9 Plus Ways to Activate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

9 Plus Ways to Activate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

In a recent blog we really dove into why rest is important not just for the reasons we hear often, but underlying reasons.

When we are relaxed we aren’t consistently shooting adrenaline throughout our body causing an inflammatory response like when we are stressed. Our body is able to maintain a balance that keeps us healthy. Being in a parasympathetic state can reduce stress on our heart, chronic illnesses, and immunity in general.

Parasympathetic states also affect our metabolism. When we are in fight or flight mode our cortisol is spiked, causing the blood sugar to spike. This can lead to weight gain.We know that stress can lead us to carry weight in different areas of our body. This stress weight is often related to being in a highly functioning, yet overwhelming sympathetic state.

If we don’t rest, things start to go wrong. We become exacerbated, exhausted, and fatigued.

How to Find Balance

So now that we know the ins and outs of our nervous system states, how do we achieve balance between them? The first step we can take is being cognizant of what our body and mind is telling us. I find it much easier to recognize cues of being in a fight or flight mode (sympathetic state) in my body than in my mind. These cues like racing heart beat, fidgety limbs, sweating, or wanting to run away (literally), help tell me that I need to reflect on the situation and see if I really should be engaging in fight or flight rsponse.

The more aware we are of our bodies and when we begin to track our varying cycles, the more we will be able to respond to the correct state with an educated and effective response.

How to Activate PNS

There are several ways to activate your PNS system. You can typically hack this by being in the company of others, or self soothing. Some of these items below may not apply to you; or you may have other activities that help you achieve PNS. It is important to take note of your physiological and psychological state to see whether the activity is right for you.

Our paleo ancestors did this. They groomed each other, slept together, communicated to each other in their own ways. This part of being human is ingrained in our DNA.

But sometimes it is difficult to understand how to enter a rest state; especially if this is a state we are unfamiliar with.

Soothing with Others

Some of my favorite ways to soothe around people include the following:

  • Talking nature walks with my friends, either on the phone or together in person
  • Taking a yoga class with a friend
  • A couples massage
  • Reading a book in the same space as a friend or lover
  • Watching Netflix on the couch together
  • Having a picnic with a friend
  • Taking a study break at the library with a friend
  • Sitting on a beach with a friend
  • Massages or general welcomed and consented touch from others. If touch from others isn’t an option right now, check out this personal massager that does an amazing job as an alternative

This may seem counterintuitive if you are an introvert who gains energy by being alone. However. It is important for our mental state to be able to soothe with others around. This fosters connections and allows us to enter a parasympathetic state. Simply, because we are with others and our defenses aren’t drawn, as in a sympathetic state.

Basically, any soothing activity you can do with a friend can be beneficial. A soothing activity is something that won’t push you to create more “should do this” or obligations while completing the task. Notice how I said taking a study break, not studying with a friend. To soothe, it has to allow you to slow down.

 

Self-Soothing

A lot of times when I need to get into a PNS state, I need to be alone and the reason I am in that state is because I exhausted my social capacity with others. The following are my favorite ways to get back in a parasympathetic state all by myself.

We are rounding a full circle here; no pun intended. A healthy lifestyle includes eating proper foods, moving your body, taking care of your mind, and incorporating balance and rest. In the paleo community, and in any western society,  it can be easy to forget that the end goal isn’t always weight loss, physical appearances, or accomplishments, but that it’s sustainable health and wellness over the course of our lives.

In order to achieve this ideal state of wellness, we need to incorporate balance.

<3

 

Top 6 Reasons to Wear a Bikini

Top 6 Reasons to Wear a Bikini

For those that are going working through restrictive eating patterns or negative body image, this post may be triggering.

Okay, so:

I have definitely put off wearing a bikini, or a bathing suit for that matter, for YEARS, like probably half my life easily. Regardless of my weight or size, I always saw something different and unacceptable in the mirror.How many times have I looked back at photos of myself being extremely thin but also extremely unhealthy and unhappy at the same time, knowing my thoughts went something along the lines of:

“If I lose five more pounds I will be happier”

“Why can’t I work harder to maintain a fitter thinner shape?”

