Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"The Secretary" - Pleasure and Pain. Addictive Behaviors That HURT Us, But FEEL GOOD...How Do you Break the Cycle?

One of my all-time favorite movies is "The Secretary" with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhall. Here's the reviews in case you're interested in renting it: www.rottentomatoes.com/m/secretary/?critic=creamcrop#

It is an intensely powerful portrayal of a withdrawn girl in emotional pain, who is disconnected from her vacant mother, hurt and neglected and abandoned by her alcoholic father, who engages in self-mutilation (i.e. she cuts herself and burns herself) until she ultimately overcomes the need to do this form of 'self-soothing' by finding a much more, um, satisfying alternative.

Her new alternative is...very shocking, but it 'works' for her, and through this new way of coping, Maggie's character forms a deep bond with the character played by James Spader, soon to be her husband in the film. Together, they find that in allowing themselves to engage in this shocking 'pain-play,' they find deep and satisfying healing, pleasure, tenderness, intimacy, and ultimately, love.

[Whether I agree with her solution is besides the point, I recommend the movie highly. The performances are Oscar worthy! And the psychological/psycho-social/romantic/erotic/sexual themes are riveting!]

So, what does this movie have to do with a blog about overcoming food addiction and binge eating?

The movie raises the subjects of Pleasure, Pain, Healing, Control. It's alot to think about and contemplate on any topic, but especially when it comes to binge eating, or a cooked food addiction.

What is pleasurable about binge eating or being addicted to cooked food? What causes pain? How can one heal? Can pain actually HELP one to heal?

Binge eating FEELS SO GOOD...the textures, the tastes, the aromas, the fullness, the excitement. You forget everything bothering you. The relief. The Intense Sensual Pleasure!

Cooked food does the same thing, well, at least for me. It's exciting! The aromas, the fullness, the textures, you forget everything bothering you, it's an intense sensual pleasure!

But does it really DELIVER????? After the fun wears off, is it really all it's cracked up to be????

Cliff said just the other day, "I'm never 'excited' before a raw meal like i usually am before a cooked meal, but when i eat the raw meal, i find it delicious and feel so satisfied afterwards, never feel heavy or tired or bloated or sick like i often do after a cooked meal." He went on, "The other week at Yacco's, i was so EXCITED to get those hotdogs, i kind of returned to those amazing feelings of childhood. And then when i bit into the dog, i realized it didn't really even TASTE as good as i remember, and after eating, my stomach felt so sick, like there was a 10 lb brick in my stomach. But i was so excited before! With raw, i'm not 'excited' before, but FEEL so much better AFTER!"

I replied, "Honey, THAT's the POINT! That's what i mean when i say cooked food is STIMULATING, and raw food is not as stimulating!" I was taking a bath, so i couldn't elaborate. Meaning, the PLEASURE of the smell of cooking food, the fried textures, the fats, all awaken the appetite in a kind of a unnatural way and excite! But since raw food doesn't DO that, we can control ourselves better. I think that's a HUGE reason raw food works so much better for me.

"YEAH!, he wholeheartedly agreed. "When i eat raw and i'm done, i can easily push the plate away, but with cooked food it is so much harder!" He continued, "You know the other day when i ordered more of those french fries? Something in me really wanted them because of the smell of them cooking, how crispy they were. But when they got to the table, i was actually full and I didn't even WANT them anymore as i wasn't even hungry anymore. But once i started to eat them, i found it hard to stop, even though i felt so full. Afterwards, my stomach hurt and i didn't feel good. The excitement...dissappointed."

So what makes cooked food so attractive if after you eat it, you don't feel well? It sure smells and tastes and feels like a GOOD thing while you're eating it! But after you eat it, you get fatter, addicted, more unhealthy, more tired. You usually overdo it, unless you're one of the lucky ones with innate control and a fabulous metabolism. The momentary pleasure, i suppose, is worth it.

Well, is it?

