Monday, August 16, 2010

Self-Discipline, Or Not

Catfish brought home a 3.5-pound bag of Peanut M&Ms from Sam's Club yesterday. I hate him.

Actually, it's still sitting on the shelf, or about 3.2 pounds of it is, anyway.

If he had brought it home when I was at the top of my Effexor dose, 150 mg per day, I would have chowed the entire bag down in 2.5 days. If he'd brought it home when I was at 75 mg of Effexor a day, it would've taken me 5.0 days.

I told my psychiatrist how bad my bad-food cravings were when I was on so much Effexor, and he didn't seem surprised, which surprised me. From what I've read, serotonin does affect food cravings -- but it's low levels of serotonin that'll keep your hand going back to that bag. Effexor should've raised my serotonin levels, but instead it raised my M&M levels. Then again, maybe it was my phlegmatism that made my chocomania so expected.

My point, though, is that for a lot of what we do, there's a chemical behind it. We all talk about chocolate during PMS, pickles and ice cream in pregnancy -- but my Effexor experiment sold me on the more abstract idea that our brain chemicals can influence behaviors like self-discipline. Yeah, yeah, self-discipline is a muscle, we know; all the same, coming down off the Effexor was like giving that muscle a shot of 'roids with each smaller dose. So though we can work on our self-discipline just like any other behavior, we've also lucked (or unlucked) into its initial state just as we have the shape of our toenails.

So if you're wondering why you suck so bad at doing your exercises every day or not eating so many cheeseburgers, consider that there's probably a chemical behind it. And give into it. Let yourself suck. Eat cheeseburgers at an astronomical rate. Scolding yourself is not going to stem the cheeseburger scarfing. Accepting your weak self-discipline muscle for what it is and then working to make it stronger might.

And if you can't stop eating cheeseburgers because you're depressed, consider changing your diet as a psychiatric tactic. We store 95% of our serotonin in our intestines. Our bowels are our "second brain."

P.S. We are doing one push-up for every M&M eaten. That theory that self-discipline in any area affects every area is gonna kick in any minute.

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