I’m on a diet, sort of. I’m currently about five pounds overweight, and I would like to not be overweight, but my diligence varies. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you probably know that the second you decide to start cutting back, the worst possible foods start to sound wonderful.
What I haden’t considered is which part of the brain this is triggering. I’m still not sure. I do know though, that there must be a special pleasure center in there somewhere that’s linked with eating something you shouldn’t. A place for guilty pleasures.
I can’t prove that it’s a different part of the brain, and I never noticed that the endorphine rush I get from eating a handful of chocolate chips when I’m supposed to be counting calories is any different than say, the kind I get from winning a match, or getting a hug. I do think these feelings are different and distinct, I just never noticed or thought about it.
I am forgetful. It is not unusual for me to go into a room to get something, forget what it was, turn around, remember, and repeat the whole process several times. I did this the other day, and each time I remembered that I meant to get… something. I forgot what, but the type of pleasure in my brain was telling me that I’d promised myself a forbidden snack. I kept getting distracted, then remembering I had a treat coming up, and trying to remember what it was, and getting distracted again.
Finally I remembered what the treat was. Email.
Since I bought my iphone, I’ve become more and more guilty of email watching. Pre-iphone it was normal for me to check my email several times an hour, not necessarily expecting anything, just to be sure. I know it’s possible to set up email alerts on your computer, but I’ve never bothered. The iphone does it automatically though. As soon as I get an email, I know it. Sometimes there’s a network lag, and I’ll get two or three emails at once. It’s exciting.
The other day, when I thought I’d promised myself chocolate, I was really remembering that I had two new emails to check. For some reason, the anticipation of email was identical to the excitement of candy.
This seems strange to me. I should mention that once I realized the mistake, I was NOT disappointed, checking my email felt every bit as satisfying as the non-existent snack. I just can’t imagine why.
The brain, and I do not say only the human brain, is strange. I don’t know if this example is because I’m miswired somewhere, or whether my brain has classified these two things together for a reason. Either way, it makes me wonder whether it’s possible to fool the brain more often. If I can come up with more activities like checking email that replace covert snacking? Surely dieting would be loads easier.