Reading Susan Peirce Thompson’s upcoming book, “Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free” before it hits bookstore shelves on March 21st (in the US, that is) has been one of the great perks of this job.
In it, she describes, in detail, the science behind binges, cravings, and food addiction.
And, my longtime hunch is totally corroborated by this science:
We are all (the majority of us at least) food addicts!
She cites a survey done by Roy Baumeister and one of his graduate students that found that people spend on average four hours a day fighting cravings, including sleep, leisure, sex, checking Facebook. Out of all our many cravings, guess which one prevailed? Hands down, it was food. By A LOT.
This just in: you are not crazy, deranged, pathologically self-indulgent or demonic because you eat food to calm yourself or ease your troubles. As it turns out, you do these things because you are normal.
For the majority of human history, obtaining food required work. And, what’s more, in the last several hundred years humanity has endured periods of widespread famine.
Its no wonder we approach food as something with savior-like potential.
Seriously, 8 times out of 10 when I tell people what I do, what kind of website I run, and what Binge Eating Disorder is, they say, “I have that!”
I am talking middle aged men on the ski lift; young, beanpole-shaped men; women; girls; (though I have found that females have a harder time admitting this, understandably) – humans of all ages and walks of life.
It turns out that most of us have something in common: in this culture of plentiful, largely processed (though not only) food, most of us find food to be the hardest thing to resist when it comes to temptation.
But just because it is normal, does not make it optimal.
If you are on this website – if you listen to our content, read the blogs, and think about the implications of eating to stuff your emotions – you must have a hunch that there is a better way. Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones (I actually mean this quite literally aka not facetiously) that is SO susceptible to food addiction that it’s something you cannot ignore.
For those who are moderately addicted, it’s not an emergency. Life in the throws of this addiction at a medium level – though certainly not ideal – is at least quite bearable. Being in a spot that is unbearable, on the other hand, is much more hopeful. It means you are going to change. Soon.
Back to the better way.
Before industrialization and even agriculture, back when we were hunting and gathering, I have the grand imagination that we led very productive lives. I think some of this is taken from what I know about tribes that still exist in modern times. Fit and lean, life so close to the heartbeat of existence means that when you aren’t eating, you are looking for food. And, ahem, doing other things that nurture and perpetuate life.
In this scenario, life is a game and it is a fun game.
Depression doesn’t have a chance to creep in edgewise. There is simply no room for it when you are so vibrantly ALIVE. Perhaps you can relate by remembering times in your life – if you had times like this – when a healthy amount of stress kicked you into gear and you had to bust your ass to make something happen, change something, make something better, earn money, whatever.
Similarly, running after an elk, or honing your skills at shooting a bow or spear fishing, are fun. If we get over our paralyzing fear of death and see life as a game, we can really enjoy the many thrills, kaleidoscopically shifting emotional landscapes, and interesting problems and puzzles we encounter along the way. I am not talking, of course, about living a life of trauma, oppressed by other humans. I mean a life that is in a delicate balance with nature, always dynamic and changing, and never mind-numbingly controlled.
In short, having food be so plentiful and so easy to obtain has taken a lot of the fun out the game, if you ask me.
One of the first things I notice when I eat purely for function – 3 meals a day, very modest portions (aka I never feel full, but the feeling of hunger goes away), no processed food (including flour or sugar, a la Susan Peirce Thompson) – is that life becomes much more fun.
When I am not eating, I have to fill my time somehow, so I fill it with hobbies. Learning about the things I love and that interest me. I fill it with work. Hustling to make money. Manage money. Think of creative ideas for entertaining and taking care of my kids. Making connections. Nurturing connections. Thinking, who can I invite over for dinner that I haven’t seen in a while? Planning my future. Nurturing my dreams.
It isn’t bow hunting or spear fishing, but it might be the modern-day equivalent.
It certainly keeps my life fun and exciting, even in the modern day.
And keeping depression out of the picture (note: conflict, anger, ecstasy, desperation, these all still exist and are even more heightened. This, as I see it, is part of that colorful, exhilarating fun of the game of life of which I spoke earlier – the ever-changing emotional landscape) is unequivocally worth it, in my book.
So, my advice to you? Try eating by these simple guidelines, listed above (find them also, and in detail, in Susan’s upcoming book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free) not for the stick – not because you will be punished if you don’t – but for the carrot, the fun that will rapidly flood back into your life upon switching your attitude to food as fuel. Plain and simple.
Loving you Xoxoxoxoxoxo