Friday, March 25, 2011

Better Living Through Brain Chemistry

201.2 lbs. To hell with it: Steak Day.

Admiral James T. Kirk: "Spock, these cadets are yours - how good are they, how will they respond under real pressure?"
 Captain Spock: "As with all living things - each according to his gifts." – Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

The 201.2 is a 2 lb. undesirable increase over the 199.2 that has been the lowest point so far. I emphasize the “so far.” Previous attempts at losing weight have derailed when hitting similar speed bumps, sort of like the idea that you can derail a train by putting a penny on the tracks or crash a helicopter by putting a postage stamp on a blade. Yeah, just as reasonable a response.
I have tried various chemical approaches to correcting behavior and controlling appetite: over the counter diet pills (speed), Phen Fen and Prozac. The diet pills really clashed with coffee and Sudafed (I have sinus issues. Had, actually). Phen Fen did nothing but give me the occasional crazy heart beat (even if the Red Sox aren’t on the verge of winning the Series) and Prozac. Dear Prozac aka NumbItAll. I gained weight, but didn’t give a shit.
A craving could undo me in pretty short order, particularly under certain emotional situations or “times of the month” .Or a sudden, inexplicable need for Cheetohs. Even fake cheese can be kryptonite. Declaring open season on food hasn’t worked. Trying cold sweat white-knuckled denial of cravings hasn’t worked (it just made the inevitable binge that much worse).
I have seen a hypnotherapist. I have listened to subliminal tapes and self-hypnosis tapes. I ended up with a refreshing nap and not improvement in attitude or behavior although I do tend to quack when I hear Celine Dion. (I might have done that before anyway). I have consulted a medical intuitive (medical psychic). This is what you do if you don’t have health insurance.
I know “The Secret” by heart. Think positive, visualize yourself as you wish to be. Delays in gratification just mean that your desire is a tall order for the Universe to fill. Fine. And in the meantime, I will see myself eating this Snickers bar and not gaining anything. And that Snickers bar, too.
In addition to actively working on a weight loss plan, I also found myself without a job one week into it. That would be trigger enough for a food shopping and eating binge: previously, the foremost thought I would have was “Oh, my God, I’m going to run out of food!” Being without shelter or money didn’t panic me as much as having nothing to eat. There’s always room for more stress.
The difference this time: I had been working with a therapist to get better coping skills than gorging myself. I had also begun working with an acupuncturist who had included appetite suppression points whilst sticking needles in my (I could have given the guys from “Hellraiser” a run for their money). And now, I have found Better Living Through Brain Chemistry.
One of the side effects of unemployment is exposure to daytime TV. While waiting for the Law & Order afternoon blocks to begin, I surfed my way over to PBS. It was pledge season and the local station wasn’t showing The Three Tenors, Doo Wop ‘Til You Die or that idiot Suze Orman (“You don’t have a good relationship with money because your mother told you it was dirty”. Two cent philosophy for sale in a $180 CD and journal set. There you go, all of your inappropriate spending is solved.). Nope, the local affiliate had turned into Infomercial Central, giving time to diet doctors and selling their books/CDs/DVD sets at the pledge break. Both guys (and I will not name the programs or the doctors) were touting similar approaches to correcting eating behaviors and ending cravings by adjusting brain chemistry. And adjusting the brain chemistry was as simple as adding spices to each meal. Oregano boosts your dopamine and seratonin levels. Who knew?  I can eat more oregano. And garlic. And basil. Bring it on.
The theory is that bad eating habits, such as a lack of portion control or eating too fast or craving certain foods is a direct response to imbalances of dopamine, seratonin, GABA (I don’t know what it means, but it’s important) and acetylcholine. By eating foods (and taking supplements) that enhance these neurotransmitters, the fatty, salty, sweet cravings end. By boosting GABA, you stop eating too fast. By boosting seratonin, you stop craving carbohydrates. Hey, isn’t Prozac supposed to increase seratonin? A bottle of oregano costs a lot less than a bottle of Prozac. And you still have a sex drive. While I wasn’t gullible enough to buy the premise of “The Day After Tomorrow” (Instant ice age, just add Jake Gyllenhall), the arguments these two guys (make that 3, I found a book on Amazon with the same theory) put forward seemed worthy of consideration. 1). It’s adding spices and/or supplements to your diet, something that I do anyway, 2) the changes to food were those I’ve seen recommended by other doctors: choose fats carefully and limit intake to a certain daily percentage, choose lean meats, eat more fruits and vegetables, stay away from sugar and refined carbohydrates (with Easter coming up? Aw, Man). Eat organic food as much as possible. 3) Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day and 4) get off your butt. Oh, yes and meditate. Nothing wacky, everything looks common sense.
I began to incorporate these steps into my daily life. I’ve been adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to my morning yogurt and fruit (with stevia and I need to blend it better. Cinnamon in and of itself is pretty harsh and raw). If I’m making a salad, I dump the parsley, basil and oregano into it. Granulated garlic is a wonderful thing: either I blend it into cottage cheese with oregano, basil and black pepper or if I’m grilling, I hit the meat with it.
I’m also taking a vitamin D3 supplement, 1 gram of flax seed oil per day (capsules. A LOT of capsules) and N acetyl cysteine. Today was a pip: the weight hadn’t gone down (hadn’t gone up, either, but no decline), I’ve been dealing with several ongoing issues (and no, you don’t need to know what they are) and I don’t have a job lined up. Yet.
As Mr. Spock says, “each responds according to their gifts.”
There is food in the kitchen and previous times, I would have started grazing and just kept going. Today, though, I didn’t feel the urge. Not once. I didn’t want to clean out the Easter candy aisle at the store, didn’t want to get fast food or a pizza or clean out the refrigerator. No. I had my Steak Day because, Goddammit, that 201 is dropping (and if it doesn’t move today, tomorrow, we go with apples). I tested my cholesterol (I love home kits. No trip to Quest Labs where strange people with obnoxious kids stare at you). It was 137. And I then went about getting all the various and sundry issues resolved (like getting the bureaucratic SNAFUs cleared that were blocking my receipt of unemployment benefits). I got all the way through the day without sabotaging myself, biting off someone’s head (well, not anyone who didn’t have it coming in the first place) and without feeling anxious, deprived or like I was going through withdrawal.
There may be something to ths.

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