Category Archives: Runaway Eating

Environment.

Part 2 of Chapter 3 of Runaway Eating

Keira Knightley in the dress that sparked the rumors

Keira Knightley in the dress that sparked the rumors

Eating problems tend to run in families. If your parents or siblings have issues, you’re more likely to have them. Genetic factors, environmental stressors, or a dysfunctional family environment all play a key.

Let’s talk about genes first. Back when the tabloids wrote about Keira Knightley being anorexic, she denied it, to People magazine.

Whatever people say about my weight they are all wrong. Hollywood is about the way you look, and I don’t think that’s the healthy thing for anyone. But, if you’re strong and comfortable with yourself, then you’re going to be fine.

The star had shown up to a film premier with a low-cut, backless bronze Gucci dress. (When they say low-cut, it’s low-cut. It goes down to her belly button.) Her rail thin figure sparked many concerns and gossip.

While saying that there was nothing to worry about, Knightley did add that her family had a history of anorexia. Her grandmother and great-grandmother had suffered from the condition, and she also had a lot of friends who had the condition.

nicole-richie-228

Nicole Richie, another rail thin celebrity suspected at some point to have an eating disorder

Her mother, as reported to Times, later shot down the rumor by telling the press that her daughter is like her father.

She has always been thin. She’s her daddy’s daughter, with his long body… [he] was much, much thinner than Keira. When he was Keira’s age, he had to drink milk with honey and eggs, and go training and training and training, just to be a normal weight.

She eats like a horse. I always want to apologise because she can eat anything that she wants and she does not put on weight.

Thus making the rest of us jealous.

The tendency to have an eating disorder or at least suffer from runaway eating can be passed genetically. Families of women with diagnosed eating disorders tend to have high rates of eating disorders. It follows that runaway eating may be passed genetically.

3238651946_97ebbca1b2However, it’s hard to know whether runaway eating is in part a product of genetics while also being in part a product of the environment. Some research indicates that 5-80% of a risk lies in the genes. Environmental factors are 20-50%. The relationship is quite complex.

For example, you might have the genes, but the tendency will only arise when certain environmental factors come into play. It can be something as benign as a wedding, or as serious as coping with a divorce. one stressor is unhealthy dieting. Someone who gets the idea that dieting can help her have a better life can start a diet and then eventually develop an eating disorder.

Disordered eating may also be related to family of origin. Maybe your family placed great importance on control or you had OCD tendencies. Or told you that certain emotions were forbidden, like anger.

2066666462_213cf38dceOr maybe your parents poked into your life, trying to make you live your life how they want you to live your life. Or maybe your parents placed great importance on physical attractiveness, often dieting and exercising while pushing you to do the same.

The authors speculate that if you are a bingeing runaway, your parents could have been distant. They may have expected a lot from you.

There really is no clear-cut division, however. Remember that.

You also have individual risk factors, depending on your personal characteristics.

Someone with a history of being overweight may be familiar with diets and dieting. Though it’s difficult to lose the weight, losing weight is extremely important to you.

Similarly, someone with a history of bulimia or anorexia has a higher chance that the eating disorder will recur. Complete recovery is uncommon though possible, and many women continue to be preoccupied with food.

133132121_b2d1e9da36Or someone with low-esteem might not like herself. She feels bad about herself and her body. She might believe that thinness will make her more lovable, more worthwhile. I know a beautiful woman and mother of two beautiful daughters who believes that she has to stay skinny so that her husband will still love her. Her husband is very loving, and the chances that he will actually leave her are nil. But there it is.

Some people believe that their self-worth is tied to good looks and thinness. This is common among those in the show biz. Their careers depend on them staying slim and beautiful. Rarely, if ever, will you see a fat model/talk show host/TV announcer unless she’s Oprah. (But then she’s trying to lose the weight because she hates not being able to fit into clothes, etc etc.) No doubt, these women are particularly vulnerable because their livelihoods depend on their attractiveness.

That’s also one reason why no one would really be surprised if Nicole Richie or Keira Knightley actually turned out to be anorexic.

398361237_6a71e21d31During menopause, the risk of obesity rises owing to the changes that occur at this point. Women put on inches around their waists. plus the process is stressful, what with the hot flashes and all. No wonder they turn to food for comfort.

