Eating, Pleasure, Reward and Punishment
Human relationships are built around shared pleasurable experiences. Eating
together is the principal bond among people. Compulsive eating often emerges in
early childhood as a dysfunctional pattern, Dysfunctional eating tends to
persist into adult life with bulimia or obesity as one of the many consequences
The gratification or reward of eating is unmistakable. The prototype of all
human desires is hunger. Pleasure has a great deal to do with satisfying hunger.
Eating patterns are important social determinants. Eating etiquette governs
table behavior and supersedes the biological needs of any individual.
Discrimination, inspired by different food preferences, is an important social
fact. Eating together indicates social acceptance and tends to cement social
relationships. By accepting food from another, you are accepting the other
person, his or her values, beliefs, hopes and fears. By refusing the food
offered to you are rejecting the other person.
Intimate relationships often begin with dinner invitations; "the way to a
man's heart is through his stomach." Many food-related transactions preoccupy
family groups on a daily basis. Implicit food contracts often reflect reward and
punishment strategies. Shared food preferences and eating rituals are important
to the pleasure bond that keeps couples and families together. The eating
patterns of couples and families are defended and one person undergoing dietary
revision to correct illness often throws his or her family into a crisis.
Underlying the social level of eating practice are the organismic
determinants and constraints. Eating and sexuality are closely linked. Licking,
biting, and chewing are as familiar in sexual metaphor as they are at the dinner
table. Odors influence the selection of food as much as the selection of a mate.
A person deprived of physical intimacy and affection will often turn to food as
a source of gratification. Compulsive over-eating may be a displacement
behavior, manifesting the lack of affection and sexual gratification. The hunger
for sensual experience is readily displaced from one appetitive goal to another.
The control of appetite is not consciously determined.
The experience of men and women are clearly divergent. The numbers of
overweight men and women are about the same but the numbers of women seeking
help with weight loss exceeds the numbers of men. Women are more motivated by
body image and the desire to be slimmer. Men often wait until they have a major
health problem before they seek help. Often, emotional states are consequences
and not causes of food problems and disordered eating patterns.
Alpha Nutrition Program
The Alpha Nutrition Program text discusses the emotional and behavioral
dimensions of diet revision. You need to know about eigenstates, cravings,
compulsive eating and the emotional responses to change. Also, consider that
some of your emotions such as anger, sadness, or despair may be symptoms of an
underlying physical disorder just as a headache is a symptom.
The first experience of the Alpha Nutrition Program is to retreat to a simple
set of foods or to take a food holiday. Successful weight management is an
expression of health. Symptoms are an expression of dysfunction and must
be resolved early in the stages of diet revision. Basic foods are cooked
vegetables, rice, some fruit, poultry and fish. No one gets fat eating rice,
vegetables and fruit. You can use a complete meal replacement formula, Alpha
ENF, and/or basic foods to clear symptoms and cravings. If you are diabetic, you
use Alpha DMX instead of Alpha ENF. Most people with weight issues do not
feel well and many are developing or already have related diseases such as
arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and atherosclerosis. We start with the
assumption that the foods that disturb weight regulation are also creating
illness at some level. The illness may be low-grade and may be ignored for
a number of years. Or, the illness may be obvious, but is not clearly connected
with the food supply. Illness and weight gain go together just as renewed good
health goes together with weight loss.
While the cause and effect sequences of emotions, eating, and weight gain may
be difficult to sort out, the important idea is that complete, lasting change in
your eating habits requires you to change at all levels. Your attempts to change
will bring up emotional issues, and you will acquire new insights into how it
all fits together. You are likely to eat too much food when you are short of love and affection,
when you feel oppressed, or depressed. Often conflicting feelings and confused
motivations capture a person in a vicious cycle of overeating. The basic remedy
is to stick with safe foods that do not trigger cravings and compulsive eating.
The next step is to get busy and address needs that are not being met. Some
women, for example, feel trapped at home, living a socially impoverished and
constrained life with few immediate rewards and turn to food for solace.
Food pleasures may feel illicit. Some women attempt to hide their indulgences
or go to extreme lengths to conceal evidence of over-eating (especially weight
gain) by inducing vomiting, purging, or exercising in a fanatical manner. A host
of desires, fears, frustrations, and inhibitions tend to get focused on food and
body image. Food can become a comforter and saboteur at the same time.
Men also eat and drink to satisfy deep but unfilled desires, but tend not to
speak about it. Men's denial tends to be more complete and they seldom admit to
feeling guilty. Men tend to become angry and withdrawn whenever their eating and
drinking habits are challenged. Anger replaces guilt. Some men can turn their
anger into an eating or drinking binge and feel totally justified. They are less
motivated by body image, but often want to be associated with an athletic image
and many overweight men identify strongly with sports. Even the most overweight,
out-of-shape man can still imagine himself on the football field, calling the
plays. With a can of beer in one hand and hot dog in the other, a man will
protest loudly when the quarterback fumbles the ball. This is an athletic
point-of-view that requires no physical fitness. There is a disconnection here
between his hidden self-image (the athlete that once was, or could be any minute
now) and the reality of the overweight man whose main concern is his supply of
beer and snack foods Men as well as women often need to get in touch with
themselves and break through mental blocks that resist change. It is just as
difficult for an overweight, unfit man to confront himself bare-naked in a
full-length mirror. He has to acknowledge what he has become, and think deeply
about whom he wants to be.
Aging is not kind to any of us, but some age-related deterioration and
suffering is optional. You can feel better. You can function better. You can
aspire to better things in your life.