You’re Dieting Too Hard Dumbass
Hyperphasia has been the bane of my existence ever since I was 5 or 6.
Chill, let’s take a step back and stroll through memory lane. The dictionary defines hyperphagia as a disorder marked by frequent bouts of uncontrollable hunger that lead to the consumption of freakish amounts of food, often to the point of intense physical pain, and in some cases, vomiting. This disorder has been linked to malfunctions in the Hypothalamic region of the brain as well as the central nervous system.
So there you have it: I’ve struggled with compulsive binge eating for as long as I can remember. It’s been my dark passenger (any Dexter fans in the building?) since the carefree days of Kinder eggs, Saturday morning cartoons, Hot Wheels and Super Mario Kart (on the super Nintendo in case you’re wondering how old I am…).
The purpose of this article is not to delve into the biological imperatives driving this most peculiar of disorders; I leave the sciencing to the scientists and merely study the outcomes of their research so that I can bring you the practical takeaways. What I plan to do however, is to talk about what hyperphagia is, and more importantly, the ways in which you can put an end to it, or help someone you know that may be struggling with this debilitating condition.
To better understand the context in which we are operating in, we first must briefly touch on the homeostatic and non-homeostatic pathways responsible for the regulation of food intake and energy expenditure, which in layman terms means that some people naturally know how to auto-regulate their daily caloric intake based on how they feel that day, while others could legitimately make regular guest appearances on the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food…
Like in all things, the disorder exists on a spectrum of severity ranging from mild to extreme, as dictated by the ECHO Access EATING DISORDER Management Protocol, a bilateral model of medical education and care management created in collaboration with the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine.
The disorder is marked by the following:
- The recurring, rabid, and hyper-rapid consumption of foods in colossal amounts relative to the average, even when one is not physically hungry
- An inability to restrict or control one’s eating behavior even when physical fullness and/or discomfort are reached
- Feelings of guilt, self-disgust, embarrassment, hopelessness and depression that can lead to social seclusion, particularly during a binge eating episode
To be officially diagnosed as a compulsive binge eater, the individual in question must at the very minimum experience, on average, one weekly episode for the duration of three months.
- The severity is gauged as follows:
- 1-3 binge eating episodes per week: Mild
- 4-7 binge eating episodes per week: Moderate
- 8-13 binge eating episodes per week: Severe
- 14 or more binge eating episodes per week: Extreme
Note that you do not have to have a broken hypothalamus to experience the hell that is hedonic eating: it can be triggered by prolonged periods of excessive caloric restriction, and affects a wide spread of individuals, not just the overweight and obese. As a matter of fact, models, bikini/figure competitors, competitive bodybuilders and physique athletes, because of their rigid, meticulously planned dietary regimen, are prime candidates for experiencing hyperphagia-like symptoms.
If you have ever dieted for long periods of time then chances are that you are very familiar with the slimy sensation of hunger’s coiling tentacles slithering their way around your mind, progressively tightening their vice-like grip until your ghost begins to twitch and spasm in a dance of rabid, desperate obsession. I can only liken this supranatural appetite to the inescapable vortex of sexual attraction that forcibly unbinds one’s ability to employ reason and objectivity, except with pizza and cupcakes.
If you suffer, have suffered, or know someone that suffers from hyperphagia, do not lose hope. There is a way out of this epicurean wasteland, and the first step is to eat more. I don’t mean eat with reckless abandon until the cows come home… I mean that breaking the addiction-like cycle starts with a shift in mindset and the gradual increase of calories to maintenance until your mind and your body reestablish their natural hormonal balance, and your cravings go back to normal.
This may take anywhere from a few days to several months depending on how long and how hard you have been dieting, which for those amongst you that are as OCD as I am, is very very bad news. Letting go of the need to micromanage your diet and risking gaining back the weight that you have worked so hard to lose can be scary, uncomfortable and demoralizing, but what is the alternative? Trying to white knuckle your way to dietary adherence? Been there, done that, that shit doesn’t work. You know it, I know it.
So where do we go from here?
