A long time ago, I spent several years obsessively studying hypnosis, as well as some related fields (Neuro-Linguistic Programming or 'NLP', graphoanalysis & graphotherapeutics or 'handwriting analysis', cult psychology, etc.).
One of the most fascinating, I mean mind-bending, ass-kicking, that-is-freakin AMAZING things of all that study was the subject of "post-hypnotic commands."
Let me give you an example. Say that under hypnosis you tell a subject that when the clock strikes 8:12pm, they are going to suddenly stand up from their chair, hop on their left foot three times, take off their right shoe, pound it on a table a couple times, run out the door and yell into the hall "Hey everyone! I'm a chicken!" and then come back and put their shoe on, and sit down like nothing happened. I'm making this up but it's a fair example, though complex. You also tell them they aren't going to remember being told to do this.
If the hypnosis goes well, all of this happens exactly as planned.
Now here's the part that still fries my brain to this day:
Ask the subject why they did that. And they will intellectually rationalize up a reason on the spot. You see, they had a rock in their shoe, and they were just kidding around to wake up this boring quiet office space, and...
Consciously, they would ARGUE to SUPPORT their rationalized-invented reasons because they totally believe them. Anything they can project or associate as a 'reason' for their behavior, they likely will, and they BELIEVE it. As far as they were concerned, it was a decision, and they made it.
This still blows my mind.
(I should add I'm in the top 1-2% of hypnotically suggestible subjects myself. Anybody unfamiliar with this who thinks that only weak or stupid people are suggestible is ignoring billions in annual marketing money that proves otherwise.)
Here is the question that has got to come to mind:
"How much of our lives are motivated by subconscious impulses that we simply do without thought, and if we need to come up with a reason, we consciously rationalize something to explain it?"
There is something that has been bugging me about stuff I've been reading in the weight-loss world, mostly lowcarb is what I read but sometimes other stuff. Let me put it together so you see how I'm coming to this point.
1. Research from a variety of sources is clearly suggesting and even saying that eating is actually driven even at the *cellular* level, definitely at the subconscious level. It isn't about 'willpower'; it isn't 'merely psychology'. See my past posts from this summer such as 'The Skinny on Being Fat' for several great quotes from a leading researcher on that subject (and a few other posts around that time for other quotes).
2. Research is also suggesting that when people exercise, they generally eat to compensate for it naturally, and worse they often eat more calories (or food types they respond badly to like carbs for example) than they burned off, so aside from weight lifting building muscle, the whole concept that doing aerobics is gonna make you skinnier is pretty much bunk. So I consider that kind of exercise, though healthy for 'conditioning' reasons, kind of moot when it comes to weight loss.
3. Research is showing that some people at the same weight, can eat less calories and maintain that weight as someone else the same weight. So far I don't think it's clear whether this is across the board or only people-who-lost-weight compared to people who were already that size. But it does make the point that people at the same measure do not USE the same measure and hence need different intake.
4. Jonny Bowden talked about how when people at his old health club were put on the machine that measures, physiologically, exactly how many calories are being burned during exercise, the readings were radically different depending on the person. This ties into #3 actually; people simply use different quantities of energy to do things, and hence need different quantities of energy on food intake.
Two people of the same size eating the same things and exercising the same way, could result 5 years later in one person being fat and the other not. And of course, once all those extra or larger fat cells exist, there are other internal body side effects generated by that alone, to continually add complication.
So what I am getting to here is that the body in order to be what we consider healthy has to be SELF REGULATING because there is no way for us to measure exactly what each person needs. We can 'try' but as the above demonstrates, we really don't know anything exactly, and if you add in the variable responses to different foods, you come up with a pretty unique situation for every individual.
Well, it should be self-regulating. Apparently something has gone wrong with that regulation mechanism. (Or it's a reality creation issue, ala Jane Roberts/Seth, and it's working fine, but our core 'belief systems' are screwed.) But since nobody knows how to deal with that invisible, hypothesized "self-regulation mechanism" for weight, we look to what we can SEE and try to figure it out.
(It reminds me of the thyroid thing. The pituitary gland manages other glands including the thyroid. When the thyroid screws up, it would be reasonable to look to the pituitary for the problem, just like in business you don't yell at the guy on the line for production issues, you look to management. But we really don't know jack about the pituitary, so medical science is totally unhelpful on that subject. So, they address the thyroid directly, even though its misbehavior is possibly (at least in some cases) a symptom of something we don't understand, not a root cause.)
OK, so now follow me here:
A) eating is driven at the cellular or at least subconscious level.