Another thing: those with disordered eating or a clinically diagnosed eating disorder tend to be depressed. One fifth of all people (or women?) experience clinical depression at one point. It comes with sadness, low mood, lack of pleasure in usual activities, and thoughts of suicide to name a few.

80-90% of eating disorders are triggered by anxiety or tension. Some try to relieve stress by not eating, or eating large amounts of food. Bulimics eat, then feel anxious until purge. Many live in a perpetual state of anxiety, afraid of food, gaining weight, and a lot of other things.

824627629_ed9fbd2f03Then there are the perfectionists. They are those who, no matter how much they have achieved, never feel happy with themselves or others. There is the normal drive for success, then there is the extreme that is unhealthy. Goals are unrealistic. There was the young lady yearning for perfection. I saw a list of goals. She wanted to reach 54 pounds. Very very unrealistic. She won’t reach it ever, because she’ll die or slip into a coma before she reaches it. To this type of person, mistakes equal disaster.

Some people also have poor problem-solving skills. Some have difficulty facing their problems. They can’t make connections between the problem and the actual solution. They avoid confrontation. Instead of dealing with the problem head on, they abuse food as a response.

There are other personality factors, like the tendency to starve oneself of affection or being very disciplined and self-controlled. Or the tendency to live life with your emotions on a roller coaster ride. These factors differ from person to person. This brings us to a catalyst: dieting.

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Stress Fracture

Part 1 of Chapter 3 of Runaway Eating: what causes Runaway Eating, and who’s at risk?

Earlier on, we talked about stress and how we women can easily turn turn to food for comfort as a result. Why do only some actually become runaway eaters?

luisa_cerano_ladies_fashionThere are some risk factors that are especially responsible. These are as wide-ranging as the media’s emphasis on thinness as beauty, or as personal as family history, or depression. The driving forces do remain the same. While having risk factors don’t ensure that you will get the condition, it does set the stage, so to speak. It might not actually start a fire, but the tinder is built up.

First, we’ll look at the beauty factor. For years and years, women has been valued for her beauty. From Helen of Troy to Paris Hilton, those with beauty seem to have everything. They have wealth, love, adulation, jobs, and career advancement. Many of us spend lots of time and money on cosmetics, manicures, and pedicures. We flip through catalogues and women’s magazines looking for the latest styles.

The sad part is that to society, beauty equals thin/skinny/slim/slender. Most people cannot achieve the desired  weight. They were not made for it. How can a big-boned woman like Oprah ever become a waif like Nicole Richie? It brings a terrible price, this pursuit.

The writers have compiled a short timeline for this.

Camille Clifford: the ideal Gibson Girl

Camille Clifford: the ideal Gibson Girl

The early 1900s. Thin becomes in. This is perhaps when it all started. Before this time, plump, full curves were the ideal. They indicated that the well-endowed woman was well-fed and didn’t have to work.

The early 20th century ended this trend of round people. Slim, trim, and slender was desired, perhaps to differentiate from the stocky immigrants that were pouring into the States. It was a symbol of good breeding and discipline. Heaviness, the women thought, meant laziness, greediness, and lack of self-control.

Charles Dana Gibson revolutionized our perceptions with the Gibson Girl. This woman appeared tall, very slim, fit, and athletic with a small waist. Her face was gorgeous. Naturally no one looked like this, or very few people. After all, she was merely a figment of the artist’s imagination, based on what he felt the ideal woman should look like. However, women felt bad about themselves or not achieving this goal.

Just then, a physical fitness craze hit the country. Clothes started to reveal more, making women feel self-conscious about their appearance.

A typical flapper, but a modern picture from a costume shop

The flapper.

1920s: This was the age of the flappers. These girls wanted to be free to dance, play sports, and lead more active lives than their mothers and grandmothers. No more corsets, sleeves, or skirts. Well, not really. But whatever was there barely scraped the top of their calves. Women’s anxieties skyrocketed, especially since the perfect flapper’s body was small, slim, and flat chested. Fad diets were in. Self-induced vomiting was in. Laxative abuse was in.

Advertisers took the chance to take advantage of women’s insecurities about themselves to talk about weight-loss equipment, fad diets, and much much more. The message here was: “Slim down and you’ll be beautiful and happy.”