- Understand the underlying reasons behind your abnormal eating patterns: the foods we love are easily available, highly palatable, relatively inexpensive and easy to overeat. The smells alone are often enough to trigger in our minds the cascade of forbidden desire, and if you’re been flagellating yourself with endless cardio and pushing through a prolonged period of stupidly low calories, I don’t care how strong willed you are, you will clean out the local all-you-can-eat joint the moment the hunger breaks you. Because biology always wins.
- Acknowledge your cravings, stop being an asshole to yourself and make peace with the scared little fat kid inside. Like it or not, there is a deep rooted reason why your personal brand of crazy is manifesting itself in the form of uncontrollable emotional /stress eating, and you need to understand that your struggle is not a sign of weakness. How much better would our world be if we all treated ourselves with the respect and empathy that we’re always so willing to shower on our friends and loved ones, particularly when they’re going through a rough patch? Don’t misunderstand me, pushing ourselves does not have to be a self imposed exile to the gulag of self deprecation, and learning how to be kind towards ourselves when we fail does not exempt us from the daily grind. The road ahead will be long and arduous, and there will be times when you will feel like giving up; in those times you will have to fight just to keep your sanity, but I promise you one thing – you will make it. But only if you are ready to stop looking at and treating yourself like a failure simply because you’re not perfect.
- Put down your phone and find a strong support group: there is a solution to your problem. And there are people out there that have been where you are: seek them out and let their songs of sorrow and triumph fill the chamber of your heart and the temple of your mind so that you too can experience respite from the loneliness of it all. Research has shown that addictions and addiction-like behaviors have more to do with our environment than merely our biological drivers: while it is true that certain individuals possess a certain innate predisposition towards addiction, science has shown that these persons represent a minuscule percentage of the population. Huge percentages of people thought to be addicts, once placed in an environment where they could bond and connect with persons of a certain moral and intellectual caliber, have been known to completely rid themselves of their compulsions without the need of rehabilitation. Loneliness is a silent killer, and embracing the kindness, support and empathy of trusted others will, in time, help us detach ourselves from our feelings of inadequacy, and enjoy the sense of connectedness that we can only get from deep and meaningful relationships.
- Change your environment: The vast majority of those struggling to get their behavior back on track simply need to make changes to their respective environments: the places we frequent, the cities in which we live, the ways we choose to relieve our stress, the people we interact with, the ways in which we spend our free time, are all factors that have a bearing on how we view ourselves and our place in the world. Learning how to unplug from the daily grind is not merely a matter of going on a weekend trip to some exotic location, but of building pocket universes in our lifestyles where we can escape the judgement and the sense of shame that society places on those that don’t have their shit together. Newsflash: no one has their shit together. They’re just pretending. The problem is that societal judgement is not all crated equal. Don’t believe me? Then someone please explain to me why getting hammered 3-5 nights a week is totally fine in the eyes of big brother but as soon as someone mentions crack, cocaine and meth everything loses their mind. Or why fat people struggling with their excessive appetites are subconsciously viewed as lazy and weak willed? We’re all self medicating in one way or another, we’re all working around the clock to mask our insecurities. Why do you think so many people need a drink in order to loosen up and socialize?
The bottom line is this:
- Spend less time online and more time outdoors
- Ditch the friends that are bringing you down
- Deliberately put yourself in the situation where you have no choice but to make better choices
- Learn to destress
- Engage in a satisfying and rewarding activity or project as an alternative to your ‘addiction’
There you have it folks, the result of years of study summarized in an article. It goes without saying that there are hundreds of other sub-points that could be fleshed out, and perhaps in the next few months I will write a book on the subject, but this article was intended to open up the discussion and to hopefully start building a culture of fraternity at Lambda.
As always, hit us up on our social media platforms if you have any questions, and if you think that this article was helpful, or could be helpful to someone you know, don’t forget to like and share it on Facebook and Twitter.
About the author
Head Coach, Managing Director
Wordsmith. Lover of Medieval literature. Heavy metal guitarist. History nerd. Dan mainly works with general population clients and normal folks that want to achieve their personal version of the extraordinary. He enjoys learning about what makes people tick, and to that purpose has decided to pursue a PhD in Business, focusing his research on the psychological imperatives that drive customer behavior – Basically, whether you’re looking to lose a little holiday weight or up your nude game to 12/10, he’s got what it takes to lead to the Promised Land.