Happy Chemicals

I mentioned in my post, How I kicked Anxiety and Depression in the Ass.  that I’ve lost almost 80 pounds. It’s taken a lot of time, a lot of determination, a lot of support and the right motivations. I’ve never been skinny in my life. Ever. And probably never will be. I wear a size 6/8 right now and weigh 158. I can’t imagine I will get too much smaller than this. I’m a pear-shaped girl. Unless we starve ourselves, we’re going to have a bigger booty and thicker thighs than a lot of girls with different body types-accept it and learn to love it! (As long as you’re healthy).

My heaviest weight was back in 2011. I got up to 235 pounds. I didn’t really start trying to lose weight until 2013. So it took me two years to get to my smallest weight and I still have probably 10 pounds I would like to lose. 

Like I said, I’ve never been skinny. It’s really embarrassing for me to talk about how unhealthy I was growing up. I was sick for the first three years of my life and ended up losing my left kidney. Because of the left kidney being diseased, the right kidney had to do double the work, which meant it ended up being the size of an adult kidney by the age of 3. The kidney, being so big, stretched the protective layer so thin that it was barely there; thus, the doctor said I could never play any sports of do any activity that could cause me to fall or get hit where my one kidney is.

What my mom heard-DON’T LET HER DO ANYTHING PHYSICAL SHE.WILL.DIE. :p

But anyways, so because of this…I never played any sports, I always sat out during P.E., I ran around, sure, I didn’t just sit all day, but I was always so overly aware of my kidney. Getting way less physical activity than most kids, I naturally put on some weight. However, not only did I put on weight due to lack of physical activity, but I also had horrible eating habits. My parents aren’t necessarily health freaks, so, obviously, I wasn’t either. We drank juices packed with sugar, ate lots of cereal, drank soda, and because mom doesn’t really like vegetables, we didn’t really eat vegetables except green beans. Usually we had green beans or corn (which isn’t actually a veggie or good for you hah)…sometimes carrots. That’s it. We ate plenty of fast food as well…because America, amiright? 

Food can become someone’s drug of choice. Many people don’t believe that food can be very addicting, because it’s food, right? You need it. Well…to some people, it’s more than just putting healthy things into our body to keep us living a healthy life. Our brain seeks activities that need to survive. When we “reward” the brain with certain activities, the brain releases dopamine, aka “happy chemicals,” which then triggers a part of the brain (hippocampus) to remember this activity that caused us “happiness,” so then we are left with the desire for more. Makes sense that this is how someone becomes addicted to something, right? Food is one of the activities/substances that can raise these happy chemicals in our brain. There are also triggers for the brain to automatically desire these activities/substances.

For instance, family get togethers are generally very happy times and the one thing you can always count on–good food (usually some music will be involved as well, which is probably why certain styles of music seem to make me feel happy—but food will always be involved). So…family+food=happiness to the brain. Trigger. 

When people say they “eat their emotions” or are called “emotional eaters.” It’s for this reason. You’re sad or anxious, so you eat cake…cake raises dopamine levels…cake=happiness and the brain takes note of this. Sadness+food=happiness. Trigger. 

I say all this because this is how I grew up. My family loves food. My family is also full of chemical imbalances. However, instead of turning to things like alcohol, “marijuana,” etc. we all turn (or turned) to food. Because addiction is wrong, so long as it’s anything but food. So not only did I not get physical activity and eat unhealthy foods, I also became a social and emotional eater like the majority of my family. You can imagine the rewiring I’ve had to do in my brain!

Once I got to my heaviest, I felt defeated. I felt like it was going to be impossible at this point to go backwards. It seemed hopeless. Until I noticed Jane losing weight. (she also got up to 230 pounds). She ended up losing 100 pounds total, which gave me inspiration. I finally knew that it was possible and I decided I was going to do it, too. I saw all of the sicknesses that my family and friends deal with, and for many of them, weight was a large contribution to that. I didn’t want that to be my life.