1940s to 1970s. Thin becomes a fashion statement. We know from other reading that designers prefer skinny models. Why? Because skinny works like a hanger. Clothes hang on the lady with fewer wrinkles, while people with a little shape have more wrinkles because of their curves.

twiggy-1

Twiggy

Along the way, the hanger lady became an object of beauty. But no one looked like a hanger. Big problem. Instead of seeing that this ideal was not only unattainable but also quite ridiculous, women conformed it. They lusted after it, starved to fit into it. The result was despair.

Twiggy, a 95 lb, 5 feet 6 teen model, exploded onto the fashion scene during the late 1960s. Her sticklike figure made everyone feel heavy, even slim women. Fashions left little to the imagination. People believed, “You can never be too thin or too rich.” Eating disorders, as a result, suddenly abounded.

Fonda

Fonda

1980s. A fitness craze hit the nation. Jane Fonda turned out her famous exercise videos, urging women to “feel the burn.” The thin woman was apparently not only supposed to be hanger girl, but also have well-defined muscles, flat stomach, and a small, tight butt. Jane Fonda had all these things. Only later did people find out that she was bulimic. However, this look was impossible for most women. Those that succeeded did so only by spending hours at the gym, or starving, or purging.

1990s. Welcome to the era of the middle-aged woman who never gets old. Think about the 40-50 year olds (like Goldie Hawn or Demi Moore) who look like 20 year olds. These woman have an unusual combination of genes, along with personal trainers and plastic surgery. They have set a higher standard: looking your age is bad. You should be doing all you can to look young.

tn2_demi_moore_3

Demi Moore

I can’t deny that. It seems that every single magazine I open is filled with spreads and spreads of anti-aging commercials. It’s not just the commercials, either. Most women’s magazines include a beauty section which will inevitably include some creams and serums which will make you look younger. The product testing department also has a few products. Why? Because right now there’s a demand for such products. We want to look young. We want to look young now. We also want to continue to look young at age 50-60, just like Demi Moore. I don’t think Moore or Hawn are responsible for the problem, but the fact that the media commends them and emphasizes the fact that they still look young even at such an age makes most women feel inadequate for not being like that.

Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn

Yellow Light

Part 4 of Chapter 2 of Runaway Eating: What is Runaway Eating?

3307363788_5d7e6a1407There are several warning signs that you could watch for. Some include:

  • constant dieting
  • weight fluctuation
  • thinking constantly about food/diet
  • guilt about eating
  • depressed because weight is all “wrong”
  • believing that losing weight is really the answer to problems.

Healthy eating is eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full. You know when you’re eating to solve problems and eating simply because you’re hungry.

This book includes a quiz that may also help a lot.

3370910024_71c47c9770The authors offer a bit of hope. The good thing is that you can defeat this problem of runaway eating. We now know that eating disorders can range from mild to severe, though they run by the same train of thought. The authors can conclude that we can thus use similar psychological treatments to fix this.

There’s also the 8 point treatment plan which really does make a lot of sense. However, we’re not going into that yet.

Next up: Risk factors. The beauty factor.

Misuse

3543178102_f56c8286c8Part 3 of Chapter 2 of Runaway Eating: What is Runaway Eating?

The bingeing runaway eater binges to make herself feel better. Her binges can involve a huge amount of food, or a smaller amount. However, it’s usually high in sugar and easy to eat in large quantities (i.e., ice cream, cake, cookies, peanut butter, jam, honey, or candy).

The binge starts as feeling good, but ends up with the woman feeling disgusted. As the food is eaten rapidly, there is no satisfaction. Sometimes, she’s barely aware of what she’s done. The bingeing runaway eater doesn’t purge, but eats and leaves it at that.

Bingeing is more common than anorexia or bulimia. At the time the book was written, it was not recognized as an official eating disorder. As of now, it has joined the ranks as one of the most common eating disorders among women.

2378980854_6b7c29c50cWhat’s the difference between bingeing runaway eating, overeating, and the binge eating disorder? Overeating is simply eating too much. One time at a sushi restaurant, I ate a bit too much and felt stuffed. It wasn’t because I wanted to run away from my problems. There was no out of control feeling. The runaway type involves eating large amounts within a short period of time, feeling that her eating is out of control. Sometimes she cannot stop unless someone drags her away, she gets tired, or she runs out of food.

