So while partaking in my usual perusing of t'internet this afternoon, I stumbled upon a blog called Once Upon A Diet. And on that blog, I found the following quote.
"A name is just a box we put ideas in. What matters is that I understand my relationship with food. Then I can start figuring out the consequences my environment, my thoughts, and my actions have on that relationship and make plans to manipulate these things to my best advantage. I don't know what the official definition of addiction is, though I could look it up on dictionary.com or the DMV-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I don't know if what happens in my brain when there is leftover cake in the break room is the same thing that happens when an alcoholic is inside a liquor store or a smoker is inhaling second-hand smoke at a bar. It would be interesting to know, but I doubt it matters unless you're working on a cure for addiction. Right now I'm just trying to cope with the way I am. Giving my problems a name seems less relevant than managing them."
Needless to say, it really struck home. I think anybody who has ever been seriously overweight will agree that food is an addiction. I know there are plenty of people who disagree, and who say that its simply greed or boredom that makes people over-eat, and to be honest for a long time I agreed with them. I found the thought that I was addicted to food utterly ridiculous. I've smoked since I was thirteen, and drunk alcohol regularly since I was fifteen, I've even dabbled in some stuff thats slightly more naughty than that. I've never been addicted to any of those things so no way can I be addicted to food, I thought to myself. Normally while polishing off an entire family-sized packet of Doritos, a tub of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food and a 'share-size' (yeah, right) bar of Galaxy. Even after I started Weight Watchers, I was cynical of the idea. Its only been over recent months that I've come to realise that my relationship with food is addictive.
That doesn't mean to say that I use it as an excuse - I don't. Never will you hear me say that 'I'm fat because I'm addicted to food', because I'm not. I'm fat because I failed to manage that addiction. The same way that an alcoholic or a drug addict hides their addiction from those around them, thats what I did. Secret binges on chocolate, sneaky takeaways, waiting until everyone was in bed before I made myself four rounds of peanut butter on toast. I knew this behaviour wasn't normal or healthy, but I chose not to think about it and not to address it. If I'd left it any longer it would have killed me. It sounds bizarre, and I know that many people will disagree with me on this point, but I think dealing with an addiction to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes, or even to gambling or sex, is much easier than dealing with an addiction to food. Alcoholics, smokers, drug addicts, in fact any kind of addict, can give up. It might be very difficult. Chances are it will be excruciatingly painful (I watch House - coming off Vicodin looks extremely unpleasant), chances are it will be a very long, hard process. Many people will relapse. But once they're clean, temptation is, for the most part, out of their way. They never have to go near a drink, a cigarette, a syringe, ever again. (I'm not sure how this works for sex addicts - do they just never have sex again!? Because in all honesty, I think that would be more likely to kill me than the 6000 calories a day...just saying.) But you need food to survive. Which means three times a day you have to confront your demons and find the strength to stop at just one sandwich, just one packet of crisps. Take it from someone who knows, its difficult to find that strength. A big part of being able to find it is learning to understand the real reason you need it. It took a long time for me to have the courage to really stop and think to myself 'why did I get like this?'
As I've mentioned before, when I was at my biggest I was deeply unhappy.
I thought that losing weight would automatically make me happier. After I'd dropped about a stone I realised that it wasn't going to be that easy. I wasn't unhappy because I was fat, I was fat because I was unhappy. I used food to medicate myself and it was only after I accepted that that things started to get better. Now I understand my relationship with food and myself so much better. I know what is going to trigger the impulse to eat until I can't move. I know that the phrase 'I'll just have half now and save the rest' means nothing in my brain, and if I buy the tub of ice cream then I will eat the entire thing. Same goes for chocolate and crisps and everything else. When I go through a phase when I don't want to eat meals, and I just want to pick at things all day instead, I know why that is.
Probably the most important thing I've realised is that I can't depend on food to make me feel better. I've always been a loner - the truth is that I just don't have a lot of time for people. I have to be very close to someone to want to spend time with them (one of the reasons I'm apprehensive about my living arrangements next year - its all very well and good to not speak to your housemates when you all so clearly despise eachother, but next year when I'm living with people I care very much about...I'm not sure how I'm going to cope with being 'sociable' with them all the time). Food used to be my company and comfort. When I was bored, stressed, tired, grumpy, hormonal, homesick...anything, really, I used to eat. Now I can't do that, so I've found other ways to cope with those feeling...like rambling on here ;) or talking to friends and family, exercising, writing, reading, even something like taking five minutes out to paint my nails can really help get things in perspective.
Plus I wouldn't mind looking like this again one day....
Plus I wouldn't mind looking like this again one day....
I guess the point I'm trying to make here, is that 'losing weight' is all very well and good. And I'm sure the majority of the time it has nothing to do with the deep-seated emotional angst that my weight issues stem from. It may just be a stone thats crept on over the years, or a new job thats led to less exercise, or whatever. But sometimes its not just about shedding pounds, you need to understand how you got there in the first place, and what you can do to make sure you never end up there again. How else can you kick the habit!?
Lauren :) xxx