Appetites

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.

“Supernormal stimulus” is the scientific term for something so exaggerated that we prefer it to reality- even when we know its fake. A supernormal food stimulus arouses our taste receptors more intensely than anything found in nature. Candy is far sweeter than fruit. Onion rings are fare fattier and saltier than onions. Modified foods like Oreos and Doritos outcompete any taste found in nature, which is, of course, exactly why we prefer them. These supernormal stimuli are like the Las Vegas Strip of foods. Exotic! Extreme! Dazzling! But entirely contrived. Not real. Totally overwhelming. And if you take a good hard look at their ingredients- you’ll see that they’re actually cheap, dirty, and kind of gross. 

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?”

Love,

Taylor

P.S. I genuinely care to know the answer to that question. From anyone.

 

Photo 48

Equal to my love of confetti: Casey’s sprinkle doughnuts.

7 Things Sunday

One. Last night I went to an astronomy class with Colyn and Hilary. It happened to be National Astronomy Day. We didn’t know. The room was surprisingly full and the lecturer was this old man named Vern who I immediately fell in love with. The amateur astronomer subculture is fascinating to say the least. It was kind of the best thing ever and we giggled through the entire program. I got to see the Andromeda Galaxy, the double star at the head of Cygnus (it looks like one star to the naked eye, but through a telescope you can see its actually two! One is gold and the other is blue), and a Globular star cluster (50,000 stars) through a giant telescope. Next Sunday there’s a viewing party for the lunar eclipse if anyone is interested in going?! This might become a weekly venture of mine.

Two. I’ve completed one week of Whole30. The first week wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, but maybe that’s because I’ve been trying to eat pretty healthy since I’ve been home anyway. I’ve been surprised at how sugar is added to pretty much everything. It took me forever to find bacon that didn’t have added sugar! Most condiments have added sugar. Almond milk has added sugar. I saw that pre-cooked chicken breasts often have ‘caramel colouring’ listen in their ingredients. Um. Whyyyy. The hardest part so far has been giving up alcohol, actually. Which is kind of hilarious for me. I think my year of trying to keep up with the Scots and Irish really did me in. I crave a drink every night. Especially G & Ts. But, I’ve been sleeping great and pooping more. So that’s good, I guess.

Three. I had a job interview this week with the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison for an Arts Coordinator position. I should know after next week whether I was picked for a second interview. I have 15 jobs applications and counting out there. Send me all your good vibes and/or connections. But in the meantime, I’m starting to work at ArtForce a few days a week again and I’m super pumped to be back in that environment, to see the kids, and to keep my mind distracted for awhile.

Four. The other day I was picking up the ever adorable Vivian from school when I ran into my friend Alison and her daughter Corrine. Alison sent me this text later and it basically made my life.

IMG_1284

Five. I’m going to rock the plus-one status for this dude in October (just booked my flight for LA today!). It will have been a year and three months since we’ve seen each other, which is the longest recorded gap in our 11 year history.

n500200640_2169591_5787

We’ll probably be like this only fatter.

Six. You can find this card at Ephemera in the East Village.

IMG_1204

Seven. I’ve gotten to chat quite a bit with friends from Edinburgh this week and goodness. I miss them. Heart aching-ly so. I have to go back for graduation next summer. NOTHING CAN STOP ME. Because honestly, I don’t think Google hangouts can handle any more of this…

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 08.03.41

Love,

Taylor