“I will never be strong or thin enough”

“I would give up blankity blank blank if only I could be my goal weight”

I look back on a lot of these mindsets and cannot help but face the overwhelming sadness and pain I was going through, and how I am incredibly happy and relieved to be at a place where I can respect and love my mind and body together.

And that includes wearing what I want, when I want it, especially if it makes me feel sexier and more confident in my own skin. This is because everyday is a new day to continue to implement this healthier mindset, or not. And in order to continue on this path of grace and self love, I have to work at it.

In this instance, working at it means wearing my bikini. If you have been in a similar pattern as me, please read through a few of these reasons (amongst many) why you should give society’s idea of a women a big ole adios and put on that bikini.

1) Because if you want to wear the bikini, you should wear the bikini:

Seriously let’s cut the crap. Why are we still caring what others think of what we are wearing?

2) Because its hot!  

We already have to wear bras, why are we subjecting ourselves to more torture by wearing more clothes than necessary when it’s hot out!

3) Because the styles available are endless:

Check out Swimsuits For All for styles that look great on everybody.

4) Because you can embrace and love yourself in a bikini regardless of your weight:

This is possible, but it really starts with taking care of your mind body connection. With a more confident and accepting mind, you can learn to love your physical appearance too.

5) Because you may just love it :

 What if…. just what if…. you put on that bikini and you feel damn good! Think of all the years you have been holding back, and just try it out. You may really love it.

6) Because you need Vitamin D:

We all need Vitamin D . If you’re going to be outside why not multitask and wear that bikini and get the Vitamin D you need at the same time! Just don’t forget the sunscreen, it doesn’t prevent the body from absorbing Vitamin D, just preventing sunburn!

Did I convince you? Would it help to know I wore a bathing suit while writing this for you? I am serious about eating my own dog food, loves!

If you are struggling with repairing your body image or are interested in losing weight in a HEALTHY sustainable manner, you can check out my program Weight Loss Unlocked here.

http://paleoweightlossforwomen.com/

I also have a plethora of resources for increasing your body image. Check them out below.

My fave self love and self help books : http://paleoforwomen.com/resources/#selflovebooks

5 Things You Must Know About Self Love

My Favorite Self Love Resources

5 Habits Preventing You From Cultivating Self Love

Overcoming Self Sabotage

Self Love and Weight Loss: Enemies or Bedfellows?

 

<3

 

The Tool You Need to Manage Disordered Eating

The Tool You Need to Manage Disordered Eating

I would say about ⅓ of the questions that come through for our podcast or email have something to do with understanding why our eating patterns are restricted. Or, questions regarding restricting and really, deep down knowing restricting is harmful to our health, but being unable to reflect or accept that fact without the feedback or acknowledgement of others. Which is OKAY. I have been there so many times before, too.

For example, when there is a question along the lines of, “I exercise “x” times a week and eat 1200 calories a day, but have “x” health problems, could this be originating with my calorie deficit?”. A lot of these inquiries  are answered by the person asking in the question, but sometimes we need to hear confirmation from others that these things are affecting us negatively.

That is also why referring to ourselves as third person is a common way to gain perspective and insight on things that may be troubling us or if we are looking for insight on what we really need.

I too, have reached out to doctors, research, and my friends or family to understand why my body responds the way it does, or more importantly, why my body isn’t responding the way I want it to. We need to understand why our bodies don’t want to shed weight, recognizing that things like stress and inflammation can cause our bodies to enter a state where shedding weight isn’t the priority in keeping our body functioning. In a way, our bodies have a mind of their own and will make decisions to take care of themselves, even if we think we already are.

Processing and challenging our disordered thinking is not an easy task; in fact it is one that requires consistent work. I have to be mindful daily to make sure I am not falling into my past negative restrictive habits. This journey is a long one, and may often feel like you are taking 8 steps back and only a half step forward some days.

As with most people, I find that there is an ebb and flow of my moods and habits, and surrounding myself with positive people, eliminating negative social media outlets, and incorporating techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy into my daily life can be grounding.

