question about working through desire

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    • #15097

      Dear Gillian and others,

      I have a question about working through desire. I will use a specific example, with some background, to try to illustrate my broader question: Sometimes I eat whatever comes to mind in a moment, and that is partly what I would like to stop (imperfectly and not all the time!). Sometimes I do not. Yesterday, a thought flashed in my mind of some processed, snacky food that I thought would taste good. I had the quick mental response of “I can’t just follow every whim and eat everything that comes to mind.” This all occurred in, I would guess, a fraction of a second. (I realize in looking at that, that in the future I hope to say “I do not want to follow every whim…,” not “I can’t…”) I then did not eat the food. I have found in the past that if, even once, I don’t follow a whim, it becomes easier and easier to do in the future. The opposite is also true, and when I am following whims (are they addictive desires?), it feels harder to change back to not doing it.

      My question is whether the quick mental response and then not eating is enough of a “working through” to be creating new neural pathways/reinforcing the neural pathways that I want? Or do I need to be more conscious of the process and take more time with it and sit with the desire for longer for it to be providing that neuroplastic benefit? Is the quick mental response enough to make progress here? Or should I be trying for something else?

      I hope I have made sense, and thanks in advance for any thoughts/help.

      • This topic was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by CB.
    • #15101


      Thanks for this excellent question. Yes, in my terminology a whim can certainly be an addictive desire to eat.

      My take on this is that if you are ONLY noticing whims, doing a quick mental response, and that’s all you ever do, this won’t take you very far. Although you are getting some benefit from that and it’s probably not going to get you into trouble. What you’re seeing, I think, is a change in expectation, so that once you don’t feed a whim, your expectation of eating in that situation shifts quickly.

      I doubt that the ‘quick mental response’ changes neural pathways. My guess is that when you say it feels harder to change back to not doing it (after some time feeding whims) – that difficulty could be a sign that something is changing in your brain.

      • #15102

        Thank you so much for this response, Gillian. That makes sense and is very helpful and interesting. I think I will have plenty of opportunity to work through addictive desire in a more productive way, so it is good to know all of this.

    • #15103

      Hi CB, ELO-ers and Gillian

      Just popping into the forum as one of Gillian’s ‘graduates’, this caught my eye. I have found for me that a passing thought – a whim is just the right word – is often addictive desire sneaking up on me!

      In my experience, I found it helpful, at least in the early days, to go through each step Gillian teaches, from pausing and noticing where in the body the desire is felt, through making a real choice whether to feel and sit with the discomfort of desire, or reinforce it by eating, and also revisiting non-weight motivations if I chose the former – and all ‘just for now’. I found the MP3 incredibly useful when it was hard to work through desire, reminding me of choice and why I might choose to experience the desire, for the benefits. I did a lot of talking to myself too 😃!

      A couple of years in, and I don’t feel the desire to overeat very often, as a lot of my cues, such as getting in the car or social occasions, have extinguished and I’m really used to making choices in the moment now. When it crops up, I do have a sort of semi-conscious experience of it (‘oh, that’s my desire’) and I tend to connect with choice without really having to go through each step. It’s most likely to appear if I read or see dietary advice, so I have to be careful about going into rebellion if I feel that someone is telling me to eat less of something (even if they aren’t actually doing so!).

      Of course, I am not perfect (never have been, at least around food) but my forays into overeating tend also to be based on a rational choice rather than being out of control for a period of time – it means smoothing out the highs and lows and getting the balance right, for me.

      It’s different for everyone, that’s for sure, but I hope the above is a useful contribution.

      • #15104

        Louise – That is extremely helpful; thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts.

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