|What is the Food Monster?
It is that constant gnawing urge to eat
It is that constant gnawing urge that makes dieting so horribly miserable
The Food Monster is a COMPULSION to eat.
It is that compulsion that keeps you eating when you don’t want to.
It is what makes you feel so completely deprived when you can’t eat as much as you want.
The Food Monster compulsion is not just an addiction nor is it only a habit. Let’s look at some differences between the three to help understand what we are up against.
A habit is an activity that is performed on an unthinking, automatic basis but can be changed without emotional or physical pain. For example, a person is in the habit of throwing the trash into the can at the right side of their desk. If the can is moved to the left side they will have to think about throwing it in the correct place. In most cases, when people make such a change, they find that for the first day or two they throw the occasional paper on the floor where the can used to be. Within a couple of weeks the old habit is completely changed. The paper is thrown unthinkingly into the new correct spot. The entire process is relatively painless.
It does not matter if the habit is relatively short-lived or lifelong.
A man grows up living in one city and for his entire life, riding or driving the same way to church every week. The city puts in a new safer road going a different route. The old road remains. The first couple of times he takes the new road he is uncomfortable with the route. Within just two or three trips he becomes comfortable with the new road. A lifelong habit is changed with little discomfort.
No, the Food Monster is not just a bunch of bad habits - even though bad habits can be supporting friends for your Food Monster – and saboteurs to you!
Also, it is not an addiction to food - even though it sometimes sure feels like it! >>>Back to the top
To eliminate an addiction substantially more effort is required than just quitting a habit and it will involve either emotional or physical pain, often both. The long-term use of tobacco, caffeine, mood-altering drugs etcetera are examples of addictions. Typically it takes two steps to eliminate an addiction: physical withdrawal and emotional withdrawal. When a person goes through withdrawal from an addictive substance, physical symptoms can persist for a period of time, often a couple of weeks or months. The symptoms can be mild, dramatic, or even debilitating.
After the physical withdrawal, a strong emotional urge to continue the substance remains. In the worst cases, such as heroin addiction, the emotional connection may be active for two or more years. However, eventually with abstinence the emotional desire for the substance abates to where it is, at best, very minimal or, at worst, manageable. Usually while there may be memories of the high or pleasure derived from the substance, the actual desire is gone.
Addictions are developed through the use of, and built up tolerance to, a substance until a need for the substance is developed in the body. In some cases the chemistry of the substance causes physiological changes in the brain which are experienced as psychological changes. When this occurs there must be enough time allowed in abstinence to purge the brain of its chemical dependence. A key factor is that with abstinence alone the brain will purge the chemicals of the substance and the individual will return to a normal non-addicted state.
How successful are people at quitting addictions? Thousands of people permanently quit smoking every year. Many people successfully beat drugs of all kinds as well as alcohol every day. Addictions are tough to beat, but they can be beat, and they are conquered by regular folk just like us.
I grew up personally developing two common addictions—smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. After 11 years I gave up smoking. There were a number of issues that surprised me. I did not realize that I had set up a number of habits supporting my smoking habit. I had to learn some new supporting habits when I quit. I did not know how to take a break from work. Stopping for a cigarette was always my cue to take a short break.
The weekend that I quit I painted our kitchen. At the end of the first day I was surprised at how completely exhausted I was. Then I realized that I had worked from early morning on into the night without any breaks except to eat. I didn’t know how to take a break without a cigarette.
I kept on drinking coffee for another 30 years. When I quit it, the caffeine withdrawal was amazingly strong. I didn’t even know what was happening until I went on the web and found out that there was such a thing as caffeine withdrawal. It was physically difficult with emotional side effects. I honestly tried to be a nice guy, but am sure those who love me are only being kind when they say that I wasn’t that bad to be around.
Addictions are difficult, even very difficult to quit, but the average person can conquer them. >>>Back to the top
A compulsion is based on a neurological pathway, typically developed during childhood that is physically connected to the subconscious emotional center of the brain and experienced as a strong urge to act with a specific behavior. With a compulsion comes a strong emotional urge to act. If a person quits responding to a compulsion, they have only controlled their behavior, but the compulsion remains and so does the urge. The urge does not go away or even lessen over time.
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|Unless changed at the subconscious level, the compulsion never stops
We see this with overeaters who have mastered their eating, lost the weight and been in a maintenance program like Weight Watchers for ten years or more. Then, at some point, they lose control and gain the weight back. If it were a single incident it could be considered anecdotal, but it isn’t just one person. It is thousands who have succumbed after years of struggle and maintenance. It is millions who have succumbed after a year or two. It is tens of millions who have lost and regained weight many times over while never ever losing the urge to overeat.
