Monday, May 16, 2011

W19, Day 7: An Explanation

I decided that today I would write about determination, desire, and addiction.  A beloved family member recently suggested that if this endeavor is to be successful, I just need to stop.  Just walk on by it all.  When food is out at work, just don't take any.  My heart ached a bit to let him down.  The short answer is simple this:  I can't.  Yes, I know it's about will and determination.  I imagine it'd be like stopping drinking or smoking cold turkey.  However, it doesn't work that way with food.  It'd be easier if one could simply stop intaking food and ignore it entirely.  Obviously we can't.  I don't want to eat.  I can't even articulate how much I don't want to.  Yet from the first moment I wake up in the moment to the moment I lay down at night, food cycles my mind.  At home, in a familiar, controllable environment, it's a dull throbbing thought, but controllable.  In another environment--work, a restaurant, a party, someone else's house--the dull throb becomes a huge storm in my mind.  It cycles on and on, "Eat it! Take it! No! No, don't! You don't want it.  You don't need it.  Yes, you do! You do!"  On and on.  The pressure becomes greater and greater as time goes by.  The worst thing is that victory and success at one time does not make it any easier to do the same the next time.  If anything, over time it becomes more and more difficult.

According to Caryl Ehrlich, a food behavior specialist, resisting temptation causes further food failure. (Not that it's okay to just give in!)  She writes:

  •  "It’s important to know, however, that the attachment you seem to feel for certain foods is not predicated on how much you “love” that particular food. Rather, it indicates how very addicted you are to numbing yourself with that food. Thinking about the food, getting the food, eating the food in a certain way, has become an integral part of your self-medicating ritual. The thought of not “acting out” (not getting your drug) causes you great anxiety. You eat the item (bread, beverage, candy, popcorn, etc.) to relieve the discomfort caused by not eating the item. Consider not drinking coffee and getting a headache and then drinking a cup of coffee to relieve the discomfort caused by not drinking the coffee. It’s like a puppy chasing its tail."           -from  Conquer Your Food Addiction

The word this author uses, "anxiety" is spot on.  Anxiety.  That's what I feel around food.  You'd think it'd be enjoyment (and of course it is too), but it's overwhelmed by guilt, anxiety, and unhappiness.

When I was in third grade I remember making a pact with myself.  I wrote down on a piece of paper all the foods I would never eat again.  I was fat at 9.  I knew I was fat and I didn't want to be different.  I swore I would never touch those foods ever again in my life.  Guess how that turned out?  And yet, even at that young age, I meant it with all the determination my young self possessed.  So what happened?  Why did I fail?  Because food calls to me constantly.  I couldn't resist it then, so I have to learn to do it now.

Is it my fault that I am fat?  Yes.  I am not looking to take away the blame.  But I just want the opportunity to explain that it's not so simple as 'Just stop'.  How?!!  The frustration is huge.  I know that there is a debate among specialists about whether food addictions truly exist or not, but I think there are many people like me who wish to stop but can't seem to force themselves to do it.  It's not just about will, there's something in the way.

So, it's about relearning behaviors.  Depriving oneself of everything doesn't work.  Instead it's about retraining the brain to learn the new, preferable behaviors.  That's what WW is all about, even if the process is taking it's sweet time.

And I want to express my gratitude to my family member for caring and for his suggestions.  Hearing them gave me a little boost in determination, which I've sorely needed these last couple weeks AND it kept me from ordering a piece of pie.  Thanks dude, you're awesome (as I'm sure you know).

Here are some articles about food addiction for anyone interested:  (USA Today article)  (A support site)  (Stages of recovery)  (Symptoms of addiction)  (General article)

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