Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fattict

I have been dabbling in the subject of food addiction for a while now. It's a sensitive subject for sure. Remember the backlash the medical world got when obesity was announced as an actual "disease?" It seemed like every person in America had something negative to say about it.

"Great, now my insurance will go up because all these fatasses can't close their f$%^*#g mouths."

"Really America? We're going to give obese people an excuse for being fat?"

"Obesity is a disease? LOL. It's called: stop eating, fatass."

Any of these sound familiar? Did any of them hurt you? Or do you agree?

For the longest time- yes, I had these same thoughts about obesity. People are fat because they: a) don't exercise and b) eat too damn much.

 But then I started to think: can't those same hurtful phrases be lashed out at alcoholics? At crackheads?

"Great, now my insurance will go up because all these crackheads can't close their f$%^*#g nostrils."

"Really America? We're going to give alcoholics an excuse for being drunk?"

"Alcoholism is a disease? LOL. It's called: stop drinking, lush."

I am NOT a registered dietician or a doctor, this is ONLY my opinion...

 I think that obesity is the effect of a disease.What is that disease that causes obesity?
Addiction.
That powerful "A" word, that is the most versatile in our dictionary.

Have you ever watched "My Strange Addiction" on TLC? Some examples of addictions they feature are: pizza, animal blood, sniffing doll heads, drinking gasoline, etc...
I think that certain people are born with some sort of "addiction gene," and their substance abuse depends on their emotions and the connection between them.

 It has taken me a very long time to TRULY understand that I am addicted to food. Addiction runs rampant in my family. Mainly alcoholism, but that "addiction gene" is definitely there (whatever that means). I remember being told as a teenager that I would need to be careful with alcohol because there are so many alcoholics on both sides. Never once did anyone think to say: be careful with ANYTHING you do a lot of, because addiction runs in the family. Who would have thought that I would get addicted to food?

Well, I am here to tell you that food addiction is a very real and very serious form of addiction. I know it might seem like bullshit to some of you, but look up the research.
Give it a good google.

I think I have always had an addiction to food, but it didn't really get bad until I moved away for college. I remember turning to food as a kid to deal with my emotions. I would come home from elementary school and eat popcorn, or a PBJ, even though I knew that I would be having dinner with my family soon. I know that a lot of kids eat snacks when they get home from school. But I was eating out of emotion, not hunger. There's a difference. One particular memory sticks out really vividly: It was breakfast circa third grade- I'm at the table with my stepdad and I have a bowl of cereal in front of me. Spoon in one hand, chocolate power bar in the other. My mother walks in and freaks out. She knew there was something wrong  (she is a therapist after all). She somehow knew that in that particular moment, that that chocolate power bar was not in my hand because I was SO hungry that I needed TWO breakfasts; it was omething more. I remember her keeping a close eye on me after that, but I always managed to sneak food in somehow. Elementary school was a pretty rough period of my life. My Grandmother died and I didn't take it very well. I somehow developed tourette syndrome as an effect of all the stress of her death and I still have the occasional tic in my face when I get stressed (or drink too much coffee).

In high school I definitely started turning to food more often as a solution to my emotions. High School was also rough- teenagers are little douchebags. That after school "snack" I would eat after elementary school turned into me running to Sonic for cheese sticks and a strawberry slushy or Taco Bell for Chalupas on my way home. Patterns.

College was when shit really hit the fan. A few blogs ago I wrote abut a certain moment involving potato skins. I was a server at a restaurant (highly stressful like elementary and high school, and also full of little douchebags). I came home one day with a to-go box of cheesy and bacon-y potato skins. Ate the whole box, and continued to binge after work from then on out. My love for pizza? Bingo: the emotional attachment started freshman year. There was a Papa Johns right next door to my dorm. Stressful day at school- delivery! Fight with my mom? Spinach Alfredo original crust coming right up! Patterns.

On into my professional career- shitty day at work? Pizza delivered seconds after I got home for the day. Patterns.

Eventually those binge patterns led into horrible regular eating habits in addition to the emotional feasts.