So – how can we use CBT to manage disordered eating?

What is CBT?

CBT is an evidence based treatment model focused on how our thoughts, feelings, environments, and behaviors are intertwined, and that they can be restructured to support better habits and actions. This type of treatment has been used for anxiety and depression in the past, but more so has been used for eating disorders and disordered eating patterns recently.

There are three phases to CBT  – Behavioral, cognitive, and relapse/ maintenance. Each phase is targeted on different approaches to break down our existing thoughts surrounding restrictive or disordered eating. If you are interested in reading more on the specific phases, check out this book.

So How Can CBT Help?

  1. Understanding
    The first portion of CBT is understanding why we have developed the patterns that we have. This stage is to gain a grasp on why we have developed the patterns that we have, and educating ourselves on the science behind disordered eating. In order to proceed with healing, we must understand how and why our brain’s have become wired to restrict the way we do.
  2. Setting Meal Times
    This may seem counter intuitive, but it is an effective step in CBT. When we have regularly scheduled meal times at realistic intervals, we know when we will be eating again and as a result are breaking up the controlling binge restrict cycle that so often is in place.
  3. Challenging Our Dietary Rules
    This one is commonly discussed on our podcast, and I find so many women have some sort of dietary rules in place. A few of mine included : eating heavier meals in the morning in order to have the rest of the day to burn it off, not eating after 9 PM, eating carbs throughout the work day, etc. So with these rules we need to challenge them by reversing our thoughts on them. This can include eating a light breakfast and heavier dinner, in my situation. What dietary rules do you have that you are willing to challenge? Did you ever tell yourself a food was off limits, and if so, why? Try eating that food and really reflect on how you feel in that moment. This brings me to our next item.
  4. Confront and Expose Fear Foods
     After the above steps have been incorporated, the next gradual step is to give yourself the permission to expose our fear to food. Part of this is removing the fear from food itself, and understanding food is just food. There is no evil cookie out there, the reason we see the cookie as evil is because of the negative connotation WE place on the cookie. If we remove the fear of eating the cookie, it becomes just that again.
  5. Delaying
    This helps often with those that experience binging or purging. If we got caught off guard in the middle of an area that we are wanting to binge or purge, say by a call from a loved one, or an unexpected immediate deadline, we usually are able to push back our binging which can often lead to no longer feeling the need to binge after the stressor has passed. I would recommend creating a list of things to pull out of your back pocket that can intercept restrictive behaviors.
    This article has a great list to start with that includes doing your nails, playing with a pet, calling a friend, or listening to music. By allowing yourself to complete this task before indulging the negative behavior, we can catch and stop that negative behavior from happening.
  6. Continue to Self Monitor
    By journaling (
    this is a great workbook) and keeping track of consumed foods along with emotional feelings we can reflect on what ultimately is causing us to feel restrictive patterns in that moment. For instance, journaling at lunch time at work describing your current mindset and what your eating can allow you to see if you are stressed out about a project at work. Over time, journaling can show us what patterns we have surrounding our mindset. Maybe we only feel binging behaviors when we are stressed at work, or maybe the binging is at home before bed. This step is about maintaining self awareness and really “knowing thyself”.

Using CBT

By no means am I a registered, educated or licensed professional when it comes to CBT. I write purely from my own personal experience and research, and from my research working with women through PfW. All of these tips can be extremely helpful while navigating the world of CBT. However. CBT doesn’t work for everyone, especially when trying to complete on your own.

I was able to utilize CBT to manage disordered eating in the most effective way by utilizing a local mental health professional. CBT takes consistency to be fully optimized; by working with a professional you are more likely to have a successful experience with CBT. To locate a therapist that specializes in CBT, click here.

Additional Resources

This website is the holy grail of resources. It contains informative handouts on eating disorders and disordered eating habits, as well as handouts, worksheets and exercises. There is also an extensive further reading page.