Compulsions are extremely difficult to eliminate without the precise assistance and tools to do so. With a 90+% failure rate using traditional therapy methods even professional psychologists were horribly inefficient at helping others eliminate compulsions of all types.
The Food Monster is a compulsion, a subconscious drive that is experienced as an unrelenting urge to eat. It is not an addiction to food. Overweight and obese people have a psychological compulsion to the activity of eating. They do not have a psychological or physiological addiction to the substance of food.
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|Obesity is strictly a symptom of the underlying subconscious urges.
To deal with the compulsion to overeat, the Food Monster, the subconscious connections in the emotional center, must be neutralized. The Food Monster Program is the only program that does that. When it is accomplished, the individual will naturally become a normal eater. The weight loss begins as the issues are addressed. Once a person eliminates his or her Food Monster, she will naturally lose the excess weight and keep it off permanently! This occurs because overweight is strictly a symptom of the underlying subconscious urges.
Just because a compulsion is, in fact, a subconsciously motivated behavior does not make it bad or unusual. Compulsions are much more common than most of us think. Actually, we all have many quite functional compulsions.
A common compulsion in the USA is to shower daily. The average American is extremely uncomfortable without a daily shower. Ask the average American woman to imagine going without a shower for a week and how do you think she would feel? The response is usually quite dramatic. Ask her why and she will tell you that it is because she smells bad, feels dirty, and that it is simply unhealthy.
But the fact is, for most of history, most Americans bathed once a week, and women washed their hair once a month. The farmers and ranchers of just 50 years ago, and then on back into the depths of history, at most bathed once a week. The same went for city dwellers. They felt quite fine going days at a time without a bath. Today the unfortunate people who are deeply impoverished in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa will often go many weeks, even months, without a bath and think little of it.
If an American is placed in a situation where she cannot bathe or shower for an extended period of time, say a week or two, her urge to shower will not magically disappear; she will not get over the urge. When she does finally have access to a shower, she luxuriates in it way past the physical requirements of cleanliness. If the average American were to be marooned for six months with only enough drinking water to barely survive, one of the first things she would want upon rescue would be a long bath or shower. Why? It is a compulsion. This is a compulsion most modern adults share. It is essentially harmless, and can be argued to be healthy. Yet many Europeans still today routinely shower once every 3 or 4 days.
How strong is this compulsion? It is very strong. Once we took a rather long motorcycle trip over the mountains in Central Vietnam on a very remote road under construction. The construction crews lived on-site in temporary, tent type structures, in camps along the way.
The mountains were dramatically rugged and beautiful. There were many waterfalls flowing down right beside the road. Since it was Sunday, most of the construction had halted for the day. All along the way we saw men in their shorts standing in waterfalls taking showers. It was quite a picturesque setting for a shower.
However, it was in the middle of January. The ambient temperature was near freezing in the evenings and only slightly warm during the day. The water which had been running down steep mountains was very cold. There was no way that the experience of showering in this environment could be remotely comfortable. However, as we traveled, all bundled up against the cold, at almost every waterfall there were men taking their showers.
If you can imagine yourself going a week or two without a shower and not being bothered, then you don’t share this particular compulsion. However, if the thought of going several days without a shower gives you the willies, then you do share it along with the rest of us. You have a Shower Monster and it is okay.
If you recognized yourself in these discussions about suffering while dieting and then going right back to eating when the weight is lost you probably have a Food Monster urging you in a compulsive manner to eat. That means that a compulsion is at the root of your excess weight or obesity. What does that mean to the people who have failed so many times? Everything! We have been beating ourselves up for failures that were not ours.
Your Food Monster compulsion was developed during your childhood when you did not have control of your life – and it was not your fault.
Taming Your Food Monster explains exactly how your Food Monster was developed and why it was not your fault that it did. It also shows you what you can do to tame it.
Not only was developing the Food Monster not your fault. It is also not your fault that you have not won the weight war so far. You have been battling the wrong things. >>>Back to the top
It Is NOT Your Fault!
Are you the victim of a Food Monster? If so then you need to know that all of the weight, all of the failures, all of the stresses, all of the blame, shame and guilt—all of it—is not your fault.
It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
It is not a lack of will
It is not a lack of dedication
It is not a lack of knowledge
These and many other very negative things have been slung at the obese. Without any real understanding of the underlying cause the overweight have accepted it as their fault. >>>Back to the top
The Food Monster is not a lack of will
The Food Monster is not a lack of will. The fact that many have had the will to seriously diet has been proven over and over and over again. Diets that are big, diets that are small, diets that are boring, diets that are distasteful, fasts and even starvation diets have all been done. Willpower to diet? Absolutely! But then the overeating always returns.