The difference between runaway eating and the eating disorder is the frequency of the binges. Those with the disorder binge an average of two days a week for at least six months. Those with the runaway form binge occasionally, and for shorter periods. There’s no firm dividing line, because both forms are all unhealthy.

What can this disorder do to the body? Bloat. Nausea. The inability to breathe because of a distended stomach. The most common consequence of this type of disordered eating is weight gain. Not all with this disorder are overweight. Not all overweight people have this. However, a binge eating disorder can make the problem worse.

295319305_d734d37e92What can this disorder do to the mind and emotions? Depression, anxiety, shame, and self-hatred are only a few things. You may isolate yourself because you don’t want to talk about what you’re going through. You need love and friendship, but you push those aside for the fridge. When you’re focused on food, you cannot look at the things that make life worth living. Your joy in life disappears.

The bingeing/compensating runaway eater binges and THEN compensates for the binge by fasting, vomiting, laxatives, or exercise. This keeps their weight at average to slightly above average.

She’s also afraid of getting fat. She defines her self by her appearance. Not only that, she may find it hard to stick to a diet, and end up bingeing to relieve the stress. After she does so, she panics and think about the food turning into fat.

Here are some things the writers say she might to do compensate:

  • Extremely restrictive diet
  • Fast/starve
  • Throwing up
  • Abuse laxatives, diuretics, or other unhealthy methods to rid their body of food.
  • Excessive exercise

This category also includes those who purge/compensate without even bingeing.

But what’s the difference between this condition and bulimia. Both include a dissatisfaction with how things are with a desire to regain control. Both binge, then purge. The difference is n the frequency and duration. The clinically defined bulimic demonstrates such behavior at an average of at least two times a week for at least three months. The runaway eater does so less often.

How does purging affect weight? It’s ineffective, at most. Restrictive dieting causes metabolism to slow down, making it harder to burn calories. Vomiting doesn’t empty the stomach completely. A lot of what was already eaten is digested. Laxatives work in the rectum or large intestine after calories have already been absorbed. As a result, those with the disorder are not excessively thin; they’re average or slightly above average.

3439892989_d08eeb9011What about excessive exercise? How do you know if you’re doing too much? If you’re exercising more than one hour a day to avoid weight gain, if you get mad at yourself for missing one day of exercise, if you exercise even though you’re injured or exhausted, then you may have this. It’s a common syndrome for those who have undiagnosed eating disorders.

The authors write that at least 75% of people in each category of eating disorder use exercise to try to avoid gaining weight.

There’s underlying issues of control, power, or self-esteem, continues the authors.

I know a woman who tries to exercise to keep the weight off. If she misses a day, she gets unhappy with herself. Her husband once broke a chair at our Christmas Eve party. The chair was already very weak form years and years of heavy butts sitting on it, and he was an average, rather muscular guy. When he sat on it, it cracked. He felt really bad. I heard from his wife that on Christmas day, he called the gym to see if they were open. He wanted to exercise the fat off or something of the sort. Of course they were not. Gyms typically aren’t open on Christmas. Poor guy.

3292145208_6663594d2eWhat can this disorder do to our bodies? The authors write that bingeing stretches out the stomach; however, purging and other ways to get the food out are dangerous enough. Vomiting can irritate/rupture the esophagus. If vomit is inhaled, it can cause aspiration pneumonia. Continual exposure to stomach acid can erode teeth enamel, increasing dental cavities. Those with the money go and have their teeth fixed to white perfection. There’s also dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, chronic kidney problems, and broken blood vessels, to name a few.

2591786412_daecd94f5dLaxatives are dangerous as well. It become impossible to poop normally and intestine problems will abound. Even exercise can make you dehydrated, or you can fracture your bones out of stress, injury, or degenerative arthritis.

What can bingeing/compensating do to your mind and emotions? There’s the feelings of panic. You know that you’re harming yourself, thence the feeling of shame. Depression, guilt, headaches, or exhaustion are direct results. Remember that this is a vicious cycle, meaning that the disorder feeds the emotions while the emotions feed the disorder.

Often, bingeing and purging are done in secret. This damages relationships with friends and family. It keeps you from focusing on the important things in life. People who don’t understand only serve to widen the gap between you and them.

