Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On Food Addiction and Cheat Meals: Confessions of a Fat, Angry, Food Addict


Today is BEAST Mode Day 67.

It has been a mighty long time since I have been at the keyboard to write in this blog. I have been so busy living and enjoying this epic journey that I don’t make the time to sit and reflect on how much has changed in my life. But this blog is not about exercise. It’s not about how much weight I have lost or how many miles I can walk now without feeling like I want to carry a scooter on my back or jets at my heels. This post is on addiction: in particular, food addiction.
I am pretty sure at some point in my life I have heard the term “food addict” being used around me or whispered behind my back. After all, I had to have learned the term from somewhere, right?

In my mind, an addict is someone who can’t stay away from the crack pipe. An addict is someone who can’t walk or drive past a bar without feeling the need to stop and sneak one in before going home. An addict is someone who can’t be trusted near a casino because paychecks will be gambled away. Those are all definitions of addicts. Food addiction…how could it be something real if we NEED food to survive?
The first indication that I am a food addict didn’t come to me by looking in the mirror. I remember so vividly when the light bulb went off in my head. Twelve years ago I was on my way home from work and before getting on the freeway, I called my mom to ask her what she had made for dinner. She let me know that she made enchiladas and rice and invited me over. This has always been one of my favorite meals! You would think this would have been enough to get me on the freeway and en route to my mother’s house. Nope. Before getting on the freeway, I went through the drive-thru of Del Taco and ordered two plain quesadillas, two small fries (one for each quesadilla), and two sodas—so the attendant at the drive-thru would think I was ordering for two people instead of pigging out in the parking lot by myself. This wasn’t the first time it happened, and it certainly wasn’t the last time that it happened.

Fast forward twelve years and the behavior has not changed. I had gastric bypass. I lost two hundred pounds. My addiction to food was not cured—it was only curbed for as long as it took me to learn how to cut a cheeseburger into a million little pieces so it wouldn’t get stuck in my stomach. I was a champ! Before I knew it, I was able to have a burger, fries, and a shake again! And then I graduated to Subway 12 inch subs because they were “healthier” for me. Let’s not forget the bag of chips and soda to wash it all down.
Forget about cheat meals…I was living a cheat LIFE!

I have no respect for the word “moderation” when it comes to food; I love food and the satisfaction it gives me to eat it. But does that make me an addict? Absolutely!
There have been a lot of people who have offered opinions on how I should eat while on this journey; some offer recipes for shakes and smoothies, while others offer great Pinterest links to food I can prepare in a healthy way and still enjoy. It makes me happy to be able to take this advice and apply it to my life. The competitor in me takes the recipe and adds a twist to make it my own (and in my head it is always better…lol).

My favorite advice (insert sarcastic, eye rolling image here) is the well-meaning, yet highly misguided, advice to go ahead and reward myself with a cheat meal. In all fairness to the person giving this advice, they may not know that I am a food addict. After all, this physique may have been achieved by something other than overconsumption of the wrong foods, right? WRONG!
In the interest of full disclosure, please allow me to state that I LOSE MY SHIT WHEN I AM TOLD TO HAVE A CHEAT MEAL. When I hear someone say to me, “You should still eat the foods you love, just eat them in moderation,” I want to run into a lane of oncoming traffic. When someone says to me, “You should reward yourself with your favorite meal when you reach a weight loss milestone,” I want to shave my head and ask for a padded cell. When someone says to me, “You can’t give up everything you love because you’ll just end up going back and eating too much of it,” I want to pull up my shirt and show them the foot-long scar on my stomach from the first time I (unsuccessfully) attempted to control this addiction.

Consider this a public service announcement. Consider this a blog post from an angry, fat, food addict who is asking for help staying away from food—not for help finding ways to go back to my old self. Consider this—the first two weeks on this journey were spent hating myself and the way my body was reacting to the detoxification. I was going through withdraws. I hated everyone around me who still ate fries. I couldn’t turn on Facebook without seeing the foods I loved taking up my newsfeed. I was in an ugly place and everyone around me suffered for it.
I don’t want to go back there…ever. I am in a place on this journey in which I can share a table with someone eating fries or fried food and I have no desire to reach over the table and share (steal) the meal with them. It is a good place to be, but by no means is it easy—it just gets easier. I love being able to say no to dessert and mean it! I love being able to come up with different recipes that keep me on track. This, also, is not easy—it just gets easier.

So for all of you food addicts out there (you don’t need to raise your hands and admit to anything), just know that getting healthy and making healthy choices is not easy—it just gets easier. And for all of you out there who live with food addicts or who have food addicts in your inner circle, no matter how well intentioned you are (and I believe this to be the case ALWAYS), do not tell a food addict that it is perfectly ok to have a cheat meal. You wouldn’t tell a heroin addict in recovery that it’s ok to pick up the needle again as a reward, would you?
Phew…I feel like a big weight has just been lifted. I have been wanting to get this out for so long. I can now go back to the lighter posts that tell of my adventures while hitting the pavement or hitting my trainer’s gloves.

Life is good.