Cynthia, a 43 year old librarian told this story. She had battled weight all of her adult life. She had been on so many diets that she could not remember them all. Eventually she went to the doctor for a controlled liquid fast. Over a period of a year, she lost almost 200 pounds going from slightly over 350 pounds to slightly over 150 pounds. Two years later she was at 300+. She went on another liquid fast and lost the 150 pounds she had regained. Three years later she was again over 350 pounds.
Not to be a quitter, Cynthia went on another doctor controlled diet. A little over a year later, with a daily, moment-by-moment monitoring and recording of her calories, going to water aerobics three times a week plus weekly doctor visits, she was again approaching 150 pounds. She had lost almost 200 pounds once again! Then she hit the wall. For several months she continued to count calories and exercise but could not seem to lose any more. Absolutely nothing worked; she did not lose another pound. In fact she gained a few pounds (seems she was cheating a little on the calorie count of her desserts).
Cynthia then gave up and started gaining back the pounds she’d lost. Why did she begin to gain? Because she began to overeat, and even to binge. Why? Clearly she had an iron will and could diet. So why did she go back to overeating as soon as the diet was over? The Food Monster—that's why!
When Sam, a man in his early 50's, heard Cynthia's story during a Food Monster Permanent Weight Loss Solution group meeting one evening, he gave a sigh and said he had similar stories. Everyone around the room nodded knowingly. However, he continued, he now cycled almost on a daily basis. He would start each day with the idea that today would be his day to really diet. Then when he found he had already blown it with a bag of chips while getting ready for his afternoon dispatch job, he would then simply give up for the day and allow himself to eat whatever he wanted. Again, everyone around the room nodded knowingly.
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The Food Monster is not a lack of dedication
The Food Monster is not a lack of dedication. You have attended difficult meetings, acted excited when someone lost a pound that you knew they would gain right back, bought special meals, exercised till the average person would drop, done yoga, done Tai-chi, prayed and meditated and still you have over-eaten. Clearly, as the lady introduced in the next paragraph demonstrates, the Food Monster is not a lack of dedication.
Susan, a 21-year-old college junior, ran a minimum of 3 miles every day. She had the stamina of all the cross-country runners she trained with. With a slight, even petite frame, Susan stood 5' 1/2" and at 185 pounds carried an extra 70 pounds every mile she ran. She had been a long distance runner since she was a 14-year-old sophomore in high school. When I first heard Susan's story I was skeptical, but she assured me that she did run at least 3 miles and often as much as five miles daily. Overweight? Yes. Plenty of willpower? Also, yes. >>>Back to the top
|The Food Monster is not a lack of dietary knowledge
The Food Monster is also not a lack of knowledge about good foods or bad foods or balanced diets versus junk food diets. Even though some of you might say in conversation that healthy food makes the difference (and even say it with conviction) you know in your heart that it is not so much what you eat as how much of it you eat (more on this in the next chapter). We all know people who have decided to go on a health food diet thinking that it would be the answer. A year or two later, they may still be eating all natural health food or eating what they always ate before, but either way the weight has not changed over the long term.
Overeaters as a group own and have read libraries of diet books with volumes of information on what is good and not so good. No, the Food Monster is not a lack of knowledge about food. At a recent trip to Barnes & Noble in a smaller central Texas town, I counted 12 full shelves of weight-control related books. Each shelf was at least 5 feet long, making for 60 feet of shelving dedicated to weight loss. Sorry Texas, you’re not the biggest. In a similar sized town in central New York state the Barns and Noble store had over double the shelving with about 135 feet of space dedicated to diets!
As you might guess, most of the books dealt with finding the correct mix of nutrition (fat vs. carbs. vs. sugar vs. anything else) to more efficiently burn the calories eaten. All of them also said some version of, "By the way, don't overeat or you'll still gain weight".
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It is not your fault.
You do not lack willpower. You’ve proven that.
You do not lack dedication. You’ve also proven that.
You do not lack dietary knowledge. You know more than 20 thin people combined.
Overeating is not just a habit. Habits are pretty easy to change.
Overeating is not just an addiction. Addictions are tough, but can be conquered.
Overeating is a compulsion. The real reason for overweight is a subconscious urge to overeat. It is a compulsion to eat, not an addiction to food.
Compulsions can never be changed by abstinence alone—they must be addressed at the subconscious emotional level.
If it is not your fault, and the diets and other programs have not worked, then what can you do?
First education is very powerful. You can attend an information seminar in your area, or you can buy the book Taming Your Food Monster and learn more about how the Food Monster happens and what can be done about to successfully tame it.
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