I am not going to delve too deeply into the theories that certain food companies put ingredients in their products that make them addictive. I think that they do, but since I am not a professional with the FDA, I cannot give you specifics. I can, however, tell you that there is a difference in my cravings among different foods. For example: If you were to eat a bowl of steamed broccoli, you probably would not feel the need to go back for seconds, thirds, or to finish the whole lot. But if that were a bowl of potato chips, you might feel the urge to eat the whole bag. Is it because potato chips are soooo much tastier than broccoli? I don't think so. Had you asked me 6 months ago, I probably would have said: hell yes! I have cut so much junk food out of my diet that I have lost my taste for all that processed crap. I genuinely don't enjoy the taste of it anymore.

There are certain foods that make me want to keep eating them and leafy green veggies just aren't one of them. I enjoy them, but who's ever heard of someone gorging on a spinach binge? Besides Popeye of course. Certain types of food are addictive. Plain and simple. Sugar is one of them. This past week was Halloween and there has been SO much candy at work. I ate one of those snack size peanut butter Snickers the other day (you know the one- in the gold wrapper- yeah, they're the jam). After I ate it, all I wanted was to eat 8,000 more.

But the foods themselves aren't the problem. Yes, I think they contribute to addiction, but they cannot be at total fault.

Once a binge hits me, it doesn't matter if I like the taste of something or not- I am going to eat it. I hit a really serious low once and I turned a bottle of chocolate syrup upside down and squirted it in my mouth. I literally drank chocolate syrup. WTF. How about this one- I was really broke and couldn't afford to partake in the routine greasy Chinese food or pizza binge, so I rummaged through my pantry and drank heated up chicken stock until the sodium filled me up. Double WT? WTF.

I finally worked up the courage to go to Overeaters Anonymous on Sunday. I have been meaning to go for months, after my trainer suggested it to me. I don't know why it took me so long to go, but I did it. I went. And it was every bit as cheesy as I thought it was going to be. Every time you want to speak you have to say: "Hi. My name is blah blah, and I'm a compulsive eater." Then the whole group has to say: "Hi, blah blah." Then, after you're done talking you have to say: "thanks." At first I was scared.
You go in these sketchy ass double wide doors in the middle of the hood:


Then you go up some sketchy ass stairs:


Then, an even sketchier hallway:


I was totally imaging a gross warehouse with fold out chairs, but there were actually some nice little couches around a coffee table.


Once I got past the whole "My name is blah and I'm a blah,"  I really opened up and I kicked myself for waiting so long to go to a meeting. Every person there related to me. It confirmed that food addiction is real, and that for us, our substance of choice is food. Just like an alcoholic. Which is why the OA program is based on the same 12 steps that are used in Alcoholics Anonymous. We simply replace the words "alcohol" with food and "alcoholic" with "compulsive eater." The numbness that the filling effect of the sodium in chicken stock gave me? Another dude in the group shared a similar story. He would stuff himself with periodic fast food trips while he was on a long drive for work until he reached the point where he felt physically sick. He needed to feel that numbness.

THE TWELVE STEPS OF OA:
1. We admitted we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I have a really long way to go in this journey still, but now that I have TRULY accepted the fact that I am an addict, or a "Fattict," as I like to call it- I am finding it easier to control the binges. For so long I've been resisting the cravings, but for all the wrong reasons. Now that I know where they originate from, it is so easy for me to stop them. Before it was just: No, Lori. You don't need it. You're a fatty, remember? And you already ate dinner. Now I can tell myself: No, Lori. That hunger is not true hunger. It's emotional hunger, and you are NOT powerless over food. You create your own destiny. 

For those of you out there who think you might feel the same way at all,  even the tiniest little bit- listen to me and TRUST me. I know how scary it is to look into the future. I don't WANT to give up pizza and chocolate, and chicken fingers and fries. It is SCARY to think about what would happen to me if I denied myself the right to the foods that I am so attached to. PLEASE give in to the notion that YOU WILL BE OK. I have jumped over the threshold. TRUST me. It is better on this side. Once you accept the fact that you have an eating disorder (really, really accept it), the path ahead of you clears up. All those overgrown feelings and emotions in your way will lift right up into the sky. Think deeply about your food habits. Don't let food control you.

