I’m obese. … And something changed last December.
I’ve been obese all my life. I ate and ate. It has nothing to do with willpower. I tried again and again to diet and it didn’t work. My brain told me that I needed fat/carbohydrates/sugar/whatever until I had enough, and enough was always way too much. I needed fat the same way you need oxygen. If you don’t have it, you can’t think of anything else until you get it.
Brain: Eat fat now.
Me: I’ve got some fudge here. I’ve eaten 4 pieces. Is that enough?
Brain: No, I need more.
Me: I don’t think so. I’m not going to eat more fudge. I’ll do something else instead.
Brain: No. More fudge. More fudge. More fudge.
Me: Okay, already. There. I’ve eaten 8 pieces now. Is that enough?
Brain: No. I need More.
Me: How about I eat some fruit instead.
Brain: You can eat fruit all day, but I’m not going to stop until you give me all the fudge I need.
Me: 10 pieces?
Me: 11 pieces?
Brain: Okay. Finally. That’s enough. You may continue with your life … for now.
If it wasn’t fudge then it was chocolate, cake or hot dogs or any of several other sources of whatever it was that it thought it needed.
Meanwhile, I’m suffering from extreme depression. My psychiatrist prescribes Wellbutrin. I understand that this drug regulates dopamine levels in the brain or some such thing.
A magical change comes over me. Not only do I stop thinking about killing myself all day, as a side effect I also stop thinking about these foods all day. The cravings are gone.
Now I might say to myself, it would be pleasant to eat some chocolate, but I have absolutely no difficulty deciding not to. Or maybe I’ll eat a piece of cake, and thoroughly enjoy it, and then have no desire to eat the entire cake. And sometimes I get this strange sensation called hunger. Before this year I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been hungry. Now instead, I find that I get hungry because I haven’t eaten for a while, and then I eat an apple or something and then I’m not hungry.
Since I’ve been on the anti-depressant, I’ve been losing weight at a slow and healthy rate, about one pound each two weeks. If this keeps up for a couple years I might even reach a healthy weight level.
I can only imagine that the way my appetite is working now is the way a normal appetite is supposed to work. I can see how someone who has lived like this their whole lives couldn’t imagine that other people are different. I can see how they would think that a person who eats a whole cake is just being gluttonly. But I’ve seen both sides now and I can tell you it’s not like that.
Is it just brain chemistry? Is that all there is to it? Either you’re born with the right neurotransmitter and neural inhibitor levels or you’re not? I don’t know. I’m just relating my experience from both sides of the dinner table.
(By the way, Wellbutrin is also sold under the name of Zyban which is presecribed as a aid to those who are quitting smoking because it blocks cravings. Maybe it works for food cravings too in the same way.)