issues. I can honestly say that life has been more stressful in the past two months than I can ever remember it being, and I definitely fell back on my old “friend” food to “help” me deal with it. However, of course, food is a fickle friend, and what seems like something that will make you feel better really offers you no help in the end.
The connection between neurotransmitters in the body and overeating has been written about recently in the book Diet Rehab by Dr. Mike Dow, who hosts the TLC show Freaky Eaters (which I have not seen). A friend of mine mentioned the book to me, and it piqued my interest enough that I bought a copy. Basically, the premise of the book is that those of us who overeat for emotional reasons do so because of either low serotonin levels, low dopamine levels, or a combination of the two. There are quizzes you can take to see which neurotransmitter you are lacking, and then there are foods and activities suggested that can help you build up your levels of these two chemicals in the body. The book also suggests that you wean yourself off of trigger/pitfall foods and work on building up the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body over the course of four weeks until you have broken your addiction to these foods.
In taking the quizzes in the book, I discovered that I appear to be severely lacking in serotonin and also lacking (although not as severely) in dopamine. Although I am not 100% sure that I fully believe the science behind this book, I do agree that there are components of it that make a lot of sense, especially when you consider the stress hormone cortisol and its effects on the body. Basically, I do believe that foods high in sugar and fat can be addictive in the same way that some drugs can be addictive (and this information was presented in a study by the Scripps Research Institute in 2010), especially when it is related to compulsive eating. And some of the eating that I do could definitely be classified as compulsive, especially in times of great stress.
Anyway, this week, I am supposed to start adding in serotonin and dopamine boosting foods and behaviors, although I am not yet supposed to eliminate the “bad” foods I currently eat. Next week, I am supposed to add more boosters, still without eliminating anything. The third week involves limiting pitfall foods and behaviors while continuing to increase the boosters, and the fourth week involves further limiting the pitfalls and increasing the boosters.
I also plan this week to go back to calorie counting using the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone. While Weight Watchers has worked well for me for the past year or so, I am feeling a need to mix it up a bit, and I am now living 30 minutes from the meeting location I used to go to. If I do go back to Weight Watchers, I will just make that drive once a week and go back to that meeting because I love the leader so much, but for now, I want to see what happens when I track my eating information with MyFitnessPal. I also am joining a new-to-me gym this week that is a part of the health network for which I work. I am excited to live close enough to my work to be able to take advantage of this gym membership, as it’s a nice gym with new equipment and is reasonably priced. I am looking forward to getting back on the elliptical!
It’s so hard to discuss things like this honestly because I don’t ever want to be one of those people who jumps from diet to diet and seems like she is looking for a quick fix. I do understand and believe that weight loss is probably something like 80% diet and 20% activity. And I feel like I know what I need to do to eat a balanced diet, but it’s hard right now to put the steps into action. I have been out on my own for a little over a week right now and am slowly taking steps that will lead toward rebuilding my life, and part of that is going to have to be paying attention to what I eat and why I eat it and taking the steps I know I need to take to be healthy. While I am interested in the idea of serotonin and dopamine being something that I can build up in my body to break food addiction behaviors, I also recognize that I have to think about the amount of what I am eating and how many calories I need to take in to fuel my day and how many calories I need to burn to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.
Anyway, I am still here, and I am doing okay. I am enjoying living back in the township in which I grew up, and I am settling into an apartment, which is a big change. I don’t yet have a couch, bookshelves, or a bed, but by the end of the week, those should all be in place. My back is no longer a fan of the air mattress arrangement we have going on, but the end of that is in sight. And right now, I am working on getting used to my new reality and finding a new normal. It’s definitely going to be quite a journey, but I think I am up for it.
Make it a great day, everyone!