Can Food Be An Addiction?
I felt it was time that I wrote something more personal. I think I have avoided delving too deep because of the shame that is attached to food addiction, emotional eating, binging etc. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I was able to pinpoint exactly how I defined my own emotional eating behavior. I once sought the help of a therapist for this very issue. Why do I eat when I’m not hungry? I was met with amateur-hour suggestions. Eat off a red plate, drink water before meals, “I’ll fill a prescription for an appetite suppressant.”
I wanted to know more. I asked myself over and over, “Why did you do that”? I always chalked it up to basics. It was there, it tasted good so why not? Despite the size and shapes of people’s bodies, this is more common than we think. When I ate, I wasn’t necessarily sad or angry or depressed. I eat when I’m stressed and I eat to avoid.
As frustrating as it is to admit, it feels good to finally have an “answer” if that’s what you want to call it. It was like a lightbulb went off. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where I have declared an evening to be an “ice cream night” because I had a “bad day.” We live in a culture where food is directly tied to emotions. Truthfully, it’s something that I actually love. I love making a meal for people that I love. I love making my daughter breakfast and hearing her clap in anticipation. I love having celebratory glasses of champagne, frozen yogurt dates after check-ups and shots and I love our traditional Valentine’s Day donut.
But where does it stop? It’s different for everyone.
For several years in my late teens and early twenties I used A LOT of cocaine. There was a girl I got high with on several occasions that swore cocaine had no affect on her. It had nothing to do with quality as I would be high as a kite and she would just sit there and shrug. I imagine food being the same for some people. Some people can eat a couple bites of something and be satisfied. Some people can have one piece of cake and the second it’s gone, they’ve forgotten all about it. That hasn’t always been the case for me. Sugar specifically tends to make me feel out of control more than anything else. Some weeks and months are better than others. Other times it’s day to day. One day I’ll feel in control. I eat my dark chocolate peanut butter cup that I have tracked for the day, and once it’s gone, I am okay with that. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new chocolate. Other times I eat my dark chocolate peanut butter cup and I feel like a fucking lunatic. It’s gone and then I start obsessing. Do I have anymore? Maybe just one more...
I don’t have all the answers here, folks.
I imagine I have wrestled with it for so long that it’s just a part of who I am. It’s obviously manageable, as I have lost almost 100 lbs but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to manage. Flexible dieting became such a saving grace as I didn’t feel starved or restricted. That doesn’t mean it fixed everything. That doesn’t mean that it fixed my head. It made things manageable but even still, I sometimes have to button shit up if I want the obsessing to subside. As I mentioned, sometimes I am fully in control. I can have a bag of said dark chocolate peanut butter cups in my house for weeks. Sometimes I can’t buy them at all, and that’s just the truth. You have to start getting really clear about:
What it is that you are trying to accomplish.
What it is that makes you tick.
When you find yourself gravitating towards the kitchen, the drive-thru, the candy aisle.
And then you have to start checking in with yourself.
For those of you with kids, you know the hours between 4-bedtime are considered The Witching Hours (not in my house, naturally, because SJT is savage in the morning). These same hours are most commonly when some of us shit the bed after having a successful day. Sometimes when those feelings start to arise, I have to go into full distraction mode.I have literally asked myself out loud, “What are you avoiding doing that makes you want to get up and eat peanut butter from the jar.” I sit with that and force myself to check in with myself. It’s not always pretty. It doesn’t usually feel great. However, it really is necessary. If it becomes the itch I can’t scratch, I have eaten all my food for the day and I know I’m obsessing for different reasons O U T S I D E of hunger, I resort to:
Taking a bath
Going for a walk
Turning on a podcast
Cleaning (seriously effective)
Making a cup of tea (lemon cake, y’all)
Sometimes I do nothing besides forcing myself to just sit with my feelings. I acknowledge they are there, I remind myself where I started. I remind myself how bites of food are SO temporary but my willingness to stay on track builds me way the fuck up. Then, when I do shit the bed, I do my best to recover.
What once was a marathon of unkind words to myself, days with no food and pure S HA M E has evolved into a wrist slap. Shame sucks and your whole life will slip by when you’re in bed with shame. Food addiction, binging, emotional eating, they are things about some of us, they don’t define us. All of these emotions strengthen my resolve to be here, doing what I’m doing.
Quit drowning in your shame, give yourself the wrist slap but also show yourself the love that you deserve for being able to check-in with yourself.
It’s a new day, a new chocolate.
Author: Ava Truckey, BIN Coach, AvaTruckey.com