Confessions of a Recovering Food Addict
While he left the room, I took the opportunity to grab another box of chocolates. When he came back, he looked at me and the chocolates and said, "Are you STILL eating?"
I was devastated. Or at least my pride sure was.
Looking back, this was a turning point for me, even though at the time I still didn't see that I had a real problem. I chose to spitefully go on a diet and start exercising--not for my own health but to prove that I could. I thought I had something to prove to my husband but in reality, I had something to prove to myself.
My constant preoccupation with food made me feel so weak and powerless. I wanted to feel in control.
During this time, I did feel in control. For the first time in a long time (maybe even in my life), I had the drive and motivation to make good food choices and I exercised almost every day. I followed a strict carb-cycling diet that caused me to lose 1-2 lbs a week, which "experts" say is the healthy range. I bought a fitbit so that I could track every calorie in and every calorie out.
After a few months, I lost 15 lbs and 4% body fat. I was out of the "overweight" category.
While I enjoyed the positive changes, like weight loss and feeling healthier, it wasn't sustainable. I was still controlled by food.
You see, I never got over my preoccupation with food. Being on a diet, counting calories, paying attention to grams of carbs, proteins and fats, etc. meant that my entire day was still focused on food. I was either eating, thinking about what I would eat next, or writing down what I ate. My mind was always on food.
I never consciously decided to quit the diet, but I started to pay less attention to following it so strictly now that I was feeling good about myself. But eventually I started to put on the weight again. I felt like such crap about myself for failing that I gave up completely.
Food addiction is a vicious cycle.
Eat to feel better... Feel bad for eating... Eat to feel better... Feel bad for eating... Eat to feel better... Feel bad for eating... and on and on.
As hard as you try, you can't win.
How do you break the cycle?
I wish I had an easy answer for you.
For me, it didn't happen consciously and it certainly didn't happen over night. But I think there are 2 things that I learned that have led me to where I am now:
1. I learned to love myself enough to want to take care of my body.
I went through something called Freedom Session, which is a 12 Step healing-discipleship program. It was through this process that I worked through my emotional woundedness and found true healing. I never admitted to myself that I used food as my "drug of choice" but my reliance on food slowly disappeared as I learned to forgive and love myself.
We take care of the things we love. We need to start loving ourselves.
2. I learned WHY and HOW to take care of my body.
While doing Freedom Session (which is about 9 months long, by the way), I came across some blogs that talked about the GAPS diet.
It seemed like what I needed to do for my girls and their issues with food sensitivities and eczema, but I couldn't imagine making that kind of change for our whole family. But after completing the program, the idea of cutting out entire groups of food didn't scare me so much.
That's when I started researching and bought the GAPS book and gained a whole new appreciation for how our bodies work and how important nutrition is to our optimal health. I have the knowledge I need to live a healthy life and it's become something I am so passionate about!
Now I eat to nourish my body, not just satisfy it!
The funny thing about my story is that it's only been in the last couple months that I can look back and realize that I had a food addiction. At Christmas, I allowed myself the freedom to "cheat" on our diet if there was something special that I wanted to enjoy. I had realized then that if I ate one of my mom's amazing butter tarts I would enjoy it and then move on without feeling that need to eat more (and more, and more...) I was finally strong enough to have one bite of something and not think about it for hours afterwards. I knew that I would be okay whether I had a butter tart or not. It might seem silly to those of you who haven't struggled with food, but that experience was incredibly freeing.
This has been a very personal story to share.
I am sharing my story with you because I care. I care about you and I care about your health. Now that I am on the other side, I know that it's possible to get here and I know that it's so. much. better. I want that for YOU.
So if you feel like you can relate to my story but you're not sure if you really have a "food addiction" or not, here are some possible signs to look for:
- Ignoring negative consequences (weight gain, unhealthy weight loss, digestion problems, health issues, strained relationships, etc.)
- Difficulty giving up one or more foods
- Eating food past the point of fullness and/or until you feel sick
- Going out of your way to find a certain food
- Feelings of worry, guilt and/or self-loathing associated with food
- Eating alone or sneaking food
I wouldn't have ever thought I was a "food addict" but looking at that list above, I can tell you that I did every single one of those things. Some of them more often than others.
Because food has become the acceptable "drug of choice" in our culture, it's so easy to look the other way and ignore that we really have a problem. It's not okay and it is a problem. I am not judging you and I don't want you to feel ashamed., but I do want you to understand that you are hurting yourself and you are hurting the people around you.
Please remember: You are not defined by your struggles.
Even though I use the term "food addict" in this post to describe myself and others who have an unhealthy, emotional dependence on food, that's not my label and it shouldn't be yours either.
I am a daughter of God, a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter and a sister. Those are the labels that matter to me most.