This website has a series of in depth modules that walk you through the CBT process.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or concerns or if I can help in any way. Everyday we are one step closer to eliminating restrictive eating if we consistently work towards improving. Keep an eye out for a few future posts on additional ways you can work to eliminate disordered eating tendencies.

 

Putting New Years Resolutions to Rest

Putting New Years Resolutions to Rest

When 2017 started, I dug my toes in and braced myself for what I thought was going to be a ridiculously long, and frankly, challenging year. Being present in my life has allowed me to appreciate life in “real-time”, AKA the present moment. It is crazy to reflect back on the last year and realize how incredibly fast the time went by, even with being present.

So here we are, on the cusp of a brand New Year. I have already started seeing ads for gym membership discounts, listicles on the internet documenting the TOP TEN WAYS TO LOSE WEIGHT THIS NEW YEAR. And it grosses me out, loves. There is nothing wrong with having a healthy relationship with “New Year’s Resolutions”, but I think it’s fair to say most people don’t. Like other monumental women’s movements this year, including the Women’s March, and the Me Too movement, I want to take back the shame surrounding the New Years holiday. I want to see a year dedicated to unconditional self-love and self-care, free from punishment and judgment.

I know this isn’t going to happen overnight. But we can move towards this change! One of the first things I personally have taken on is to refrain from calling resolutions just that. I am now calling them “Goals”. Doesn’t that sound way less intimidating and way more plausible?! Step one – remove the shame that surrounds the holiday.

I also want to briefly mention, we can set goals any day of the year that we want. I know that the New Year feels like a refreshing time to start, but the fact that it is so culturally acceptable to fail at these specific goals can set us up with the mindset that we are destined to fail.  

I wanted to share a few ways to embrace the New Year in a positive way, whether that means you’re setting goals for the New Year or if you aren’t. Women are on an upward momentum right now, let’s embrace ourselves and keep this momentum going.

 

Ways to Maintain A Positive Mindset

 

  • Surround yourself with positive people! Misery does love company, so come prepared with a healthy supportive tribe.
  • Physically smile when you are feeling negative. This recommendation is bizarre, and I would only recommend it if it actually works. There have been times when I look goofy with a huge smile on my face but the immediate effect it has on your mood is undeniable. 
  • Think about your happy place. There is something so simple about maintaining a fresh perspective that can help keep your mindset in check. I know it’s difficult to think about the others that are less fortunate than yourself when you are in a negative attitude, so start with a time when you were feeling happy. Bring yourself back to that joy and remember that everything is temporary.
  • Check the negative self-talk! Once it’s ingrained in yourself it’s hard to stop the negative talk. Bounce every negative thought you can with a positive one. EX: My legs look huge today! Correction: These legs could carry me miles, and through dance-offs, if I ask them to!

 

Healthy Ways to Achieve Those Goals

 

  • Write down your goals – The act of putting goals on paper is a way to set accountability for yourself.
  • Journal how you are feeling. Sometimes we lose touch with what’s really going on in our heads; journaling can allow us to process our thoughts in a more concise way.
  • Read Gretchin Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies. She discusses how everyone is one of four personality types and how to create habits that will last based on your personality type.
  • Share your goals with others. If you feel comfortable and have a positive support system to do so, this can help you maintain accountability too. Especially if you implement the buddy system and work towards a goal together.
  • Don’t be scared to not meet expectations. It may happen, and the best thing we can do is change our attitude on how we handle these situations.

 

Self-Care Tips

 

  • Try Chromotherapy. With the shorter days, chromotherapy and light therapy can give you some much needed Vitamin D.
  • Try Infrared saunas. This type of sauna is great for those who suffer from chronic pain. Infrared saunas also help the body by increasing the detoxification process and improving circulation. And sometimes it nice to just be alone in a chamber of wonderful heat and light.
  • Practice gratitude. This comes up often, but it’s important to remember what we have right now to be grateful for. Upon waking in the morning, write or think about three things that you are grateful for that  only have to do with yourself. Then progress towards the outward things in your life you are grateful for.
  • Don’t set New Year’s Goals. If you aren’t feeling mentally or physically in a place where you think this will be a good idea, JUST DON’T DO IT <3
  • Taking care of your health issues in an active, healthy, sustainable way. This can be as simple as looking at your life in a more holistic way. Instead of “thirty days to fit”, what are more longterm solutions to help maintain a positive mindset, wellbeing, and balance long-term?
  • Address any realistic physical imperfections that are messing with your confidence, like taking care of acne. Check Out – Clear Skin Unlocked.
  • For finally addressing your PCOS – PCOS Unlocked.
  • For tips on healthy, sustainable weight loss – Weight Loss Unlocked.
  • Check out my process of learning to love myself and the lessons I encountered in my book, Sexy By Nature (find it here).