On par with cooked food, when i binge eat, i experience intense excitement and pleasure, but soon become more withdrawn, my voice deteriorates, my self confidence is obliterated, i spend money out of control, i lose control, all i want is to eat, i can't stop obsessing about food and keep gaining weight. This intensely flavorfull filling way of pleasuring myself is disasterous in it's ultimate outcome.

So, why do i turn to it over and over again?

And why do the majority of people eating cooked food, who get sick from it, like Cliff does often, keep turning back to it over and over again? He just ordered pizza the other night. And his belly hurt afterwards. But it tasted good. For him, he can order pizza and it doesn't turn to 1o pizzas like it does with me, so it's going to be a journey for him to discover what pleasures and pains he's willing to live with.

The lure of frying potatoes, the taste, the chemical feelings that overtake our body. It's like a drug. Drugs are powerful things. The thing about drugs is...they're two sided. They make you feel good, but always have side effects. Do we chose to accept that, or walk away?

Like Gyllenhall in the movie, when I am faced with intense emotional pain, I crave a 'release'. FOOD does that for me. Binge eating on raw, or binge eating on cooked food even more so. It's an even MORE intense drug.

Gyllenhall's character has learned to enjoy the release, the drug, of cutting herself. It feels GOOD to feel bad.

In cutting herself [or for me, binge eating], she distracts herself from the real cause of her pain and is faced with a more tangible pain, the pain of bleeding and being cut. She focuses on the scars afterwards. I look at the resulting fat. The rush and excitement of getting out her 'sewing kit' to prepare for the self-cutting is exciting. The rush and excitement of food is thrilling. She feels intense relief and release after the deed is done. So do i. So, what is that drug we're after? Adrenalyn? Some kind of rush? A chemical high?

Whatever it is, it feels GOOD. It's 'bad' for her, bad for me, but exciting, and functions in a twisted way. And the more she does this behavior, the more she WANTS to do this behavior. Until she meets someone who stops her.

How do you STOP doing a behavior that feels good, but is bad for you?

As i discovered yesterday, feeling GOOD spurs me on to want to do good. In doing good, it spurs me on to want to feel good. It's an amazing thing.

In the movie, Gyllenhall begins to take walks instead of cutting herself, because her lover tells her she needs 'relief.' A GOOD form of relief, a healing form.

So now she walks and doesn't cut. And she realizes it FEELS better!

Just DAYS ago, all i wanted was cooked food, cooked food binges. I couldn't IMAGINE not having them. Now, it's so far from my desires, i'm shocked. How could something that caused me to feel such pleasure, now be unattractive?

I recognized the ultimate pain it caused. Fatter and unhappier, i realized it was time to change my ways.

Gyllenhall experienced pain/pleasure in cutting herself. Now she walks to soothe the pain and experience pleasure. AND she engages in sexplay with her lover. This new form of pleasure/pain is MORE SATISFYING to her. Now there is intimacy. There is love. There is tenderness. She's not alone anymore.

She submits to daily spankings. Wo.

Can PAIN help us heal?

I'm not saying you need to get spanked, but, there is pain is everyday living.

I just got back from a 40 minute walk, much of it uphill. Walking uphill, heck, getting my coat on to even CONTEMPLATE a walk causes great pain!!! One doesn't WANT to do it, submit to the pain, but the rewards far outweigh the pain.

It's a GOOD pain to have my legs burn as i walk. This form of what feels like PUNISHMENT is what will be my salvation. Exercise makes me healthy, helps me lose weight, digest food better, sing better.

Why does the PAIN of it often look unnattractive? Because i'm not SMART enough to think things through always... How often do you do exercise and say, "God, i wish i didn't do that?"

It's also PAINFUL to FEEL one's emotions instead of deadening or stuffing them down with food we don't need. How can FEELING EMOTIONAL PAIN help us? God, it feels like the WRONG thing to do in the moment, you just want to MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!

