New York Times blogger Judith Warner wrote recently an interesting post about migraines and her attempts to get off medication for them. Her new approach included an extremely restrictive diet, which eliminated coffee, chocolate, MSG, nuts, vinegar, citrus fruits, bananas, raspberries, avocados, onions, fresh bagels and donuts, pizza, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, aspartame and all aged, cured, fermented, marinated, smoked, tenderized or nitrate-preserved meats.
It sounds something like the diet I went on when my children were very colicky babies, which cut out everything worth eating and left me, as Warner writes about herself,
ravenously hungry, cranky, spaced out and vaguely, deprivedly resentful. . . . But . . . once I got used to it, I came to almost enjoy being on my diet, exploring my capacity for hunger and self-abnegation, obsessing over what foods I could eat, and how, and when. At the very least, the diet made my friends happy. Renouncing food, renouncing pills, is so often, in our time, seen as the right and righteous, pure and wholesome thing to do.
That's certainly what I experienced on the colic diet: a sense of pride and self-righteousness that almost made it all worth it.
Knowing what I now know about eating disorders and how crucial reinforcement is in creating the feedback loop that sustains them, I wonder whether any kind of restrictive diet can put you into that mindset. Maybe if Warner or I were genetically susceptible to eating disorders, we'd have developed them.
It makes me even clearer that dieting is not a good idea, especially for teens, who are most vulnerable to the development of an eating disorder. Better to stay away from that kind of reinforcement.
For the record, Warner writes that while the migraine diet helped for a couple of weeks, it failed to cure her migraines. So she's back on meds and back to eating a more normal diet. Good for her.