Cognitive Behavioral Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Health

There is emerging evidence that overeating, like some drugs, can be addictive. For example, methamphetamine (meth, crystal meth, Tina, etc.) releases a tremendous amount of dopamine into the brain, more than any other known substance. Because dopamine feels so fantastic, we are driven to continuously have that feeling. When dopamine drops, the brain seeks an increase to bring it up to the level it just had. It demands we “do” it again. The drive is so strong that it takes priority over all else. Satisfying the brain becomes a way of life, a lifestyle. It is no coincidence that the first two letters of “dopamine” are “do.” When addicts say, “There is nothing as good as that first high,” they are actually saying that a dopamine expectation level was set upon their first use, and life becomes dedicated to trying to relive that initial high.

Food follows this same path, but obviously on a much diminished scale. Food doesn’t raise our dopamine level as high as meth, bit it does raise it substantially. When we stop eating, our dopamine levels drop and we look for a refill of happiness by eating. We can turn a negative emotional state into an extremely positive state simply by grabbing some chips. Scary.

The six activities that increase our dopamine and lead to addictive behavior are

  1. eating
  2. drinking
  3. doing drugs
  4. gambling
  5. shopping
  6. sex

Of these, food is both readily available and most socially acceptable. If you do drugs on the job, have sex on your desk, toast your boss with a shot of tequila at each meeting, meet openly with your bookie, or constantly shop on the Internet, you’ll likely be fired. We don’t openly take shopping breaks, sex breaks, or drug breaks, but we do take food breaks. No one blinks an eye if you tear open a bag of corn chipsĀ or cookies, of if you partake of the spread laid out for an important meeting.

It sometimes seems there is no better way of getting through a period of negative emotion than eating. It is a wonderful short-term solution. In the long run, however, it destroys us via weight gain and diabetes. The short-term solution comes at too great a cost. Unfortunately, most of our brain is dedicated to short-term projects. If we want to keep the long-term consequences in mind, it takes a conscious effort. Our brain will automatically remind us of short-term rewards, but we’ll have to remind ourselves of the long-term rewards because they are not automatic…yet. No magic fairy will do this for us, and our brain will not take over our long-term life management on its own.

We’ll help you and your brain create the lifelong plan.

We do not have to give up pleasure to lose weight! Most people who think about weight loss imagine they have to live a deprived, highly disciplined life, especially with regard to food and exercise. They imagine having to graze almost exclusively on salads and exercise in spite of pain. Self-discipline is fine if you have a good plan. The problem is, most people have a lousy plan–one full of pain, hard work, and constant hunger. Many weight loss plans expect success in the absence of pleasure and moments of satisfaction. They also treat eating as if it is cut off from the rest of our lives, which it is not. A successful plan has to be comfortable and rewarding enough with which to live permanently. We don’t want to exchange happiness and satisfaction for a slimmer body. Being thin but miserable is hardly an attractive goal. Living a life full of pleasure, you’ll find, is indeed powerful medicine.