There is a debate as to whether one can ever be cured of an addiction. Some say once you have changed the behavior for a long period of time you are cured. Others believe that while you may have stopped the addiction for many years you are never cured.
I have spent most of my life battling my weight. Over the years this has created some health issues for me. Doctors will tell you that overweight women have an increase chance of breast cancer, heart problems, diabetes, etc. I am one of those statistics having had coronary artery bypass and breast cancer. And in the last year, my doctor has been warning me that my blood chemistries have been high with regards to my cholesterol and the possibility of becoming a diabetic. But my need to eat seemed uncontrollable. I have tried every diet I could find: Diet Center, Weight Watchers, The Cookie Diet, Duke Universities Rice Diet, Cabbage Diet and probably a few others I cannot remember. They all work; except I could not stay on them for any length of time.
In April of this year both my husband and I went to a nutritionist who put us on a rotational diet and for the first time are experiencing success. I haven’t been this thin since I was in my early thirties. With 10 more pounds to go I feel as if I have finally been cured of my eating addiction.
Or have I?
I had been having a craving for a hamburger (with the bun) and a piece of white cake with icing. I am a chocolate lover so I couldn’t fathom why I would spend my calories on white cake, but this is what I craved. When I spoke to the nutritionist he told us that we could afford a cheat now and again and to go ahead and have our hamburger and cake. And then return to the eating plan.
I was so excited I could hardly sit still in the car on the way to a burger joint that Thad had been to but I had never. I heard they made these humongous burgers with everything on it. Sure enough I had their specialty. A juicy burger with mushrooms, cheese, bacon, French fried onion rings and a special sauce on a bun! When it came out it was so big I asked for directions on how to eat it. The waitress said “Just smash it down and cut it in half and eat it”.
And eat it I did. Half way through I realized it was so rich and had so much stuff on it I could not taste the hamburger. I was stuffed and I wasn’t really enjoying it. But it was my cheat! So, I did what any addict would do – I kept eating it until it was gone.
As I made my way to the grocery store to get my single serving piece of white cake; I tried to decide (let me see if I can put this delicately) – at which end I needed to evacuate first. Mind you, I felt sick but it was my legal cheat and I was going to get my white cake.
And I did. And I ate it. And I evacuated. And I didn’t eat dinner that night. I was cured.
Or so I thought.
The following week our church was having their Weekend of Service. This is where members are involved in various community service projects such as Clean up the Beach, Jacob’s Shoes, Letters to veterans and military personnel deployed and to bring food to the first responders as a way of showing appreciation for the service they do. I decided that among other things I would make a recipe I found on Facebook that looked to be absolutely scrumptious – Cracked Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Fudge Brownies. I would make it along with a freshly made fruit salad. I bought all the ingredients and make the fruit salad in short order. I then began to follow the recipe for the brownies and soon realized that this was going to take all morning as it had several layers. This recipe had everything decadent and fattening you could possibly think of: peanut butter, Reese’s PB cups, chocolate chips, fudge, and even Rice Crispies. Having been eating “clean” my food preparation was very simple – baked, grilled, fresh, and simple. Prepping was simple, easy and no issue. However, when I began this recipe I fell back into my old ways – sampling every ingredient and step along the way. And there were a lot of steps! It wasn’t long before I was having that same “yucky” feeling I had with the hamburger and told myself to quit sampling.
But I didn’t.
When the brownies were finally put together and had cooled, I cut them and began arranging them on a platter that would be brought to the fire station. A corner split apart. I told myself to leave it.
But I didn’t.
Feeling sick to my stomach, I shoved those two pieces into my mouth and swallowed!
Again, that night I couldn’t eat dinner.
And that’s when I knew that while I was controlling my eating addiction most of the time, it was merely lying in wait.
Insidiously waiting until a holiday celebration,
exhaustion and fatigue,
or feeling sorry for oneself.
It slithers out from its hiding place much like Satan tempted Eve with the apple offering me once again what has soothed the savage beast in me in the past. Food.
Are you there? Do you use food as an anesthesia or to comfort you when life hurts? What do you do?
Dr. Pamela Peeks is a national renowned physician, scientist, expert and thought leader in the fields of integrative and preventive medicine. In an article in Prevention Magazine, she shares steps to take to help us combat the desire to eat those salty, sweet and savory foods that manufacturers purposefully create to make addiction possible.
- Find out what your relationship with food is. What triggers your overeating?
- Know your staples from your treats. Natural carbs like berries and healthy fats from avocado, olive oil, fish and lean meats provide quick energy and fuel. Every now again a treat that contains more sugar (grapes) and fat (dairy or meat) is okay. Today, we live in a “Grab & Go” world and manufacturer are creating what Dr Peeke calls “hyper palatable” foods full of sugar, fat and salt. More enticing because they are ubiquitous, cheap and easily accessible, needed little to no cooking. Know the difference.
- Know your enemy. Make a list of all your enemy foods that you know will trigger overeating and lead you to feel out of control. Look at those people, places and things that foster your food addiction. You not only need to exchange bad foods for healthy ones but examine your lifestyle so that new, healthier choices can be made that will support your recovery.
- Three Words: Mind, Mouth, Muscle.
- Mind: Reclaim your brain by practicing positive affirmation, meditation and mindful eating. Meditation can cause actual brain changes to help repair and strengthen brain cells.
- Mouth: Get “high” from whole foods such as watermelon, spinach, avocados, tofu, and nuts to reestablish normal reward responses for natural foods. Use protein and fiber combinations such as carrots and hummus, peanut or almond butter and apples slices that satisfy and stop the urge to splurge on sugary/fatty/salty foods.
- Muscle: Regular physical activity stimulates brain growth, promotes calmness and decreases the chance for relapse.
There are crosses to bear in life. Some are for a season, some are for a lifetime. Regardless of how long we carry them, we have the blessed assurance from God that we are not alone. He is there, right besides us, helping us carry the burden whenever we reach out to ask him for help.
So here’s my plan. I am going to continue working with my nutritionist, learn to change my environment to exclude potentially problematic situations. There will no longer be bake-a-thons in my kitchen. I will deliver delectables from the bakery to the Fire Station. I will continue to eat naturally sweet foods and fats that promote health, and exercise by walking/biking my brain and body to health.
And when the “addiction devil” comes knocking at my door, I am going to stand behind Jesus and ask: “Jesus, can you get the door for me?”