April 15, 2013

The Want/Get Cycle

Disordered eating is so difficult to solve because it actually has two engines. One is the chemical influence on our brain. The other is how it fits into the Want/Get Cycle.

We want, we get, we live
Most of our brain is geared to make us want life-enhancing things like air and water and food and sex and accomplishments and love... and so we figure out how to get these things.

It keeps us alive.

So when this survival drive gets crossed with a craving for processed junk food, it can become incredibly powerful. When we are down or bored or hungry, what a handy packaged cheap solution it is!

Because one of the strengths of our brains is their marvelous flexibility. It lets us adapt to many different circumstances, and create a way around obstacles which thwart us.

But it can become a serious weakness, too. If our brains are clamoring for us to contemplate our bad marriage or difficult employment or ill health, we can temporarily "turn off" the clamor by doing something.

Anything. Really, anything at all. We need to recognize that in some ways, it doesn't matter what the thing is. It's the wanting and the getting that becomes important.

That is why it is so incredibly common for people to turn into a restaurant drive-through and sit there thinking: I can't do anything about my job right now, I've got bills to pay! I can't do anything with my relationship right now, they won't even talk about it! I'm not going to think about that blood sugar warning from my doctor right now, not with all this stuff going on!

Waiting for the food increases the wanting for the food, whether it is picked up from a store or served to us on a platter. It builds up in our minds as The Goal. And when we finish eating, it's Mission Accomplished!

Of course, the other problems are still there, afterward. We might even be contributing to some of them, from health concerns to getting our energy back to feeling lousy about our mood and appearance.

Want something. Get something.

The best way to avoid disordered eating is to not use eating as a substitute for something else. Want something else, and get something else.

That's using our brains!

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