Next up: A warning and a hope

Dessert Dishes

Part 2 of Chapter 2 of Runaway Eating: What is Runaway Eating?

The restricting runaway eater is like a person with anorexia nervosa, but milder. Still, such a person tends to worry about getting fat. She might override her hunger signals and cut back her food intake to dangerously low levels.

215183766_aeb65e4daeWhile some restricting eaters stop feeling hungry, most have the strong desire to eat and think about food all the time. The other interesting thing to them is being thin and in control. They may check the mirror and buy clothes that are too small, hoping to someday fit into them.

The difference between a restricting runaway eater and a woman with anorexia is weight. An anorexic has dangerously low weight. The restricting runaway eater may have weight a little lower than average, or normal weight. It’s only a matter of time before her weight drops altogether. Also, she may not restrict as much or as consistently, going through periods where her food intake is normal. However, the food obsession and fear of gaining weight is a constant and close companion.

It’s important to recognize the difference between the restricting runaway eater and the person who is just thin. The naturally thin, like me, don’t always think about food except at mealtimes. She eats until her body tells her to stop, then goes about her business. The restricting runaway eater is obsessed with her weight. How she feels about herself is dependent on whether she can control her food intake. It’s all about her ability to stay thin, become thin, and lose weight. It means self control and achievement to her. She also has a distorted sense of her body size.

2591450932_231d674b69What can restricting do to someone’s body? Vital functions will slow down to conserve energy. Metabolism slows down. Blood pressure drops. You might feel light-headed, dizzy, or cold. Or all three. If body fat drops low enough, your period might stop. You won’t be able to have a baby, because your body realizes that your food supply is too low to support another life. If you are already pregnant, there’s an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects. You can also get osteoporosis.

As if those weren’t bad enough already, there are some extreme effects as well, as if this wasn’t bad enough. Effects such as anemia, kidney failure, heart failure, and death to name a few.

What can it do to your mind and emotions? You may become depressed, withdrawn, or irritable. At night, you might also suffer from insomnia, and when you do sleep, you might dream about food. Your eating habits, obviously, will change. You might eat by chewing each bite a certain number of times, or cutting your food into small pieces. You might even hide your food.

2907586559_5d23b494f8On the other hand, you may also suffer from anxiety, OCD tendencies, perfectionism, and hopelessness. Each feeds the other. Your feelings feed the disordered eating, while the eating feeds the feelings. It’s a deeply destructive cycle.

Restrictive eating also takes a toll on relationships. One with this disorder would avoid events with food — basically all of them. I had a friend who didn’t want to go to another friend’s wedding because food was going to be there and she didn’t want to “screw up.” She may also lie about her eating habits. Prospective partners can be turned off, being tired of being asked, “Do I look fat?”

Next up: The Bingeing Runaway Eater

Kinds of Runaway Eating

Part 1 of chapter 2 of Runaway Eating: What is Runaway Eating?

Someone's homemade peach ice cream, off flickr

Someone's homemade peach ice cream, off flickr

The writers give a few examples of Runaway Eating: the kind of eating that is harmful, yet not severe enough to pass for an eating disorder. One would be a woman who severely restricts her eating because she’s afraid to gain weight. She’s not light enough to be anorexic. Or another woman who binges occasionally but not enough to qualify as the binge eating disorder. Or a woman who purges only once a week as opposed to the minimum of three times a week for six months. All of these examples don’t fit the bill, but all of them are out of control and harmful.

People do tend to think that one might wake up one day with an eating disorder. But eating disorders are a gradual decline. The process might start out mild, but worsen over time. When things are unbearable, only then do women seek help for their condition. Those women in the example believe that something’s wrong with their characters. This is the result of many factors. Their eating-related behaviors have run away with them, while they eat to run away from other problems.

Frozen yogurt (strawberry) homemade by the same person

Frozen yogurt (strawberry) homemade by the same person

This isn’t about eating too much. It’s about the misuse of food to deal with problems. This can also include misusing laxatives, or exercising too much. If you turn to food to deal with problems and feel that your behavior is out of control, then you probably suffer from Runaway Eating.

It is also when eating-related behaviors become the primary way to deal with unhappy feelings.

