Assuming you are ready to end your fake food addiction and/or to stop compulsive overeating, what is the optimal time to do so? When is the best time to start? Even with all of the knowledge set out on this website, there may be a tiny smidgen of doubt; a quiet nagging desire to delay eating normally by just one more day.
Allen Carr once described a time when his cigarette intake had grown so severe that it triggered nose bleeds, brought on by coughing spasms. As he sat in his car, blood pouring down his face for the third time that morning (continuing to smoke) Allen recalled a conversation with his wife. They had been watching a film about a couple with a child dying of Leukaemia. His wife said:
It must be awful for that couple, but, at least they have the consolation of knowing that they are doing everything in their power and that the disease was not self-inflicted. How much worse do you think it is to have to watch someone you love slowly destroying himself and spending a fortune for the privilege, when you can see so clearly that he’s getting no benefit whatsoever from [it]? – from The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently by Allen Carr (see on Amazon)
What day should you choose to free yourself from disordered eating?
Should you quit on an important day?
We often fall for the idea that life changes are easier on nice ’round’ dates or ‘special’ occasions, such as:
- The first of the month
- New year’s day
- The first day of a new job
- The first day of the holidays
- Your birthday
- Twelve weeks before a wedding or special occasion of some kind
Allen Carr calls these ‘meaningless’ days, and he writes:
Meaningless days cannot possibly help you quit, because they do absolutely nothing to affect the tilt and the schizophrenic scales inside your brain. While the tilt remains in favour of [the addiction], you will remain [addicted].
He goes on to say:
Perhaps you feel that meaningless days have one redeeming feature: that they force [us] into at least making an attempt. In fact, this is their greatest evil. All our [addicted lives] we desperately search for reasons to postpone the evil day. They merely provide us with a ready made excuse to postpone our attempt to quit until the next meaningless day, when we fail anyway!
If you had a thorn in your foot, would you decide not to extract until New Year, or National Pulling Thorns out of Feet Day? If you were 20, would you wait until you were 40 before you extracted that thorn? – from The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently by Allen Carr (see on Amazon)
Should you wait until you have less stress in your life?
Another alluring option, is to wait until life is less ‘stressful’. To wait until after you have finished a busy project, or until a particular deadline has passed. A favourite excuse of mine was to wait until a series of occasions involving food had passed, so that I would have a period absent of ‘temptation’. Perhaps you should wait until you have improved your sleep patterns (after all, it seems evident that poor sleep increases food cravings, and it certainly does not aid decision making). Perhaps you need more sunlight and fresh air, and to exercise a little to improve your depression. Perhaps you need to eliminate electronic screens after bedtime and increase your social engagement – get off the internet and add some love and friendship back in your life.
You probably do need all these things. But what would you say to a heroin addict, with a similar set of disfunctions? Wouldn’t you tell him or her to stop poisoning themselves with heroin? Wouldn’t you see that for them to focus on the auxiliary issues while continuing to dose themselves up to the eyeballs with a toxic, addictive substance will never cure them, because their real problem is the one that they refuse to tackle?
In the depths of my junk food addiction, I had a multitude of related problems and disfunctions – coupled with excessive ‘self-help’ reading and bouts of depression. I tried increasing my sunlight hours; going for walks; regulating my internet hours and going to bed earlier…but in the end, none of it made a difference, because almost all of these things are driven by the pursuit of an activity that is killing you. I’m not being dramatic. People die in their thousands from chronic fake food consumption every single day. The toll is much, much worse than smoking – and it is much harder to see the culprit. But if you’ve read this website, you know where the culprit is. The addictive agent is not a ‘thing’, it is an absence. It is an absence of what your body really needs from food (coupled with great taste), leaving you with something that never satiates, because it never delivers the benefit that is promised.
When you know where the evil culprit hides, you know how to scourge it from your diet. You know how to eliminate it.
Should you wait until a dramatic incident propels change?
Should you wait until a momentous event switches the balance of motivation in favour of stopping: a health scare, a divorce or relationship break-up, the death of a family member or close friend? You might know from experience that such occasions can shock us into re-evaluating our lives and trigger a sudden change. The problem is that they often have the opposite effect. Sometimes they become the catalyst for a steep, downward descent; throwing you head-first into a pit of despair.
In Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction (available from Amazon) author Maia Szalavitz writes:
…the idea that other sorts of threats or painful experiences will stop addiction makes no sense. Addiction is an attempt to manage distress that becomes a learned and nearly automatic program. Adding increased distress doesn’t override this programming; in fact, it tends to engage it even further.
Over the years, ex-users have shared stories of leaving hospital rooms where their loved one lay dying of lung cancer so they could smoke, of smoking while pregnant, of accidentally lighting their car, clothing, hair or dog on fire, of smoking while battling pneumonia, and of sneaking from their hospital room into the staircase to light-up while dragging along the stand holding their intravenous medication bag.
