Eating Healthy -- Step one: Understanding My Starting Point
I'm back to eating healthy. Diabetes has caught up with me and now cutting down my carbohydrates and calories is no longer optional. My weight has ballooned back up over 300lbs and my high blood sugars have started to take a toll on my kidneys. I have one option and its dieting.
As I have mentioned before, I have three mutations that leave me in a constant fight for dopamine. My body doesn't create it properly but it does a fantastic job clearing it out once it's been released. The end result is a constant struggle for dopamine and a near constant struggle against anhedonia and depression.
How is this related to dieting? One way dopamine is used is as a reward for promoting behavior and stimulating motivation. Food is an effective and readily available way to activate certain dopamine neurons. The nature of dopamine is such that drugs that increase the activity of dopamine neurons are believed to be addictive and are classified as controlled substances. Food is addictive in this same way.
Like millions of people, I am addicted to food. Food addiction in-and-of-itself is a hard addiction to overcome. We always have to eat. It's an addiction that needs to be controlled despite constant and necessary exposure; it's difficult and complicated under the best of circumstances. My starting point is that I have 45 years of learned behaviors around using food to provide a functional level of dopamine. Given the amount of depression I've dealt with, I might argue I'm not even hitting baselines of normal.
As I understand it, stress has a negative effect on dopamine levels. I know for me it certainly feels that way. Food being my biggest coping tool means that the more stressed I am the more I eat. Being overweight and unhealthy causes a lot of stress and so I find myself in a negative feedback loop needing more and more food to achieve the same effect that a younger healthier me would get from less food and smaller binges. This is also complicated by the body's natural tendency to produce smaller dopamine rewards over time.
So, here I am. 45 and at a tipping point with my health were I (hopefully) get one last chance to turn things around. And my approach is going to have to include strategies for keeping my dopamine up in the absence of my primary coping mechanism -- binge eating.
So that's my starting point. Luckily, I know how and what to eat. With a new focus on dieting while trying new and healthier coping skills, I am optimistic.
Much of my blogging in the coming days will be about both the dieting and learning new coping skills as they are intricately interwoven.