To just SIT there and FEEL bad, instead of stuff it is PAINFUL!!! But, it's so right to allow yourself to feel pain. So you can move THROUGH it.

I remember this bible verse i used to love, "God loves a contrite heart," meaning that God loves when we suffer for righteousness, when we feel SAD, perhaps, because we're denying ourselves a favorite PLEASURE.

I lost 30 lbs years ago using this bible verse. I stopped binge eating completely, focused on ONLY EATING when i was hungry, and ONLY enough to satisfy that hunger (very little eaten very deliberately and very slowly), and was left with a satisfied tummy, a trimmer waistline, but with a tremendously sad heart. All of the emotional issues i was eating over, suddenly were there to DEAL with. That didn't FEEL good. But in denying myself PLEASURE and causing myself the great pain of feeling my emotions, i was healing.

Cliff did a hard bicycle ride today and is feeling so good.

Wait a second. He put himself through torture on the bike and is feeling good????


And eating the mostly raw diet he has been...is not always easy. It's painful to wait to come home to eat so i can make him something instead of stopping for a burger. It's a lot of chewing, and alot of self-denying to wait for raw. But ultimately, he feels better for it.

And everytime i serve him up his little shot glass of E3Live, he winces before downing it, but the temporary pain that causes, is serving to make him feel stronger and more energetic daily.

HEALING is filled with little pains.


I suppose we really CHOOSE our pains and pleasures. Today i received pain from walking uphill and pleasure from feeling invigorated by it. I felt pleasure by eating a lovely raw plate with Cliff, enjoying the flavors of one plate of food, satisfying my hunger and moving on. I felt pain when i had to walk up the stairs to find the extention cord, but now i have the pleasure of seeing my new lamp work. I didn't FEEL like extending the effort, but i did, and it was worth it. We can feel the pain of being ill, or feel the pain of extending effort to make raw food. Which one will have a greater pay-off???

When i binge eat, i feel the pain of bloat, of gaining weight. I also experience the INTENSE pleasure of gluttony. Okay, so, is it all really WORTH it???

Not today, it isn't. Wisdom. Time away from the behavior, i can see clearly.

Everyday, we experience pain and pleasure. How we experience those feelings is our choice. It's our very big job to select which pains and which pleasures will benefit us the most.

Sitting watching TV all day is pleasurable. But, it's painful when we get up and realize we got nothing done. Or working hard at cleaning the kitchen causes pain, but when we walk into the kitchen the next day and see the sparkling countertops, we experience great pleasure. Eating raw and not binge eating and exercising takes ALOT of effort and is a ROYAL PAIN IN THE ASS sometimes, but the PLEASURE i've been reeping, is well worth it. Weight loss. I look better. I feel better. My head is better. My body feels better.

But HOW does one escape from addictions that FEEL good but ultimately cause pain?

  1. I think number one is AWARENESS. Becoming aware that this behavior is hurting you is paramount. No one changes unless they feel a need to.
  2. Number two, i think is having an alternative that is satisfying. For Gyllenhall, she found a satisfying alternative in S&M!!!

    For me, raw food is the alternative to binge eating on cooked food. Raw food doesn't taste as good as cooked, i will be the first to admit it. But it is intensely satisfying in it's own right. And once you put aside cooked food, raw food becomes more and more and more appealing and appetizing.

    And when you realize how much BETTER you feel eating raw, you begin to talk to yourself having made important realizations, "Duh, don't eat that delicious cooked food, because it will make you FEEL bad.' But, it takes ALOT to get to that point. I always say, it takes a COMPELLING REASON to chose raw. But when you discover the benefits of it, you'll be more likely to stick with it. Not because you 'should,' but because you WANT to.
  3. Number three, one needs support to change an addictive hurtful behavior. Gyllenhall's character finds that being controlled and dominated by her lover is intensely fulfilling. In my case, being controlled and dominated by a raw food lifestyle, being influenced to raw by my fiance', by my employer, by my friends who care, fills me with intense motivation to stay raw. In staying raw, i do better, so i want to stay raw. To stay in the LOOP, you need support.
  4. Number four is perseverance and trust. Gyllenhall learned to trust Spader. She learned that if she submitted to him, she received great pleasure, although she had to overcome pain to do it. She also persevered in loving him because she needed that now. Loving him made her better.