After engaging in an addictive behaviour for so long, in the face of disaster, it can seem like the only thing to get you through. It can seem like the best way to alleviate the situation for a moment, even though it doesn’t alleviate anything at all.
Will you wait until something really horrible happens and then decide to change? Will you wait until you are diagnosed with diabetes, or cancer or until you have suffered some other irreversible damage to your body?
Any time but today
I spent years telling myself that I would change tomorrow, while turning my eyes from the days and months and years ticking by. I continued, even after I noticed that it never seemed easier; and that with each passing day, I felt more and more lost.
Life is filled with unpredictable events; good and bad. It seems plausible that we might arrange our future circumstances in such a way that everything is aligned and conducive to change. The problem is that tomorrow never feels like tomorrow; it feels like today. It doesn’t ever feel like the perfect day to stop disordered eating in its tracks.
This is because the quiet, almost imperceptible, doubt (that nagging feeling) is caused by repeatedly consuming addictive food. It is the mild physical withdrawal that you suffer from every day of your life, except in that fleeting moment when you shove your face with fake food. When you realise that this empty feeling is not symptomatic of today being wrong, but is rather a symptom of addiction, and that returning to a regular meal pattern, eating normal semi-nourishing foods, will eliminate this sensation, you can begin to imagine the best day to begin. It takes only a short dose of concerted effort to stop binge eating forever (or to stop grazing or eating compulsively or to stop engaging in bulimia or whatever form of disordered eating you have). I have said it before, but I will say it again: your dieting ‘failures’ (the unsurprising inability to consume fewer calories than it takes to maintain your health) have hammered a damaging falsity into your brain. You believe that you have no willpower in the face of junk food. You believe that chocolate or cookies or whatever the hell it is has got the better of you. No. A false belief has got the better of you, and you can toss it out of the door, when the real truth is exposed. You arrived at this false belief, as any normal person would, as a result of being unable to sustain an unsustainable diet. Once you acquired this belief, you succumbed, because what you believe comes true. You became powerless, because you believed it to be so.
There is a parable I once read in Think and Grow Rich, by Napolean Hill (available from Amazon) about baby elephants who are chained to a stake when young. As baby elephants, they tug and pull at the chain, but are unable to break free. They acquire the belief that escaping is impossible and give up tugging on the chain. Even as huge, fully grown elephants, who have the strength to escape easily, they don’t even try.
Launching into normal eating (three meals a day) requires only a tiny ounce of concerted effort. It is infinitely easier than you imagine and absolutely within your capabilities. If you have done any diet at all, for a few days, you can do this a million times over. The best part is that, when you do, your brain rapidly relearns normal eating habits, restores dopamine levels in a matter of days and turns you back into the person you were born to be. And in doing so, this whole big drama is over.
Waiting for the epiphany
This website is designed to present information to you in such a way that your viewpoint changes. It is designed to provide a flood of new information (or to reassemble things that you already knew) in such a way that it suddenly becomes clear – as if a switch had been flicked in your brain – so that what once appeared to be an insurmountable, irretractable ‘mental’ mess, suddenly becomes a clear practical problem with a solution.
Addictive substances stack the deck of cards against you. They deceive you, until the wool is pulled away from your eyes. When the sun shines in and you see that addictive substances offer the illusion of happiness, but deliver nothing (leaving you worse off and setting up a cycle of misery) the door is open for your escape. Your brain has been tricked by a false association between action and reward (a reward that delivers its polar opposite), messing up your choices without your consent. Your ‘eating disorder’ is a ‘thinking disorder’ built around a false association, but when you see it – when the truth is exposed, as it would be if you could explain to the grown elephant what happened – you can walk free.
You are caught in the most pathetic and easy-to-break trap ever: a clever little entanglement of physiological and psychological responses. But a trap that only exists when you don’t know it’s there. A trap that dissolves, the moment you see it.
There’s no adjustment process. You don’t have use willpower to form habits over weeks, you have to initiate and then stick to one single action, with a bang: the normal eating habit.
When you understand the nature of the trap, all you have to do is leap free. Just as a significant majority of the US soldiers who were addicted to morphine in the Civil War (morphine is the most addictive substance in opium, initially given to soldiers as pain relief) were able to terminate their addiction once returning home without any difficulty (because they hadn’t begun to think of themselves as a helpless addict or accepted the belief that the morphine had power over them), you too can terminate your disordered eating.
