copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Another year has come and gone. Everywhere she goes she hears people speak of New Years resolutions. They all say this time will be different. I will decide to do as I had not done previously or at least had not done well. Countless commit to a life of calorie counting. Others merely muse that they will exercise more. Drugs, drinking, there are also discussions of these concerns. People are confident. This year I will deliver myself from what I think evil. A few philosophize as to their personal career path. Change is the objective. A greater goal is thought to be golden. As Author Mary Anne Radmacher reflected and now millions whisper as their mantra, “Live with intention . . . Choose with no regret. . . . Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” Therein lies the problem.
For persons such as she, her habits are all there is. “Normal” people, whoever these might be, experience as she does; however, the circumstances and consequences are less obvious. For many a perpetual stroll down the diet path is customary. An occasional drink, two, or three, of the organic compound known as alcohol satisfies the soul, or so they say. Decisions to imbibe less are made daily. These declarations are often announced publicly. Yet, for a bulimic such as she, much must remain hidden. Her hurts are not thought to be tolerable.
Each year, indeed each day, for decades now, a determined Little Bit, as her Daddy calls her, has pledged to detach herself from her burden. She does not wish to be led by temptation. She tries to curb her appetite. She goes for hours being “good.” She eats in moderation for a moment. Then, the mound that sits solidly in her stomach reminds her of her hurt, physical, psychological, physiologically. It, the food, the failures, and the feelings, are all consuming. The hope is she will again see food as nourishment, not a means to nurture herself. Hitherto, what she believes she loves, food, is exactly what she loathes.
The fodder itself is not the subject of her disdain, how this fare has taken over her life is cause for her contempt. Some believe she seeks control. These individuals trust that this lass thinks she has power over nothing but her weight. Ha! That is humorous. To binge and purge is to never know what your body mass will be.
The lyrics from “Que Sera, Sera,” what will be will be bestow no blessings. Nor does the tune provide answers to the questions that forever beckon this forlorn being. Will I be pretty? Will I be puffy? Will I be rich? She has learned the lesson; if I am bulimic, none of these will be.
There is no sense of control when a person such as she, consumes vast quantities of chow. Cash is drained, as is the corporeal being. Vitamins and minerals are voided from the system. Health and happiness are canceled in kind. Electrolytes are eliminated exponentially. If the heart continues to beat, that, medical professionals say, will be a miracle. Rather than wield authority over any or all aspects of her life, She is only sick and tired. This woeful woman is sick of being sick, and tired of being tired.
The hours devoted to the dance are endless. Day and night, she dreams of food. In her sleep, sadly she sees herself heave. There is little time for slumber. If firm, yet fragile female is to eliminate every morsel, she must completely cleanse her stomach. Eat. Drink. Wet the palette. Moisten the most minuscule particles in the stomach. Indeed, saturate these. All-the-better to slide food upwards my dear.
Even still, any good bulimic knows, until there is nothing but bile, the belly is not truly empty. If the tummy is to be left untouched by vitals, one must work to create a vacuum within.
Thus, the cycle continues. Binge. Purge, Resolve to be healthy. Plan to pop huge quantities of supplemental pills, without puking. This is the perpetual plan. It has been for what feels as eons. “New Years Day,” She says to herself, “is every day?”
She ponders what people think, what physicians profess, and the many conversations with her cousin who believes the bulimic lifestyle is her choice. Each seems to espouse a similar philosophy; with consideration to fodder, bulimics are fully in charge of what enters and exits their mouths. She has the power to stop. All that this dame does is in her control. If this is control, She bellows, I want none of it!
It is fine for others to say that her actions, the chain of gorge and eliminate all that she ate, is her personal preferred alternative. She has come to understand that what we select to do is not so easily defined . . . that is except by others who think they know better than she of what is within her. Fascinated, she reflects on what has more recently been discovered as a scientific reality. Rarely do humans grasp what is within them selves.
People eat sweet, fatty, or salty foods for pleasure; only to be pained by pounds gained, a compromised immune system, or guilt. The agonies these cause encourage greater indulgences. In search of gratification, countless place bets. Gamblers win. They lose. With little left to show, some sell what the have left. Surely, the next wager will bring that welcome success. Triumph will be theirs. Crapshooters, card sharks, and boneshakers will then have the cash to “invest” once again. Certainly, there are dozens who do drugs with delight. The trip is a high. The down is so low. The desire for another buzz builds, as does the appetite for more dopamine.
The number of activities people engage in to increase the rates at which dopamine is released in the brain are unlimited, neuroscientists now realize. Several studies published over the last years have examined the effects of monetary rewards and the chemical compound generated in the brain. Currency, while an abstract, in the gray matter that guides us, is as concrete as cocaine, food, sex or anything a person envisions as a reward, Doctor Hans Breiter, a neuroscientist at Harvard noted near a decade ago, people crave what they think will bring them comfort. Little Bit sighs and smiles. She knows this is true for her.
If only the brain and body were independent entities. Then perchance, people and their physical, physiological realities would not be so reliant on irrational predilections, or the false hope that a New Years resolution will offer the necessary willpower. This is not meant to excuse what she does; nonetheless, She reads the copious research. She wonders whether the countless socially acceptable eaters do.
Sugar, salts, fats, starches, and the abundance of these in an American diet, interact with the cellular structures of mind and matter. The effects of Food on the Brain some say is folly. Scientist have disputed that false notion as a myopic myth and still most people deny that dopamine decides much for us, be we bulimic, or a person who appears to be beautifully balanced.
The brains of beings are akin. The difference is bulimics do what is offensive. Surely, Little Bit does. She beats herself up day after day, evening after evening, before, during, and after she engages in the-engorge-and-eliminate process. She tells herself she is not resolute enough, not strong enough, and not sincere enough. As a person, She believes she is surely a failure. How else might she explain why she is not successful, she does not live a wonderful life.
She lives with intention and regrets her every choice. She has the goals and inevitably grave misgivings. She passionately pursues her bliss, be it food or foolishness. These, in truth, are one in the same.
Thus, once again, on the traditional New Years Day, she reflects on what is her forever truth. She is fond of what is wise and worrisome. She longs to be free from her habit. She also yearns to feel the food flow in and out of her body. Finally, the lovely lady hopes to resolve, if life is to be different, she must do other than resolve. It is vital for Little Bit to realize her brain and body are one. She can conclude and act upon the choice she had not considered in previous decades. She can regularly recharge her present neural pathways, or change her pattern. Perchance, were she to embrace that truth, this year will be truly New, nice, and nicer.
Resolve to find a finer reality. Resources . . .
- Jonah Lehrer: Passions Of The Brain. Host Terry Gross. Fresh Air. National Public Radio. March 2, 2009
- Food on the Brain, By Daniel Fisher. Forbes. January 10, 2005
- America’s Diet: Too Sweet by the Spoonful, By Jane E. Brody. The New York Times. February 9, 2009
- Sodium: Are you getting too much?. Mayo Clinic.
- Fatty Foods Affect Memory and Exercise, By Tara Parker-Pope. The New York Times. August 13, 2009
- Controlling the American Appetite. Jane Clayson, Guest Host, interviews David Kessler. On Point. July 2, 2009
- Why we can’t eat just one. By Katharine Mieszkowski. Salon. June 18, 2009
- Hijacking the Brain Circuits With a Nickel Slot Machine, By Sandra Blakeslee. The New York Times. February 19, 2002