    When you do raw and you see the benefits, you begin to trust raw and trust yourself. You begin to WANT to hang in there.

    And when you fall and see yourself do poorly, lose control or gain weight or feel physically bad, you realize that the PAIN IN THE ASS EFFORT (!!!) that sometimes accompanies making raw food, really delivered much more PLEASURE.

    And then the effort soon becomes effortless because it works and you feel good. It becomes WORTH IT. And it becomes something you WANT to do. When i pack Cliff and I those raw food picnics, it's effortless effort. It's WORTH it.

    And, breaking the cycle takes just ONE action towards the new behavior. That one action will spurn on MORE right actions, and bring such rewards... If you persevere...the ball with start rolling in the RIGHT direction, and before you know it, the new healthier behavior will take on a life of it's own and make you want to do it more.

    It is amazing what we can accomplish by just taking one small action. Making a green smoothie. Or taking a walk. Can become making a green smoothie DAILY and walking daily. Because we feel better.
  5. Number five is recognizing emotional triggers, stresses that drive you to want to harm yourself as a distraction. Allowing yourself to FEEL your emotional pain will allow you to get THROUGH it. Instead of stuffing it. This takes skill and practice, like anything.
  6. Number six is cultivating the discipline to actually choose what is BEST for you on an on-going basis. This involves allowing yourself to feel a lot of discomfort as you turn from old behaviors.
  7. Number Seven is learning how to THINK for success. Much of addiction is driven by automatic thoughts spurning us on to repeat the behavior despite our best resolve. Learning to recognize those automatic thoughts is half the battle. Once you can "see" yourself thinking them (such as planning binges in your mind, or planning what cooked food you will eat when you have the opportunity), learn to consider THOUGHTS as THOUGHTS. A thought need NOT lead to an action. As addicted people, we've programmed ourselves to THINK about our substance, and then give in. Learning that thoughts hold ZERO power over you will enable you to disengage from binge or food thoughts. This also takes practice and skill.
  8. Number Eight is learning to delay gratification. When you want to act out, delay it, until you can work your way mentally out of it.
  9. Number Nine is finding BETTER WAYS to cope with distress than your addictive behavior - such as exercise, writing, polishing your nails, taking a bath, etc...
  10. Number Ten is to ask for help. Tell someone you have a craving. Be honest. Just talking about it can often eliminate the craving.
  11. Number Eleven is to find new ways to manage your thinking self such as meditation or EFT. Techniques such as meditation or EFT will reprogram your mind for success instead of acting automatically.
  12. Number Twelve is to learn to forgive yourself. So much of addictive behavior is prompted by slight slips. So, you had a little milk in your tea. Does that mean you know have to eat an entire pizza? Learn to LET GO and LET GOD. You don't need to always be perfect, but you can do the best you can and have that be good enough, for today. Learn to sit with the pain and discomfort of having slipped. Believe me, this will be far LESS painful than actually giving into the craving to go hogwild.
  13. Number Thirteen is to recognize that addictions are often chemically based, and the longer you stay away from your drug of choice, the less frequent and intense cravings will appear. If you don't give in, it'll get easier and easier, and soon, cravings will dissappear. If you constantly give in, you'll constantly face addictive cravings. They used to say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. If you resist for at least 21 days, you'll get over the hump.

This is really good to contemplate. Do you have anything else to add? Let's make a giant list and figure this thing out!

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this subject. [Have you seen the movie? Really brilliant...]

xoxo michelle joy

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