When you make a sudden change (act differently) the table turns. Your brain adapts to accommodate the new situation, immediately relearning normal eating patterns. If you cut off your thumb, your brain doesn’t sit around lamenting the old digit. It immediately reassigns a larger brain area to the remaining fingers and begins learning how to use your new four-fingered hand. After a sudden change in eating habits, your brain is forced to adapt, and with that, comes a surge of phenomenal joy, when you realise that this thing you thought had trapped you had not trapped you at all. The realisation will floor you; trigger an upcycle of positive change that spills over into every arena of your life.
You have been subjected to an insufficient intake of nutrients and an excessive load of calories for years on end. Stop it. End the torture.
People think it’s difficult to stop consuming fake food, but it isn’t. You don’t suffer withdrawal fevers, tremors, deliria, hallucinations or convulsions. Junk food withdrawal is a faint downtrodden fatigue; and, if you understand what’s happening, it is accompanied by delirious exhilaration: drowned out by a roaring joy – because you know that you are free.
In the escape, there is laughter in your eyes; energy in the lift of your chin and your step; a joy that emanates from your soul – not just due to improved physical health, but the realisation that you have cracked something that you thought had beaten you. A joy that comes from never being hungry again. A joy that comes from knowing that you have escaped disordered eating – uncontrollable guzzling down of fake food that took over your life.
Do you know what it’s like to be strong and agile and move with grace?
Do you know what it’s like to stand in front a mirror and see a body that looks exactly as it was meant to be?
It’s pure exhilaration.
The stumbling block is fear
In the months of procrastination that I endured before shattering the final misconceptions and eating normally, I used to imagine that if I woke up in a thin, healthy body, I could do it. I would go out with friends, laugh, have the time of my life, and eat like a normal person. I could do that.
But there was a problem: I would not wake up thin the next day; I would wake up fat, isolated and unfit, just as I had been the day before. I would wake up and all of the damage that excessive junk food consumption had caused would still be present in my life. I believed I would have to go through a long weight loss phase, before I would be at a weight that I was proud of. I was scared to endure this without the one thing I thought could help me to cope.
If you resume normal eating, cold turkey, you will wake up the same weight tomorrow, this is true. You may also wake up socially isolated (if you have shut yourself off from others, as I had done, in shame). You may be left with residual damage to your health, such as high blood pressure and difficulty engaging in exercise. You may have shapeless clothes and a trail of unachieved dreams. But you’re forgetting something. This is exactly how you wake up now. You might blot this knowledge out for a few measly moments, as you guzzle down junk food or sip caffeinated liquid calories, but this doesn’t change how you feel in every other moment of the day. Low nourishment food conceals your pain only temporarily, bringing your dopamine levels back up to sub-par normal: it doesn’t fill you with happiness. Do you remember what real joy feels like? A kiss with someone you are crazy about. A child being born. Someone professing their love to you. True happiness is not the blurred concealment of a crappy existence, it is brightly lit experience of life: a moment when pleasure and future benefit combine.
Rather than the terror that comes with seeing your figure lurch upwards through clothing sizes, there is a confidence in knowing that you have solved this thing: an unimaginable joy in knowing that you are returning to a healthy physique easily.
When you eat regular, semi-nourishing meals, even when overweight or obese, it feels like, from day one, that your body is coming alive; like you have escaped from a giant prison and are running down the hill to freedom. With each step you shed the lethargy and depression, becoming more energised and alert than the day before. Every cell in your body becomes revitalised. Shame and self-hatred are replaced by excitement; anticipation for life.
Can you imagine how much more time you have for living, once this ‘problem’ is set aside? Do you know what it’s like not to have to spend evenings researching obsessively for a solution, desperately hunting for the way out of your prison?
Do you know what it’s like not to have to obsess over what you’re eating every second of your life?
If you’ve ever watered a dying pot plant and watched it come back to life, that’s what the transition feels like. It is like green seeping back along your limbs.
There is peace in progress – in regaining health, without sacrifice. There is joy in other ways too. Rather than seeing pity, disgust or – worse – indifference in the eyes of others, people start to treat you differently. Judgement turns into envy and admiration. Even silly things, that you probably haven’t even thought about, are likely to improve. Your skin may clear. Your teeth may strengthen (mine grew new enamel)! Your sex drive will return in leaps and bounds, as will your desire to socialise.
You’re not giving up on a coping strategy. Junk food doesn’t soothe you, it kills you. It is the biggest cause of stress in your life. It keeps you trapped in the same groundhog day, over and over again.
Your fears are based on a fiction: a story that you have created, as the result of experiencing hellish and restrictive diets. The transition from overweight to normal weight, while eating a normal, semi-nourishing diet is infinitely better than what you experience today; far better than a life of unhappiness, interspersed with inefficient attempts to block out the pain for a few moments a day. There is no misery in the journey to an optimal weight; you are escaping a period of misery.