Wrestling With Addiction

Hello strangers, it’s been a while. I apologize for that, but I’ve been knee-deep in the murky waters of the Binge Bayou, wrestling the cunning and ferocious predator that is my food addiction. In truth, I instigated the event by assuming I was immune to attacks given I managed to ward them off for an entire year while conducting my experiment.

Shortly after 12 in 12 ended, I trod perilously close to temptation’s edge, provoking the creature within.  I was cocky all of December and January, gobbling a bite of this, and a taste of that.  Despite gaining 7 lbs. in 2 months, I paraded around convinced I could remedy that whenever I wanted. As I marched about, my addiction snaked closer waiting for the perfect moment to attack. Foolishly, I forgot I wasn’t the only one with a bite.

Immediately after my weigh-in on February 1st, I found myself face-to-face with my foe.  I was convinced my addiction wouldn’t dare cross the line, but looking back, how could it not when I taunted it with the most intoxicating bait of all – a savoury blend of my insecurities, guilt, shame, and loneliness. We’ve been in a battle ever since.

I hit my rock bottom Super Bowl weekend.  I went on a food bender like never before.  Addicts isolate in order to drown in their substance of choice, however this time, my solitude sent me straight into a vat of food… Oreos, chips, Nutella, I even had a beer and soju, and I don’t even enjoy alcohol! As I devoured everything in sight, my addiction was devouring me.

It was a bloodbath. By the end of it, I gained an additional 12 lbs. – that’s a total weight gain of 17 lbs. in three months. Impressive in the worst possible way, wouldn’t you say? Sadly, that’s not unusual for me given my history with my weight fluctuations – hence, never being able to achieve an after shot.

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It’s all a haze now, but I do recall it scared the bejeebers out of me.  It wasn’t the volume of food that I consumed that frightened me. Nor was it that I wasn’t able to stop. What terrified me most, is that I didn’t want to stop.

That last binge started the morning of Saturday, February 6th, and ended on Monday, February 8th at 6:45 PM.  Why 6:45 PM? The Twelve-Step meeting for food addiction started at 7:00 PM, otherwise I would have kept on going.  The only way to stop myself and get the creature off me was to call in the big guns.

When I tested the plan last September, the group would not disclose their official food plan unless I committed to the program beyond the 30 day experiment.  However, they gave me the basics: abstain from flour, wheat, and sugar, and attend regular meetings.  By doing just that, I managed to lose 5.9 lbs that month. Now, committed to the plan, I have a sponsor who acts like a parole officer, ensuring that I don’t get close to the edge again.

Ironically, their plan is similar to The Best Of The Best, the program I designed for myself following my yearlong experiment.  However, this program requires daily check-ins.  I feel stupid doing so… I mean it’s food for heaven’s sake, not crack. I don’t know what I hate more, being an food addict, or admitting to myself that I am one.

This is not how I wanted to live my life. I hoped against all hope that 12 in 12 would cure me of my compulsion to binge, and that one day I’d be able eat these foods in moderation, but I’ve proven I’m not capable of that. For me, one bite leads to 37.

Along with reporting and committing my food to my sponsor, I must do a morning reading and meditation. One of the most sobering quotes I read recently stated, it’s not the second drink (in my case cookie), or the tenth that does the damage. It’s the first.

I have to surrender the idea I can ever eat addictive foods ever again – especially sugar. I felt fantastic when I was off it for 2 months during the experiment, but it didn’t take long to overtake me when I started again.

There’s a type of insanity that comes with any addiction. When I’m in this state, I find I have what I dub ‘split brain’ – half of my brain keeps me in the present so I can function, and the other half is wondering when, and how, I’m going to get my next fix. These last few weeks have been so debilitating that I could not string a sentence together for the blog to save my life. Every time I tried to put pen to paper, I felt like a hypocrite and the words crumbled along with my spirit. I can’t live like this. I have to ask myself, do I want the junk food, or do I want to be sane.

Surrendering to this program, and committing my food to a sponsor on a daily basis, minimizes the crazy making and allows me the space to identify my triggers and learn how to manage them.

This latest experience has taught me that falling is easy, getting up is hard. Thankfully, if you muster the courage to ask for help, there are support groups to help you get up.

For my weekly food journal, click here.

Out On A Limb

When I was a teen, I plastered my room with posters of my heartthrobs.  The Bee Gees greeted me every morning with their pearly whites and flowing manes, Gino Vannelli peered into my soul with his smoldering brown eyes, and Erik Estrada was the sexy Latino hottie that rounded out my hunk collection.

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What can I say, I used to like them hairy and wearing just enough spandex to leave nothing to the imagination. However, it was another poster depicting an equally furry 70s icon that garnered the coveted spot over my bed… Meet Baby.

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Right now, I feel like Baby as January just about did me in! It started and ended with a funeral; there was a confirmation; a family dilemma to deal with; a three-day departmental event to plan and execute; my daughter’s engagement, and the frenzied joy that comes with planning a long-distance wedding.  Whew! I feel like I packed a year’s worth of living in 31 days, and regrettably, I consumed a year’s worth of calories to get me through it.

I’m embarrassed to report that I didn’t lose any of the weight I gained over the holidays.  Actually, I added 1.5 lbs more to my cellulite collection. I didn’t keep a food journal over the last few weeks, not because I was too busy, but I grazed day and night, and would have given myself carpal tunnel if I jotted down every morsel I ingested.

It’s no mystery how I gained it, I just don’t know why I continue to do this to myself. Last year’s experiment proved I am quite capable of sticking to a diet – 12 in succession, in fact – so why do I find myself in this familiar, perilous situation where one more bite could be my downfall?

Regardless of all the valuable lessons I learned while testing 12 in 12, I seem to have reactivated my default setting of eat first, deal with the consequences later. Food continues to be how I reward, punish, medicate, pacify, and numb myself.

Just writing this post, I’ve paced back and forth to the fridge half-a-dozen times.  I don’t know what I expect to find in there as I don’t keep junk food in the house anymore. However, when I set foot outside these four-walls, anything goes. Sometime, the calories find me, like when I went to book the venue for my daughter’s wedding last week, and the sales rep offered me a double-chocolate chip cookie as we toured the site. I ate it knowing full well it would not get me any closer to rocking a stunning mother-of-the-bride dress. Or I’m the culprit, like when I arranged the catering for my departmental meetings and ordered enough sugary treats to give everyone diabetes.

I’m not saying I didn’t eat healthy – actually, I prepared several nutritious meals over the last 2 weeks, but I peppered my days with everything the surgeon-general warns you about.

So here I am, holding on for my dear diet life yet again. I have one of two choices: succumb to my binges and come crashing down, or hang in there until I regain my focus and get myself to solid ground.

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For January’s Measure Up results, click here.