Rather than dealing with these troubling feelings out in the open, she keeps it inside. Trying to hide it, she believes that if she ignores the problem, maybe it will go away. However, this only makes matters worse. After a while, this kind of behavior becomes the standard, until she doesn’t even realize that she’s doing it.

The symptoms and results of runaway eating may not be as extreme as a clinically defined eating disorder. The same attitudes are true. One woman may not starve herself to dangerously low levels like the next, but both are deeply afraid of gaining weight.

205081048_38599d9d00How many have runaway eating? It’s hard to know for sure. Some people don’t consider themselves to have disordered eating, because they don’t “starve” or “throw up.” It’s estimated that up to 25% of females may live with this condition.

Sometimes runaway eating will become a clinically defined eating disorder. Sometimes it will stay low, or even disappear. But still, it’s pretty harmful.

What forms can runaway eating take?

  • Restricting Runaway Eater
  • Bingeing Runaway Eater
  • Bingeing/Compensating Runaway Eater

Remember that some women may bounce from category to category, or have all three conditions at once. The driving forces are similar.

Next up: Looking at these categories in depth.

Losing Battle

Part 3 of Chapter 1 in the book Runaway Eating: Not for Teenagers Only

Stress wreaks havoc on everything. It can cause major diseases and difficulties, both physically and psychologically.

3120725143_43a6d1677cStress sets off a fire alarm. It prepares your body to fight to the death, or run a mile. Now that’s useful if you’re being chased by lions and tigers and  bears, but if you’re just yelling at your kids to get ready for school, that’s overkill. If you’re under stress all the time, this is really bad for your body.

Stress can also be destructive psychologically. You may feel depressed, anxious, or powerless; awful feelings. Naturally you want to feel better and escape those feelings, so you might turn to alcohol, or work. We might get addicted to our anti-depressants.

Or… we might turn to food.

Food is highly attractive. It symbolizes pleasure, comfort, amusement, and distraction. It can be found everywhere and anywhere in this culture. We get involved in it, for it is easily available, socially acceptable, and hard to resist. Too many of us use to relieve stress, if only for a few moments.

534797974_62473413ddAnd so, we end up misusing food. We eat too much or too less. We might eat too much junk food. Meanwhile, we’re just compensating for an imbalance in our lives (or black hole, as another writer described).

Sometimes someone who is on drugs is easy to stop. However, someone who misuses food is not so obvious. Everyone’s on a diet, so no one will look at you twice  if you’re skipping lunch. In fact, you may even be praised for your choice. Though it may seem like a normal habit, everything can go wrong. Misusing food is habit forming and addictive, like alcohol or drugs.

The writers say that this may at least cause a negative impact on your self image, your relationships with others, and your quality of life. In more severe cases, the calcium will be sucked from your bones. You may face heart problems, anemia, changes in brain structure, or even death.

Years ago, our relationship with food was different. We used food to care for others, expressing our love by cooking meals. The women of older days would bring baked goods to families who were poor, or to their neighbors who were sick. People ate their meals together. This was their time to spend time together. Food wasn’t an issue, except when someone was starving because of a lack of it.

324463349_9f12f4c11bNow, food is our enemy. It tempts us, making us feel fat and awful. Through diets, we learn to avoid food. Cooking isn’t as much fun anymore. Rarely will we prepare food for a sick neighbor. We want to find ways to cook smaller portions in the least time possible. The women of today are thankful for portion-control TV dinners, like the one on the right. We also believe that if we eat too much food, we can ruin our lives and make people stop loving us.

We have produced a disconnect between food and our bodies. Food is something that is to be hated. It is no longer something that nourishes us while giving us the energy to get through the day. Mealtimes are no longer fun. We have forgotten the simple law of listening to our bodies. We don’t eat when we’re hungry, and when we’re not hungry, we eat. We have forgotten that food doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Yet, our appetites are never satisfied. Organic foods, processed foods, junk, sugar, and more doesn’t fill us. The stress of our lives makes us feel empty. The answer to the emptiness is to fill ourselves with cinnamon buns and chips. It doesn’t work.

3478379369_eeb6ef8f00Or, we think we can exercise and diet like crazy. But we never win.

We have to learn how to make friends with food, and learn to decipher what our bodies and hearts are saying.

We also need something, Someone, to fill the empty hole inside of us, instead of turning to the fridge in a vain attempt to fill the hole with cookies and cheesecake.