It's All About Chemistry!
Friday, September 06, 2013
There have been many articles on the internet and in magazines about addictions and body changes, including articles about food addictions. From everything I've read, and my life before Spark, I can tell you the things I've learned:
I ate anything I wanted, whenever I wanted to eat them. A dozen Oreos with milk at 1AM, popcorn with extra butter and salt along with Pepsi, a pile of chicken wings with blue cheese and very little celery - well, the list would go on and on! After years of eating like this, of course I gained and gained weight - all the way to 240 lbs. on a 5 ft. frame. I had arthritis, knees with bones that rubbed against each other and pain all the time, plantar faciitis in the right foot, triple chins, and no discernible waist.
My brain had altered its chemical balance to accomodate all this garbage food I was giving it. Just like a drug addict's or alcoholic's brain chemistry changes, these bad foods had changed my brain! My brain had made the adjustment and had accepted what I had given it and worked with that. But my body had complaints and was not able to make that same adjustment. So the aches and pains and problems started. My brain didn't know how to fix this, so it let everything go, much like I was doing.
Then, I got the Spark plan started and began to slowly change things. Because of my size, exercise was not an option, but eating could be fixed first. So I began paying attention to what I fed myself - vegetables and fruits, lean meats, healthy grains, and less junk food. Little by little, weight started to come off and I started feeling a little better. But what about my brain? How was it handling this change?
Not so well at times. (Note I said, "at times.") There were times when I was enthusiastic about this program, the tracking, and planning. Then, there were the times when I wanted to do nothing but eat garbage foods, and sometimes I did! Just like a drug addict or alcoholic, my brain wanted to have it's old style back, craving the things it was used to. My body would react by giving me pain and injury, wanting to know what happened. At Christmas time last year, I stopped Sparking for a few weeks and the weight crept back up. When I came back in January, it was twice as hard to start again, twice as hard to get back into the "new" habits. My brain chemistry had not changed enough yet, and the fattening, sugary foods it craved were what I ate. Since my brain chemistry had altered only a little, there wasn't enough time to adjust and it craved the fats and sugars. Even though I was Sparking, I really wasn't tracking EVERYTHING, but only putting in what I wanted to be proud of, not the indulging happening late at night. Then I read an article in the Huffington Post from Forbes magazine about brain chemistry, addiction to food, and the chemicals that junk foods give to our brains. (There is an SP blog from 2/13/13 that talks about this - "Food Addiction is Real') The thing that woke me up was that the Forbes article said that studies have shown that when overweight people eat even just 1 bad food, our brains treat it like a drug and over-react, causing us to want to eat more so our brains can get back to the foods it is used to. Even 1 cookie, or 1 potato chip can start this downhill slide! Would you give an alcoholic 1 shot of whiskey or a drug addict 1 pill? This is what we are doing to ourselves - exactly what we would find horrible in those other addictions. There are many foods that I can't "just eat 1" of, that will start my brain on that downhill slide and all of a sudden it's a dozen! I read that it can take up to 2 years to change those brain chemicals, too. Even then, when we try to eat things we ate before SP, that same result may happen, which is why so many people finish their diet program, only to gain the weight back. Depending on how long you ate badly will determine how long your brain chemistry takes to adjust and recover.
I like to think of this life change as rehab for my brain. It needs the time to make this big adjustment, as I was giving it garbage for so long. My body is loving this time, but it's going to take awhile for my brain to catch up. I have to be vigilante and careful, and, if I do eat something bad, I have to make sure to track it and be honest with myself. My brain fights back occasionally, with headaches and cravings. I try to find a healthier version of what I'm craving, such as dark chocolate instead of milk, granola or protein bar instead of cookie, yogurt and fruit instead of ice cream. It's hard some days, but don't we all say that? Our brains are fighting for what they are used to eating and are giving us a hard time, but, with SP and each other to lift our spirits (and brains), we can overcome!