Tuesday, November 9, 2010
OK. I admit it. I have an addictive personality. In the “old days” (before 1980), once I started eating I could not stop…..unless someone was watching me. With other people, I was the eternal dieter—never eating anything fattening in public. Alone, however, was a different story, where I turned to food (my best friend) for comfort, especially the 3 Cs—candy, cookies, and chips.
My compulsive overeating started at a young age. As young children, we make up stories in our own heads to try to get a handle on our reality. The story I constructed was that I wasn’t enough, that I was defective, that I was broken. Feeling lots of guilt and shame, and unable to share my feelings with anyone, I early on found solace in food.
I often surprised myself with how much I could consume. As a child I was a sneak eater, and only ate huge quantities when alone. My voracious appetite continued. As an adult, for instance, I liked to cook a combination of sautéed onions, zucchini, and tomatoes. It tasted yummy. Time after time, however, I’d add a portion to my meal, then have second, third, and fourth helpings….finally finishing whatever was left in the pan. Stuffing myself in this way brought on lots of stomachaches, and Pepto Bismal was my salvation. After gorging, I’d curl up in a fetal position, chew a few of those pink tablets, and wait for the pain to subside. After the pain was gone, I’d uncurl my body, stand up and head straight for the kitchen -- to see what else I could eat.
I didn’t just binge on “healthy” food. For example, there was my milk and Oreo cookie eating orgy: I poured myself a glass of milk (skim, of course) and set out four Oreo cookies – they complement each other so well, how can you have milk without Oreos or Oreos without milk? And that’s where I got into trouble. I drank the milk and ate the cookies. With milk remaining in the glass, I helped myself to another three cookies. I ate one, drank the milk. One cookie left and no milk, so I poured more milk. I washed down the remaining cookie with the milk, but now I was out of cookies with milk still in the glass. So I did the only thing I could think of – I took out another few cookies. Again, I gobbled up the cookies and slurped down the milk, and once again, a lone cookie or two sat next to an empty glass. This saga continued: milk remained, have more cookies; cookies remained, have more milk. This was repeated over and over again, ad nauseum, until either the package of cookies or the milk carton was empty.
In 1975 I discovered 12 Step Recovery for people like me with food issues, and working the steps was my introduction to personal growth work. I attempted to follow a food plan -- it took a looooooong time for me to have the self-discipline to not stray. But, lo and behold, the emotional eating eventually stopped.
No longer using food to suppress feelings, I still had bouts of addictive eating —finding something that tasted so good that I’d eat way too much of it. It could be that zucchini concoction, a grilled steak, or maybe ice cream.
Fast forward to today. I am 47 pounds lighter than a year ago. Although is relatively easy for me to follow a food plan, my addictive personality sometimes shows up! For instance, on the HCG protocol, the first two days are gorging days. I ate so much ice cream -- even when I was stuffed and bloated and feeling sick.
Recently I discovered flavored stevia and my addictive nature showed up once again: I used cinnamon stevia on my apple slices, made lemonade with lemon juice, water, and lemon stevia, and I found that adding vanilla crème stevia to sparkling water produced a crème soda-tasting beverage. I didn’t just have a glass or two … I was “treating” myself to TWO 1.1 liter bottles of sparkling water flavored with vanilla stevia each day. That’s a lot of stevia to be consuming, and the sweetness (although zero calories) began to make me very hungry. After two days of ravenous hunger, I gave up stevia entirely. Now I use a little bit once in awhile.
My addictive personality also shows up when I get on the scale. When I discovered HCG in July, I weighed 135 pounds and told myself I wanted to lose another ten pounds. At 125, I told myself I just wanted to lose another ten pounds. I am close to that now….and I hear that voice in my head telling me, again, just another ten pounds.
It’s not just the scale, though -- I find the high I am on while taking HCG to be almost addictive. Sometimes I toy with the idea that I could go back on HCG because I want to recreate that high energy and feeling so good. I am not doing that. At least not now.
Underneath the addictive food cravings is compulsivity – I get caught up and feel compelled to eat or drink whatever. The first step in curbing any addiction is, I believe, becoming aware of it. When I stand at the stove polishing off the zucchini-onion-tomato medley left in the pan, I am not in a conscious state but in somewhat of a trance, doing automatic eating rather than conscious eating.
I say that I have an addictive personality as a way of explaining my behavior and my cravings, not excusing it. Furthermore, I am not in a place of blaming and shaming myself about it, just describing it. Writing about my addictive nature will hopefully keep me conscious so that what I consume or do is a choice, instead of an automatic response.
I am currently revising my book, Freedom From Emotional Eating: 21 Days to a New You! -- about my experiences with emotional eating and plus 21 days’ worth of tools. I will keep you updated here when it will be published.