Article #3: Say Goodbye To Compulsive Eating by Mehl McDowell, M.D.
The therapeutic breakthrough came when I was searching for a clear-cut, easily definable dietary rule that would simplify weight control. I needed a rule which would be healthy, easy to live by and readily taught by behavior therapy techniques.
The rule I selected to try was the complete avoidance of all foods containing refined sugar or white flour. Using the habit-retraining techniques with which I was familiar, I programmed my willing weight control patients to dislike the sugar-flour foods and completely eliminate them from their eating style.
Now the great surprise—the breakthrough—surfaced when patient after patient came to me following several days of eating a diet free of all sugar and white flour and joyfully reported that the irresistible cravings had disappeared.
Their irresistible cravings could now be understood as the typical cravings of addicts. The mysterious urges stemmed from the cyclic, biochemical processes of addiction.
Occasionally, a patient will report irresistible cravings for some other food not in the sugar-white flour group.
But the establishment of total abstinence from the foods identified as the culprits is only the first phase in eliminating the addictive-like, irresistible cravings for those foods. The second phase is extinguishing the conditioned response cravings for those foods.
How do I eliminate these conditioned response cravings in the case of sugar-white flour addicts? I use the term "glue" and "glue" foods" to mean all foods containing any highly refined sugar or flour.
If a patient has a desire for a dish of chocolate ice cream, for instance, I instruct him to immediately picture that ice cream "glued" into disgusting fat deposits on his abdomen. This picturing takes place while the patient is in an altered state of consciousness, such as that of deep relaxation, meditation or hypnosis. With sufficient repetition of such imaginary scenes, this "disgust" feeling becomes associated with that type of food in real life encounters.
The patient is further instructed to deliberately and instantly, throughout his waking life, react to every real life reminder of his enemy foods with this strong vivid disgust response. He then immediately rewards himself with a sense of being in control, "captain of my ship" and anticipating his trim self-image.
This use of an interference response coupled with disgust, and then immediately followed by a reward for deliberately feeling negative toward the enemy foods, has proven of great value in preventing relapse. We call that our "instant yuk" technique. It only takes a couple of seconds and it can be repeated for years.
Once the addiction is under control, it becomes much easier to retrain such fattening habits as eating too fast, eating until too full, and frequent snacking. it appears that these habits are fueled by the presence of addictive cravings. They fall away readily after the fire of cravings is extinguished.
Also, many patients find that they no longer have the habit of eating when under psychological and emotional stress. The cravings of an addicted person, regardless of the substance of his addiction, are regularly mobilized when the individual is in an excited state—when he is "turned on" by any challenging stress, joy, anger, anxiety, tense depression, tense boredom, etc.
Most patients who have successfully extinguished their addictive state, including their conditioned cravings, do not have a flare-up of their cravings under such psychological and emotional stress conditions.
These successful ex-addicts are frequently surprised and pleased to find that they are not as weak, insecure and neurotically self-destructive as they believed they were during their addictive period.
Since this therapeutic approach eliminates major sources of former eating pleasure, the treatment must stress that a successful outcome is a gain and not a deprivation.
Home > Lesson 44 - Overeating: Fasting Fanaticism And Diet Fanaticism
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