Fear is the main thing that you have to let go of. On the other side of fear is another wonderful F word: Freedom. Fear establishes limits. Do you want to live in a box? Confined to fear closing you in? Let go. You want this MORE than you are afraid of it. If you are afraid of heights, you will stay low. I think that is why I stay broke all the time--- I am afraid of what will happen if I have a lot of money. Will I spend it all on food? I think I am afraid of what will happen if my bank account gets fat; therefore, I spend money compulsively so that I don't have to face that fear. If there's no money there for me to spend on binges, I literally can't do it. 

This is an extremely deep post, and it's about to get even deeper. I hope you'll stay with me here. 

Another courageous thing I have taken on is opening up to my mother about my admittance to food addiction. This is like... worthy of a prize. I don't know why, but I always shy away from having these kind of conversations with her. I think it's because: a) she has a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy and I don't want some long-ass psychological answer and b) Fear. Who knows you better than your own mother? NO ONE. Which meeeeeaaannnsssss--- I will get the honest answer that I don't want to hear. 

Next up: My father. Any daddy's girls out there? Despite the fact that my parents divorced when I was infant, I have always felt the need to impress my Daddy. I talked to him today and dished it all. I admitted everything today. He said he was a little shocked, and a little not-shocked. He pointed out that whenever we go out to eat, or he looks at the food in my house, I'm either eating salads, or something else of the healthy variety. He felt that I did a pretty good job hiding it from him. He honestly didn't think that I was an official "compulsive overeater," but just that I overeat, And yes, there is a difference. Not all overweight people are compulsive overeaters, but most compulsive overeaters are overweight. I asked him about his experience with addiction and it turns out that his addictive habits are the EXACT same as mine, and it all comes back to emotions. We had an awesome convo, and I learned a lot about my family's history when it comes to addiction. 

Back to my mom. Out of NOWHERE I have been craving cigarettes. I have NEVER been addicted to cigarettes, and I never plan to be. But since she is a Doctor and all, I asked her to shed some light on her experience with addiction patients and if she has ever seen someone turn to one bad habit while trying to kick another one. Here are her words:

"For many people who struggle with freeing themselves from an addiction (i.e., alcohol), they take on another addiction like drinking large amounts of coffee and/or an increase in cigarette smoking.  Those who struggle with eating disorders may become addicted to exercise to a very dangerous degree.  Fortunately for some, these new obsessive habits dwindle over time throughout the recovery process and are replaced with healthful behaviors such as moderate caffeine, nicotine abstinence, moderate exercise, increased water, and low carbohydrate diets.   For others, however, the new habit becomes a full-fledged addiction and is another form of self destruction.

These newly formed habits take on a life of obsession like the old habit the addict is attempting to become free of.  Some professionals would argue that these behaviors support the notion that an 'addiction personality' truly exists.  Why do people harm themselves in these ways?  Self destructive behaviors and addicted personalities can be highly correlated with a low sense of self worth... Having a strong sense of self is crucial to maintaining good mental, physical, and social health." -Dr. Brenda Dozier


Wow. Does any of that just make a light go off above your head like it does for me? 

The whole point of this long-ass post is that addiction is real. It doesn't matter what substance you abuse, but there is a connection between certain things and their correlated emotions. Once you form habits attached to emotions, it will stick in many cases. And it's hard as hell to break. 

I am working on it, and so can you. 

Hi, my name is Lori and I am a fattict. 

Thanks.

2 comments:

  1. Although I don't quite see eye to eye with you, I admire the strength that is growing within yourself. I will continue to keep updating on your blog as I have been for the past...hmmm.....4 months. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. " But then I started to think: can't those same hurtful phrases be lashed out at alcoholics? " As a recovering alcoholic, I can assure you these phrases are still lashed out at us. :-)

    When I stopped drinking 15 months ago, I was sure I'd lose weight. All that alcohol has a lot of calories. To the contrary - I've gained 20 pounds. Because all those bad feelings I used alcohol to cover up, I'm now using food. I am considering starting at OA to help with this addiction too. Thank you for your candor and sharing your experience, strength, and hope.

    ReplyDelete