Thoughts on Food Addiction

Though I’ve never been a classically small person (which I’m generally OK with), I put on about 70 lbs between the ages of 16 and 18, due mostly, looking back on it, to getting on and then off the pill. Add in some depression (also partly caused by the pill) and a bad relationship, and I ballooned. It was an issue of never-ceasing hunger, the feeling that no matter how much I ate, I was still unsatisfied, still looking for something more and better.

I’d been an overeater before that, but all those triggers at once turned me into a raving lunatic, and that’s the period when my binge eating really took off. At 16, I had a car, and made my own money, so I could run into a convienence store and feed my cravings at all hours. The binges were definitely triggered by high stress, and the overeating was largely pill-based.

What I did to slough off all that excess pill and depression weight quickly so I could move around in my own skin again was to get on the Atkins diet. I lost 40lbs in four months (and kept that off because I’d merely gotten back to my set point anyway) and got up the self-confidence to go ahead and go bike riding several days a week and up my exercise routine in a “fun” way – not thinking of them as workouts, but just days where I’d go out to have fun.

By the time I hit college, I was down a total of 60lbs, and after the first couple months of college, I lost another 10lb and was at my fighting weight of about 175lbs or so. That meant going to the gym 3-6 days a week for 30-60 minutes. By that time, I’d modified my diet so I was eating wheat bread, lots of fruits and veggies, meats of all sorts, and as summer rolled around and I started bike riding a lot, I had no trouble going out for ice cream and pizza once a week.

What I remember most about my time in Alaska is how happy I was, and I know a lot of that had to do with my diet, and all that bike riding. Add that to the fact that I had a boat load of money and not a care in the world, and yea… I was damn happy.

The trouble is that I’ve been raised with bad habits, and during times of high stress, I still haven’t found another way to deal with that stress besides eating. I’ve gotten better in that I don’t binge eat so much anymore (my project for the year), but I’ll still turn to shit food when the going is tough, as I did in South Africa. As I’ve done the last couple of months (though every time I do it, it’s to a lesser and lesser degree. This is a positive sign!).

But I’ve gotten stressed and lazy, and I can’t afford new clothes, so I’ve gotta cut back for a bit to get things under control. When my world is out of control, my eating goes there too, and I have to cut it quick before it becomes an issue again.

I’m cutting my drinking down to a couple beers or some whiskey one night a week, which always helps, and I’m back to reasonable low-carb (brown rice and sweet potatoes are OK), no sugar. I’m on day two of this, and today was the office “bagel break” which turned out to be a heaping tray of danishes.

I hate this place.

The cravings are always the worst the first few days after I’m trying to break my white bread and sugar addiction. I wanted to dive into the whole platter of danishes and spend the rest of the day eating.

The problem with me and sugary sweets available on demand is that I can never eat just one, or half of one. I’d love to be one of those people who could just cut down portions instead of eliminating nearly an entire food group and all sugar, but I’m just not. I have to go cold turkey. There are certain foods I’ll binge on, and I have to avoid those at all costs, or I’m going to be dropping money I don’t have on new, bigger, clothes I can’t afford.

I think I’m beginning to move into the watching-my-weight-for-economic-reasons place. Which, actually, is pretty damn cool. I’m not hating myself. I don’t feel I’m unlovable just as I am, I just realize that if I don’t get a handle on myself again, I’m going to have to buy new clothes.

And this morning on the bus, I noticed that the world was looking a little clearer than usual, a little brighter. I recognized the feeling, because it was what I had in Alaska when I was really taking care of myself. Ah, sweet happiness, a clear head.

I always feel better when I cut out processed food. It really sucks, goddammit, because damn, it’s so good to eat that food. So, so, good. But then there’s this feeling, this great high I get when my body’s running a little cleaner, and damn, I don’t want to eat those danishes if they take this away…

The sad thing is that knowing, intellectually, that the crap food won’t make me feel any better, in fact, will make me feel worse, doesn’t help with the actual physical craving for a thing. It’s like I have a gaping black hole inside of me waiting to be filled.

And it’s going to take a week before those cravings subside. And it’s a bitch of a week.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that everything is changeable. Getting back into a rut doesn’t mean you’re doomed to stay there. Many states are temporary. You get back up and start going again, you get to the place you want to be.

Falling isn’t dying. It’s not over until you’re dead.

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