What Drug Overdose Can Teach You About Breaking Harmful Eating Habits

One of the most interesting pieces of information I have encountered in my psychology classes this year, is that drug overdose does not require that the person taking the drug, increases the dose they get into their systems. It actually has to do with Pavlovian’s theories about Classical Conditioning, and how a body prepares itself for what is going to get into it, before actually having it in. This means that if a person who uses drugs, takes the drugs in the same place each day: a room, a street, a venue, their body prepares itself for the drug inhale or injection just because they are located there.

To put it in a simpler manner, drug addicts have trained their brains into preparing their bodies for the drug: by lowering their rhythms, for example, when they are about to get a stimulant, just because they find themselves in this specific environment. The location where drug use frequently takes place, has become the conditioned stimulus that triggers such a bodily reaction.

A drug addict may take the same amount of drugs each day at the same location, where their body has learned to prepare itself for the gradually augmented dosage through a process known as tolerance. Now, if they take the same amount of drugs in a different location, where their bodies haven’t had the chance to prepare themselves for what is coming, the latter are caught off-guard. In the case of a stimulant drug for example, the body hasn’t lowered it’s rhythms (to put it as simply as I can) so the drug enters a normally functioning system. The body’s normal rhythms in addition to the dosage that has increased per time, are what cause the overdose that the human can’t withstand.

The application of Pavlovian Conditioning and the according notion about tolerance in the case of drug abuse, has lead me to a hypothesis about their application in the case of food - among other - addictions. Now, I need you all to remember that I am still a psychology student and the aim of this article is not advisory as well as the fact that I haven’t conducted an experiment to validate this theory yet, so I am simply introducing an idea here.

I am thinking that if location can function as a catalyst in drug addictions, it may also play the same role when it comes to food addictions. Say that most days, I have dinner in my room, lying on my bed and watching television. Say that after finishing with the main course, I always go for dessert. Even if I tell myself I wont have it, I can feel my body craving it. According to the Pavlovian notion of tolerance, the location where i find myself can be one of the many triggers, causing this craving.

I am not claiming that physical environment is the only thing causing a longing for food but it can be an important factor in a multi-triggered urge. So what am I proposing here? Try breaking your habits through a different approach: take your main course to the living room, the garden, or even better, a dinner table. Try eating somewhere that doesn’t resemble the room that hosted the sequence of dessert after dinner. Think of it as: my bed actually caused my brain to think I am hungry for dessert so that is why I reached for it. When you eat outside (now that the weather is warming up), ask yourself if you still want that dessert. If you do, go for it but try to decrease the portion in order to start breaking out of this conditioned cycle.

As I stated before, eating habits and especially food addictions are multi-factorial and unfortunately, there is no single way out of them. While changing one’s dining premises is not a panacea, relocation could be a mitigating force in some appetitive compulsions.

To contact me, email: spyropoulosdaphne@gmail.com

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