I started to read the book It Starts With Food. This was written by the people who brought on the Whole30 craze that you hear about everyone and their dog doing. Part of the book discusses how sugary, salty, delicious, shitty food electrifies our taste buds in ways that real, nutritious food can’t. This messes with our brains in a major way. It isn’t our fault that we can’t stop eating that stuff. We still have willpower, responsibility, and choice but they are built to make us crave them. They are designed to mess with our psychological processes and make it feel impossible to give up.
It goes on to say how these foods are easy to eat a lot of, quickly, and not get full because they have such minute nutritional value that they don’t signal to our body that we’re getting fed or that we’re satisfied. This gets coupled with dopamine receptors in the brain which motivate our food-seeking/wanting and energises our feeding. We don’t even have to be hungry. Just the thought of that Krispy Kreme gives us a rush of anticipation before we even get close to taking a bite. It becomes about satisfying the craving, not the need. And thus, eating unhealthy food becomes a habitual response to triggers like stress, reward, and emotion.
I’m reading this to help me understand why I crave sweets as I attempt to give them up. I know that sugar bingeing is something I do when I don’t want to deal with something else going on. But as I’m reading it, I can’t help but feel like you could replace the word “food” with “porn”, “drugs”, or whatever indulgence you prefer and it would still read the same.
But those aren’t really the problem. They are side effects.
At some point we just turn to these things for pleasure when we’re stressed or lonely or angry or feel like we deserve it. And if you let it go for so long, our brains rewire. The trigger-response bridges are built. They’re set. And if/when it becomes a problem, it’s extremely difficult to burn those bridges. But it’s not impossible. I used to think maybe it was. But it’s not. I refuse to believe that. For anyone.
I’m starting to think the key is to not stop at drugs, porn, food, or whatever your vice is. A lot of people try to just manage the behaviour, but that isn’t sustainable because the behaviour isn’t at the root.
The shame/pain/anxiety/anger/etc. that causes us to turn to the ‘supernormal stimulus’ to numb it out is at the root. But identifying what those are requires digging into the past to see if/how the same indulgences, coverings, and coping mechanisms exist within your own circle of people. It involves confronting how that affected you and then taking ownership and awareness of your own shit (rather than just blaming it on mom or grandpa or whatever). Followed by connecting, processing, and healing. All of which takes work, patience, and time. I know that sounds like a bunch of therapeutic bull but I really, truly, madly, deeply (heyyyyy Savage Garden reference) think it’s valid.
Those of you who really know me, know that porn has been a weirdly significant part of my life. And in working through everything, I’ve recognised that I made it a bigger deal than it was. Than it is. I was really young and naive. What did I know? And I didn’t ever think that watching porn was relationship damaging- addiction to porn was relationship damaging. Addiction to anything can be relationship damaging.
Is pornography itself inherently bad? I don’t know. I can only speak from my own experience and I’m not here to argue about that…but I do know that like food that’s deliciously terrible for you, it can make people feel really freaking awesome and then in excess…cheap, dirty, and kind of gross. I know that it can become preferred to reality, but offers minute mental or emotional value, so you continue to want more, even past the point of completion. It’s selfish. And honestly, that’s really the core part that bothered and scared me. That’s all. I just wanted the person I was sharing life with to be willing and able to give up what was fake and choose into what was real. For the love of all that is holy, I just wanted the dysfunctions that came with it to stop so that we even could engage in what was real. I just wanted it to be like, “You know, watching this is like a solo missioning an entire cake in one go. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s not particularly healthy for me. So, meh. Hard pass.” Because that would take away it’s power. But I think our enemy wants to use the fruit to distract us from the root. He wants to keep us trying and failing at managing habits and behaviors so we don’t identify the real issue and confront it. That is essentially the very first story in Genesis and we’re still living it out thousands of years later.
As I dig and uncover what is behind my own appetites I’m trying to be slow and mindful of not just what I’m reaching towards but why. It’s all about balance and moderation, but I’m training myself to remember that the 2 minute gratification I get from scarfing five cookies is rarely worth it. Especially on the regs. And do I really want to eat, or am I just eating because I feel discontent or insecure about something else going on in my life? I’m a work in progress. Always.
Well. That got kind of real, which always makes me a little bit nervous. But I’m committed to my belief that vulnerability isn’t comfortable- it’s necessary. We have to stop numbing ourselves. We are factually the most addicted, obese, in debt, drugged up adult cohort in US history. At some point, everyone is going to be recovering (or hiding) from something. We’re sure not going to make it on our own like this. We need authenticity and we need each other. This is the human experience. It’s messy and it’s beautiful. IJUSTLOVEYOUALLSOMUCH and I want you to help and join me in getting and staying honest. And living abundant, full lives with lots of confetti-worthy moments (I’ve been thinking lately about how I seriously need to keep a pack of party poppers with me and just pull them out at opportune times).
So, as my friend Andrew and I like to ask each other,
“How’s your soul doing?”
P.S. I genuinely care to know the answer to that question. From anyone.