brain over binge (review)
anyone ever read it or heard of it?
basically, the idea is this: bingeing is a choice.
why, hello, controversy. and, you know what? i agree. oh, nice to see you anger, controversy’s best friend! just hear me out a second though.
according to hansen, two levels of the brain exist. the lower brain, the “animal brain”, is “responsible for maintaining out basic biological functions and ensuring our survival. the animal brain is the primitive brain region that generates our survival drives for food, water, sex, oxygen, and other things it senses are necessary for survival. the animal brain is automatic, unthinking, and irrational.”
the other half of the brain, the human brain, “makes you yourself because it gives rise to your consciousness, self-awareness, identity, reason, memory, and intelligence. the human brain also controls your voluntary behavior because it houses the voluntary motor center, which controls any body part you can move voluntarily.”
the best part? “the animal brain cannot make you do anything, because it doesn’t have control over your voluntary muscles.”
hansen describes this revelation when she says “it seemed to explain why part of me wanted to binge more than anything and part of me truly want to quit. there were two brains in conflict within me.”
it seems to make sense to me, too.
like hansen, i “binged because i had urges to binge.” also like hansen, i believe my binges are not symptoms of anythings. she claims her binges were the problem, not her “poor body image, low self-esteem, high anxiety, depressive tendencies, family stressors, or any other problem.” the only true cause for her bingeing? dieting. her binges started a year and a half after first restricting her food intake. want to know something weird? similar to hansen, i’ve struggled with all my current issues my entire life. my low self-esteem and poor body image and depressive tendencies never drove me to binge before. my binges started after a year and a half of first restricting my food intake. and, according to hansen, “the animal brain interprets a diet as a threat to survival, and it naturally and forcefully attempts to protect the body from starvation. dieting is against our nature and our animal brian will put up a fight.”
i cannot tell you how much i used to think about food. it consumed nearly my every thought. what was i going to eat? when was i going to eat? how much was i going to eat? i craved food so intensely during my period of restriction. no wonder i ended up bingeing! i needed food.
however, by bingeing over and over, i engrained in my brain a need to binge. by choosing to binge night after night, i tricked my brain into thinking it needed an abnormal amount of food to survive. despite not wanting to binge and despite eating regular meals now, habit created an urge stemming from my lower brain instructing me to eat.
but i don’t have to listen. because that urge? it’s not me. it’s my animal brain thinking it’s doing the right thing by sending me messages to stuff myself silly. it’s functioning just fine. it thinks it’s protecting me. i just can’t listen to it anymore.
and you know what? since realizing i am (and was) in control, the urge to binge feels more like an annoying, attention seeking younger sibling clinging to my pants leg. the overwhelming, uncontrollable aspect of the urges feel distant. it feels so because i am putting distance between myself and those urges. i am not those urges.
this book is pretty amazing. i already feel a sense of empowerment. hansen is not a medical professional and never claims to be one but she solved her binge eating and bulimia (in her case exercise bulimia…like me!) without the help of therapists (after seeing them for six years) and has not binged in five years. five years! that is pretty extraordinary. there is so much more in the book that i want to discuss but this is already long enough and i think i’ve hit on the main points. do i recommend it to people struggling with binge eating? hell yes. it’s really, really great. a lot of the sentences felt like thoughts taken directly out of my head. i’ve has an assumption for a long time that nothing is wrong with me and that this is just a nasty, deep seeded habit i have to break (just as i broke my compulsive exercising habit and my restricting habit. and hell, my nail biting habit for that matter!).
i’m going to make a pretty bold statement right now: i am not bingeing ever again. i created this habit and i can uncreate it. i don’t need to listen to the instinctive part of my brain. the more i choose to not listen, the less my animal brain will send urges. eventually, it won’t send them at all! i will only observe these urges from a distance, take note of the feelings, and not focus on them. give them attention and they’ll become bigger.
the most important lesson i learned from this? i’m never dieting again.
what do you think my loves? think it’s an insane idea? do you think bingeing stems from habit? tell me, tell me, tell me !