I share even more tips on self-love and specifically on emotional eating – in this post.

I know this year will be a successful one. Remember, it is okay to not set New Years Goals. It’s also okay to fail if you do set goals. We are all human, let’s remember that! Wishing you lots of luck on your journey towards positive mindset and self-care this year. You are worthy of self-love and care, as much as anyone.

<3

 

 

It’s You, On FIRE.

It’s You, On FIRE.

Have you lived most of your life as a career dieter?

Do you struggle with body image issues?

Feel you don’t measure up to societal standards?

Are there lots of things you JUST WON’T DO because of how you feel about your body?

Here’s a few examples:  wear a certain skin-hugging dress?  Enjoy yourself at the beach in a cute swimsuit? Go to the gym?

Do you think things like: “That kind of dress isn’t made for someone with my shape” or “I shouldn’t wear that swimsuit, no one wants to see my rolls” or “Everyone will stare at me when I’m exercising because I’m so fat”

Do these kinds of thoughts hold you back from doing things you’d like to do?  Do they keep you cooped up and quiet when you want to be bold and free?

Are you sick and tired of it??

I was too.  For a long time I starved, berated, and damaged my body trying to fit a certain mold.

I even did this when I was supposedly “healthy” and paleo.

It was a brutal time where I weighed myself constantly and never felt comfortable in my own skin. 

Can you relate?

Cue my life changing transformation in body image and self-love which has helped me not only overcome my own issues, but help thousands of others. 

I started with myself, but I had a lot of help along the way.

One of my incredible friends was a major influence on the way I feel now.

She is strong, beautiful, and doesn’t give two f***s what people think about her or her body. 

She loves herself unconditionally and she teaches women like you and I to do the same.

She is known for taking sledgehammers to scales and empowering women to love themselves no matter what. 

That woman is my friend Summer Innanen.

And I’m fiercely excited about her new program.  She’s calling it You, On Fire.

You guys know I love to sign my emails “With fire and love” because I love the idea of women bringing out their fiery, passionate, bold and fierce natures and really loving themselves, despite everything else!

Summer’s new program is the PERFECT option for any of you who struggle with that.  It’s for those of you that are DONE with letting diet culture dictate to you or make you feel like your worth is based on a number on the scale, a certain shape or figure, or whatever BS they’re spewing out these days.

It’s for those of you who want to love yourselves and learn how to do that in a safe place with an AMAZING and hilarious woman.

You, On fire is a kickass 12-week group coaching program where you’ll join Summer’s entourage and learn to stick it to societal standards, stop living behind the number on the scale and feel like a total rockstar in your body.

This will be a fun, hilarious, and soulful journey into the depths of who you are, but more importantly, will release your sense of humor!

Summer has the ability to bring humor into anything and I know you’ll love her and her program!  I can’t recommend her highly enough!

So check out You, On Fire.  Find more info here.  

Tell us how you’ve overcome (or not overcome!) your body image issues! What do you still struggle with?  What advice has helped you the most?

New Science on Binge Eating: It’s Not Your Fault

New Science on Binge Eating: It’s Not Your Fault

One of the most common problems I encounter in my audience is binge eating. This is also one of the most common concerns Noelle and I field for our podcast. Everybody wants to know: How do I stop?

