It’s no secret I have a love/hate relationship with food. I loooooove sweet, salty, and fat laden treats, and when I partake (okay, okay, when I scarf them down by the paw-full) I hate myself for not exercising any restraint. Some days I can control myself, but on others I’m like the Energizer Bunny – I keep going and going and going until I wind up in a food coma.
About a decade ago, I experienced extremely stressful circumstances I couldn’t get out of. For a year-and-a-half, I continually stifled my mental and emotional anguish with food, and before I knew it I gained 70 lbs. Only my inner circle knew what I was going through, while others saw the happy Mare I wanted them to see. I painted on a smile when I left the house every morning, and when I returned at the end of the day, I was a wreck. I could barely get the key in the door for the jitters. The only thing that quelled my pain was food. I would binge anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 calories worth of food in less than an hour. Some days I stood in front of the fridge, coat still on, purse hanging from my arm as I wolfed down my edible painkillers.
I had hit my rock bottom and I knew if I didn’t get help soon, I’d die of a heart attack. I reached out for help, but encountered roadblock after roadblock. As a last resort, I called the hospital to see if they had an eating disorder program. They did, but they only catered to bulimics and anorexics, because binge eaters, as I was told, were “too hard to treat”. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe the medical community would allow some of us to drown.
One day, after a long, cold winter, I came out of hibernation and bumped into a neighbour I hadn’t seen in months. Her shock over what I had done to myself was obvious. I expected her to say, “What the hell happened to you?”, but she didn’t. Instead, she invited me to join her at a 12-Step meeting for food addicts she was going to that evening. I had heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but I never thought anybody could be addicted to food. I began to cry. She thought she had offended me, but she didn’t…. She was an answer to prayer. That night I skipped my binge and went to my first meeting.
I was very moved by the vulnerability of the small group of people, who by the way, came in all shapes and sizes, like my petite neighbour. Looking back, I’m surprised my head didn’t fall off for all the nodding I did that night. I recognized myself in everyone’s story. I had found my tribe.
They believe individuals who suffer from the disease of food addiction get physical cravings to certain addictive substances, primarily flour, wheat, and sugar, and the only relief is through abstinence from all foods that contain these ingredients.
Abstain from flour, wheat, and sugar?! You might as well ask me to cut my right arm off. Abstain means, goodbye, arrivederci, adieu, hasta la vista baby, NOT “until we meet again next Christmas, my beloved panettone”. NOT, “we got a date next Halloween, candy corn”. It means parting ways FOREVER like a character in a Shakespearean play dying a painful, agonizing death from a dagger thrust in their heart. Oh well, I figured it was better than dying with a fork jabbed in mine, so I gave it a go.
I followed the program faithfully for the first three months. Surprisingly, it was easier than I thought. But like any brand new shiny experience that piques my interest, the novelty eventually wore off and I ended up doing what I do best when it comes to dieting – I gave up.
Years went by and I lost and gained on other plans. Then three years ago, I sought out the group only to find out they had disbanded. I located a similar group and joined them for a while. (I was vegetarian at the time, so it made following their “guide to clean abstinence” challenging as meat is a staple in the program.) Eventually I stopped going there too, not because I found it difficult to follow as a herbivore, but because I resented being there. I didn’t want to label myself as an addict, even though I answered ‘yes’ to every question on the self-assessment tool. I just wanted to be someone who had a problem with moderation. All I needed was to find the magic pill to fix the all-or-nothing part of me.
It wasn’t until recently that the medical community began acknowledging the addictive qualities of these foods as well. MRIs have shown that eating high-sugar foods light up the same parts of the brain that are triggered by cocaine or heroin use. In another study, well-fed rats continually crossed an electrified floor to get Froot Loops. However, these same rats, when hungry would not risk crossing the electrified floor for regular food pellets. Some days I identify with those rats, but I’ve got to focus on the ills associated with sugar in our diet, like decreased immune function, increased risk of diabetes, and how sugar feeds cancer cells.
Addiction is serious, and I don’t want to diminish the good work these groups do by ranking their success according to what I achieve on the scale in just one month. Weight loss is not their focus, recovery is.
“Weight loss is not a goal of this program, but it is a reasonable expectation. Weight gain is a symptom of the disease, and weight loss is a symptom of recovery.”
–Kay Sheppard, Food Addiction; The Body Knows
For the sake of my 12 in 12 experiment, I will follow the protocol, abstain from these addictive ingredients, and begin to work the Steps, which I expect will raise issues that my addiction has wanted me to suppress for over three decades.
You cannot work through the 12-Steps in 30 days; it has to be ongoing. Most importantly, I will respect the anonymity of the various meetings I attend, and will not disclose anything discussed. You can get a sense of how the program works by reading the AA Big Book, and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (12 and 12), the only approved literature for all recovery from addiction programs.
The wonderful thing about 12-Step groups is that they offer support to every suffering addict who desires recovery – there’s no “they’re too hard to treat” here! They know what you’re going through, and they walk alongside you because they are on the same journey… and you’ve gotta love a group that starts and ends every meeting with a prayer!
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Grant me patience with the changes that take time,
An appreciation of all that I have and am,
A tolerance for those with different struggles,
And the strength to get up and try again,
One day at a time.
To learn more about the plan I’ll be following for Month 10, click here.
The Results Are In
To find out how much I lost last month when I tested The Hormone Diet, click here.