B) our whole culture intuitively believes it's about psychology/willpower.
C) hypnosis easily proves that people will invent a conscious "reason why" they do something even if it's motivated at the subconscious level. Hence our culture at large and individually is likely deluded on this point.
So I propose that,
D) individuals who "emotionally eat" may actually be masking the whole process. By this I mean that they are driven to eat for physiological reasons but they are "grafting on" genuine (real) emotional issues as the "driving reason" why they feel they should and/or did eat. Rationally coming up with something to explain a behavior motivated at fundamental levels that actually have nothing to do with the surface psychology.
I think this is important, if it has any potential truth at all, for a few reasons.
1. I don't think psychology alone can successfully treat this problem if this is the case. If the person actually resolved the emotional issues but still had the subconscious, body-driven eating drive, they would simply put something else in the reasoning list, or the caloric intake might shift its form (more even and not so binge oriented) but still amount to the same net result. Alternatively, they might actually subconsciously lower metabolism to get the same end result.
Believing that a person has emotional issues, and they eat when they're emotional, so if they get therapy surely they'll lose weight, there may be some truth to this, but if my theory is correct, it's not going to solve the problem, because the root of the cause was not psychology to begin with.
2. The attempt to project obesity as a "mental condition" because in many people it is associated with a "compulsive eating" behavior, becomes more ridiculous in this light, because in reality, ANY personal issue an individual may have is likely to be "grafted on as a rationalized explanation" for why they eat badly.
An attempt to understand and treat obesity makes knowing the cause critical, and if we are looking at the eating as a cause when in fact the eating may be a *symptom* of the self-regulating body, then we wouldn't even be looking in the right place.
3. If we really want to understand and treat the problem of being driven to eat too much or driven to eat the wrong foods, then we need to look at that issue squarely and, since if we wait for science funding that genuinely helps us we'll likely all be dead, laymen need to do their OWN experimenting to see what works for them.
Some people recognize that they can eat 40 carbs a day no problem. Unless more than 25 are vegetables, in which case they actually find they are more prone to eat (or at least want) more carbs the NEXT day. (Eating them in eggs/cheese might not do that. Or vice-versa.)
Some people can eat whatever but if they eat more than about 8 carbs in sugar alcohols, the next day or two they're more likely to want sweeter and slightly carbier things. Or just more food, period.
I think it would be good if more people actually tracked how they FELT on a given day as far as eating--for those who plan food and don't deviate. The consistency of food may mask what one's body was actually trying to drive them toward. There may be certain offbeat correlations that are common, such as one food invoking more 'need to eat' than another.
Everybody who tracks their food intake knows that sometimes you want sweeter things and sometimes you just want more food and so on. We respond as if all of this stuff is the will of God or some whim of nature. It'll be lightly cloudy today, ok, as if we have nothing to do with it at all.
But I suspect that if researchers are right and eating really is motivated as low as the cellular level, that the stimulus-response ameoba-level issue is involved here, and what we DO eat -- and what we DON'T eat -- is probably a great part of WHY our body responds demanding more food, or sweeter food, or whatever. Not all of it, but maybe some.
What if for zillions of human years carbs were temporary but over a certain number indicated a certain food available in bulk, and the body got used to eating as much as possible and storing it while it existed, a great opportunity. Maybe the body reacts to a certain number of carbs, or carbs from a given kind of nutrient, based on something offbeat like that. This is a wild idea, I'm merely saying we don't know, but it doesn't seem like much attention is being paid to that, either.
If the body is genuinely driving eating, I'm not saying that 'willpower' doesn't matter; most people can do all kinds of things their body is unhappy about in the name of discipline. But I suspect that the ability to override your body's request with willpower, is rather like pain tolerance -- quite different for each person.
(There may actually even BE a form of pain at the cellular level that is unconscious but still affects us, in fact.)
(I personally wonder if applied hypnosis for days could create any change in the metabolic burning rate of a person--it is not conscious driven, but might be influenceable anyway.)
I'm using too many words which always means I'm having a hard time getting my own head well around an idea.
But one of the points I'm going for is that I think the entire edifice of "EMOTIONAL EATING" that is such a big thing in the diet world may be inherently fallacious.
I think people may be just applying conscious stuff to their subconscious drive to eat and believing that association, when it's a psychological artifact, not reality.
(It's even possible that the drive to eat could help create ongoing emotional problems -- or any other condition that gets a person to eat, including decisions about daily life stuff that affects the food around us or our habits -- in order to ensure its own maintenance. That's how complicated this could be.)
Just a thought for the day.