I have written about overcoming binge eating at great length before. In the article Binge/Restrict: The Most Common Pattern of Overeating and How to Stop, for example, I argue that while most people think the solution to binge eating is simply to be disciplined enough to get over it, the answer is actually the opposite. The answer, I argue, is to allow yourself abundance. The answer, I argue, is lots of food. Once you stop restricting your diet, you no longer feel the deprivation and obsession that inevitably cause you to overeat later on.

I do still believe that this is one of the most important things you can do to overcome binge eating. But I would like to discuss here the great, biochemical heft behind these processes.

Because here’s the thing: as much as society (and you!) may call you undisciplined, stupid, lazy, gluttonous, fat, insert demoralizing adjective here, for bingeing on whatever kind of food has hooked you, it’s wrong. It’s just plain wrong. You’re up against a huge set of biological, habituated compulsions. Bingeing behavior has now been proven to have potent biological motivators. And you must know it. I believe — I hope — that as you know it, so you may forgive yourself. Then you may more easily walk the path of healing.

To that end, I am going to describe two separate studies. These were both done on rats, so of course we cannot assume they to apply to humans. But there are human analogues and other human studies (such as on the science of sugar addiction – a topic for another time), that indicate the models may well apply.

Study #1

Binge-Like Consumption of a Palatable Food Accelerates Habitual Control of Behavior and Is Dependent on Activation of the Dorsolateral Striatum

This study investigates the difference between constant, non-restricted access to palatable foods versus restricted access to palatable foods. It ends up revealing that just a few weeks of occasionally being exposed to bursts of sweetened milk cause rats to binge on it, as well as to maintain these eating habits even after the time restrictions have been taken away. It happens because of neural changes that have taken place during the “burst” period. These changes cause long-term habits to form.

Teri Furlong and colleagues at the University of Sydney gave rats a diet of either normal chow or chow plus sweetened condensed milk. The “normal chow” rats were the control group. The rats that received the sweetened milk were divided into two groups: half got milk all day every day, as much as they wanted. The other half got access to the sweet stuff for only two hours every day.

After five weeks, the scientists trained all of the rats to press levers. There were two levers: one for sweet sugar pellets and one for simple grain pellets. In the test, the animals feasted on one of the types of food (either the sugar or the grain) and then exposed to a lever. In the first scenario, rats saw the lever for food they hadn’t yet had. If they had eaten sugar, they got grain. If they had eaten grain, they got sugar. In this scenario, all the rats ate a lot of the new food. Tastebuds like variety.

In the second scenario, the rats were given access to levers for the food they had already eaten. So if they had eaten sugar, they got a lever for sugar, and if they had eaten grain, they got a lever for grain. And this is where things really get interesting: rats who had had constant access to the sweetened milk in the training phase ate to satiety. They stopped pressing the lever. They had no interest in either the grain or the sugar. But, rats who were only allowed access to the sweet milk for two hours a day (and for the rest of the day, as much unsweetened food as they wanted), responded differently. They kept pressing for grain, even though they were already full of grain, and they kept pressing for sugar, even though they were already full of sugar. They weren’t pushing these levers because they were hungry. They were pushing these levers because having restricted bouts of access to sweet foods rewired their brains.

Interestingly enough, the researchers found that the obsessive lever-pressing was associated with an area of the brain called the dorsolateral striatum–an area of the brain associated with habitual behaviors. The researchers therefore hypothesize that rats develop long-lasting bingeing behaviors because of the repetitive training they had from the easier phase of the study. In that phase, they simply learned that the sweet stuff was rarely available, so they stuffed their faces when they could. This imprinted in them a long term habit.

Importantly, chemicals injected into their brains that interfered with glutamate and dopamine activity in the dorsolateral striatum caused the bingeing behavior to stop.

Study #2

In this study, MM Hagan and DE Moss subjected rats to four different patterns of 12-week restriction-refeeding cycles. The animals were either food restricted–constantly on a diet–or restricted plus some free-access binge days. After 12 weeks all rats underwent a re-feed period.

There were four different groups of rats: 1) “normal diet” eating with normal chow in the refeed period, 2) cyclical restricted eating (bingeing) with normal chow in the refeed period, 3) “normal diet” eating with palatable food in the refeed period, and 4) cyclical restricted eating (bingeing) with palatable food in the refeed period.

