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Overcoming Overeating Conquer your Obsession with Food

by Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter

listed in weight loss

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|The Fight-Back ResponseDr. Janet Polivy and Dr. Peter Herman have done extensive research at the University of Toronto to demonstrate that the restraints of a diet lead to a binge, regardless of the personality, character, or starting weight of the dieter. Through years of clinical practice we have concluded that dieters are like tightly wound springs—the more restrained their eating, the tighter the spring. Once a dieter goes off his or her diet, the spring releases. The tighter that spring has been wound, the more forceful is its release. The more restrictive the diet, the bigger the binge.

Every diet—regardless of how long its book has been on the best-seller list, regardless of whether it tells you to count calories or grams, regardless of whether it tells you to eat grapefruit or bean sprouts—represents a spring readying itself to release.

Dr. William Bennett and Joel Gurin point out in The Dieter's Dilemma that the body reacts to dieting as if famine had set in. Each time you diet, your body's metabolism slows down in order to store fat. The more you diet, the slower your metabolism, and with each successive diet it becomes more difficult, if not impossible, to lose weight.

Most current research confirms the view that the ultimate result of food deprivation is an increase in stored fat. Dr. Kelley Brownell of the University of Pennsylvania found that yo-yo dieting increases the activity of an enzyme that promotes the storage of fat. Losing and regaining cycles demonstrably increase body fatness.

From an evolutionary point of view, the survival of our species may be directly related to our body's ability to store fat in times of plenty for use in times of famine. Anne Scott Belier discusses this in Fat and Thin: A Natural History of Obesity. She points out that, like the animals who gain weight in anticipation of hibernating for the winter, people in northern climates were originally heavier and larger than those in southern climates. Their lives depended on it.

This physiological tendency to resist deprivation by holding on to supplies has its psychological counterpart. We all admire people who fight against adversity, who manage to survive against all odds. We recognize in them a life force that struggles to hold on to what is good and pleasurable despite all obstacles.

Most people when threatened with deprivation of any kind—including self-imposed food deprivation—will fight to preserve what they have. The compulsive eater consents to deprive himself of food—to diet—but he inevitably "cheats.' He calls it cheating because he fails to see that breaking the diet is his attempt to preserve supplies. He does not view his bingeing as the same kind of struggle against deprivation that he'd be the first to admire in another context. As we see it, the fight to hold on to something important—food—is at the heart of the diet/binge cycle.

Diets create rather than cure compulsive eating. That they also make us fat is a difficult, but essential, conclusion for any compulsive eater to reach. The idea of abandoning diets fills us with fear and hopelessness. No chronic dieter could take such a step without being completely convinced that dieting harms rather than helps. To this end, let us examine the diet/binge cycle even further.

|The Urge to DietWhat gives you the idea to diet? What triggers the urge to lose weight? The idea is literally in the air. Living in a nation obsessed with food and weight control, you can't escape it. You embark on the diet/binge cycle because you feel dissatisfied with your body or fear what will happen to you if you don't gain control over your eating.

Extracted with permission.

Sandra Goodman PhD

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