Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 6

Let's say you've found the motivation to lose that excess weight, no matter what.  Following the diet advice you've heard your entire life, you quit the high-fat foods cold turkey and lay off the video games in favor of gym time.  You're full of energy -- you're not going to let anything stop you from being the person you want to be, gosh darn it!

And then the withdrawal symptoms begin.

How bad are they? Oh, nothing much -- just like weaning yourself off a crippling drug habit.  Like a drug addict you may say stuff like; "Just let me go to the vending machine one more time, I need to have some Cheetos!"

Now obviously, comparing junk food to drugs is like comparing a row boat to a yacht when it comes to how dangerous it is, but there is similarities.  According to research on mice (whose neurochemical system is comparable to that of humans), you don't even need to be morbidly obese to experience these symptoms -- all you need is to stuff your face with high-fat foods for six weeks or so.  Then replace all that junk food with a carefully maintained, healthy diet and you get to live through all the joy and glory of a painful, mentally excruciating rehab period of drugs, but on a lower level.  The test subjects had significantly increased levels of stress hormones and abnormally high amounts of CREB, a protein linked closely to the dopamine reward system (aka the thing in your brain that gets you high).  What other things can manipulate these brain levels? Just harmless little substances like cocaine and meth.

And sure enough, the mice in the study became anxious and annoyed, avoided open spaces, and showed all the signs and symptoms of drug withdrawal just a few days after being deprived of their precious fatty foods.

Although this makes dieting infinitely harder than your average weight loss ad makes it seem, it's not totally impossible. The trick here is to avoid the yo-yo dieting, which sends you plummeting into an everlasting downward spiral of dopamined-up binge eating and withdrawal-laced, stressed-out dieting. If you want to quit heroin, you sure as heck don't give yourself an occasional "cheat" day or week to treat yourself.

So far on this 24 Challenge, I've had no withdrawals or no "cheat day" thoughts as of yet.  I've also found some more energy to do stuff and and not wanting to just sit around.  I'm off to enjoy my day and hope you all have a great weekend.

Jim Pogue

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