The rats that ate the “diet  eating” consistently received 75% of their normal calorie intake. The rats with cyclical restricted eating went through 4 days of restriction of 75% of their normal intake, then two days of a refeed where they could eat ad libitum.

After 12 weeks of this kind of entrainment, the rats were given 3 tests: 1) 24 hour deprivation and chow feeding; 2) 24 hour deprivation then chow and cookie feeding; 3) spontaneous chow and cookie feeding.

In the first test, with 24 hour deprivation and chow feeding, the rats which had gone through restricted cycles of feeding (on both normal and sweet food) ate 10% more food than the control rats. Interestingly enough, the rats that had been conditioned on sweet food were not all that interested in the chow feeding, and actually ate 20% less chow than the control group.

In the second test, with 24 hour deprivation and cookie feeding, rats that had been in sweet restricted cycles ate almost 20% more food than the control group.

In the third test, in simple spontaneous feeding without a 24 hour deprivation window, rats conditioned by sweet foods ate more than rats on normal chow, regardless of whether they had been restricted or not. The rats who ate non palatable chow and were on normal “diets” were perfectly fine; the rats who had eaten sweets but were on a normal diet ate about 20% more; the rats who had been in restricted cycling patterns and refed on sweets ate 80% more than control mice on normal diets. 80% more. 

Researchers in this study conclude, therefore, that “of all the conditions, the restricted/palatable group showed the most bulimic-like eating behavior. That is, a history of restricted eating (dieting) and refeeding on palatable food (bingeing) predicted a persistence of bingeing-eating behavior even after a 30-day period of normalization.”

Other Studies and implications

Of course, these are just two studies, and have been conducted on rats. There are plenty of indicators that similar phenomena  are at play in human beings. Recall perhaps most strikingly of all the Minnesota semi-starvation experiment in which “normal men” were food restricted and showed binge eating and insatiable appetites for sweet foods even after many days of unrestricted eating during the rehabilitation phase (Franklin et al 1948). In the 90s, Polivy et al “found that uncontrollable bouts of binge eating were significantly more common among prisoners of WWII who had, over 50 years earlier, experienced severe food restriction compared with nonrestricted combat veterans” (1994).

Via experiments on rats, we can see more clearly mechanisms by which this takes place. Apparently, pleasure neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) are definitely involved, as are, to a significant extent, the parts of the brain that are associated with habit formation.

The bottom line is this: your history of dieting, of binge eating, of restricting and refeeding, has had a concrete affect on the functioning of your brain. I can’t tell you how many thousands of women have expressed terrible guilt and shame with respect to their bingeing behaviors. They are all incorrect. If you feel this way, you are also incorrect. Your biology compels you, and powerfully so.

As I indicated in the start of this post, literally the best thing you can do for yourself is to forgive yourself. Give yourself access to food, and unlimited. Accept your body and delight in how hard it tries for you. Provide it with the nourishment it needs to develop new habits. It may feel rough at first, but over time the body can actually learn to eat well. You may also find that staying away from sweets or certain palatable foods is important. So long as this does not cause you to develop obsessions with these foods, that could be good. It would remove the biological trigger of habit that you have imprinted in your brain. Even switching to a different set of palatable foods could help (so long as your access is unrestricted). They key here is developing a positive, loving, forgiving attitude and helping your body create new habits.

You may also wish to supplement with low doses of l-tyrosine and/or l-tryptophan. These are precursors to dopamine and serotonin, respectively. They have been demonstrated to sometimes be quite potent for curbing people’s compulsions to overeat (an argument famously made by Julia Ross in The Diet Cure). I have personally noticed that when I take L-tryptophan (I take it for sleep) my constant feeling of “I could eat” disappears, and I feel more like a “normal person.”

Do you have experience that lines up with what I’ve discussed here? Contradicts it? I’d love to hear about  what you’ve gone through, and anything you share could be a great help to someone else in the community.