The moment has arrived. January 5. The pious path of self preservation is starting to sound oddly comforting, now isn’t it?
I base my judgements on our collective embrace of all things bran and tasteless. Surely the exponential ascension of sales for Do It Yourself detox kits is indicative of our collective need to feel virtuous. However, it would seem that our desire for pleasure, achieved via the ingestion of chocolate, seems to give way to our desire to look like wistful Swiss skiers. You know the ones, they’re smiling at us from a box of plastic coated Detox pills.
Instead of debating the do’s and don’ts of dieting, I thought I would shed light to an interesting article that claims dieting can actually result in changes of brain plasticity. Brain plasticity is an important issue with addictive behaviours, because it lends physiological support to the idea that addiction is ‘more’ than ‘just’ a difference in preference for pleasure inducing substances- explaining why some people cannot have even one, to say nothing of the ‘just one’ that we continually promise ourselves.
The latest article I would like to cover stresses that our environment and dieting are causing some of the changes in the brain that we see with drug addiction! There’s a pointed adage to consider, that dieting makes people fat, which is always something I’ve had difficulty accepting. Would it not be lack of dieting that would contribute to one’s increasing weight? I will explain how dieting could contribute to weight gain, and also how it might change brain ‘plasticity’ in the following post.
The rationale that overeating-is-akin-to-drug-addiction is supported by many reflective thoughts on January 3rd, in addition to some pretty awesome science! We lament eating the extra piece of cake, or asking for whipped cream in place of skim milk. Public demonstrations of gluttony are surely indicative of clinical problems, after all…?
A bit of perspective is necessary: does your chocolate consumption run in parallel with the idea of abandoning all other activities? Like work? Like your social network? Like your spouse? When was the last time you contemplated a life on the street, robbed a bank, rationalized killing a person, or put your family in extreme vulnerability to get a piece of cake? I don’t want to minimize the stigma associated with being overweight, but this obsession that overeating is an addictive behaviour may be reflective of the media messages and cultures we have created, rather than the truly ‘addictive’ properties of food.
The release of opiates and dopamine upon ingestion of pleasant tasting food has inspired a wealth of research into human motivation. The brain stem and limbic system of a morbidly obese individual looks eerily similar to an addict of cocaine, and there are reams of similarities seen between overeaters and drug addicts, such as increased impulsivity, reward sensitivity, neuroticism, lack of conscientiousness, to name a few.
Yet I found a recent article that detailed how our environment is so stressful that it is causing binge type behaviour to be… well.. more than a stretch.
I will explain in detail the benefits of extreme calorie cutting, and risks of dieting… tomorrow!