I didn’t go on a fad diet, I didn’t starve myself, I didn’t exercise in an way that would be impossible for me to stick with, and most importantly, I did it slowly. I took my time and figured out what was right for my body. I found other healthy alternatives for raising my dopamine levels. For example: running and yoga. I’ve never been a runner in my life. I never even fathomed that I would do it, and especially that I would enjoy it! But…happy chemicals, ya know?

Had a bad day? Stressed? Depressed? Anxious? + Running=happiness. New (healthy) trigger. 

Self-awareness is key. Know your body. Love your body. Recognize and beat your unhealthy addictions and find ways to replace these addictions with healthy alternatives that work for you.

(Btw, being overweight became a part of my identity. I didn’t even know who I would be as someone not overweight. That’s something no one had ever talked to me about…not only are you rewiring your brain to raise dopamine levels in healthy ways, but you’re also having to see yourself in a new way. When you look in the mirror it doesn’t look like you. When guys start hitting on you way, it’s really confusing at first. You become a different person, and figuring that out can be weird and a little difficult at first).

I still fall back into old habits sometimes. Some days when I’m sad, I just want some cake. Or pizza. Or both. But, ya know what? Sometimes I allow it to happen, but I don’t beat myself up about it. Instead, I pick myself back up the next day and say that’s not my happiness and keep going. Rewiring your brain is not an easy feat, but it’s an extremely possible one.

So what raises your “happy” chemicals? 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Happy Chemicals

  1. Wow. This spoke straight to my heart. You experience and my experience sound eerily similar. I have PCOS – which also adds to the frustration for the weight. But, there is nothing to blame the weight on other than poor lifestyle choices. And when you say it takes time to change — it can take years! And even after years of trying to re-wire my brain, sometimes I slip back into my comfort zone. I have struggled tremendously with the mental part of changing who I am. I have learned that in some ways I feel more comfortable as an overweight person because I get less attention. I don’t like attention (or so I tell myself)….but what I’m finding is that I probably was getting attention it was just negative. I have to convince myself that it’s ok to get positive attention! I deserve it and so do you and so does every other person struggling to find themselves. This was a great read! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad you wrote! I totally understand what you mean by feeling more comfortable as an overweight person. I thought that so many times when I first started noticing the attention I was getting in public. Eventually, I was able to roll with it (even though some days I still wish to be invisible) and definitely have no desire to go back to being overweight. You just learn to accept or reject the attention, I guess.

      It’s amazing, though, that no one talks about the mental part of the change. I’m very happy with who I am now. I still see myself as bigger than I am at times, but overall, I’m getting used to who I am and feeling more confident. The other day I was riding with a bunch of friends in a car and one said “Rae, you have to get in the middle up front because you’re small.” What?…I’ve never heard that in my life haha. At first, I was thinking “uhhh no I’m not…you’re crazy!” because I still see myself as much bigger than I am…BUT I stopped myself and accepted it. That’s how I’m learning to deal with it–by stopping the negative self-talk as soon as it starts. I think the biggest thing that’s been really weird to me is being able to wear my skinny friend’s clothes…I’ve had two friends recently let me go through clothes they’re getting rid of and let me get some stuff (because about a month ago I realized I had basically zero summer clothes haha)…every time I tried stuff on I thought “yeah, no way this is fitting,” then it did. Or I tell myself “I only wear a size 6 because it’s made bigger from this store.” Then I go to another store and can wear a size 6 lol…it’s a weird adjustment that you really aren’t prepared for! Your identity changes. You aren’t a completely different person, but also you kind of are haha.

      I also slip back into my old ways, so I know what you mean there! About two months ago I had to do an intensive at my school and I knew there was going to be lots of in-class interaction/practice counseling in front of people and I.was.terrified. So I started eating soooo bad because of the “comfort” I knew it would bring me. Definitely gained several pounds back and had to work extra hard to get it off, but thankfully I was able to. I’m sure that we will both struggle with that for the rest of our lives! But…like I said at the end of the post, you just get back up and get back to it!

      Anyways…thanks so much for sharing!!! It’s nice to be able to connect with someone who understands this.

      Liked by 1 person

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