Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food Addiction...Is it Real?

Of course it is!  Why do you think we have so many overweight Americans?  A lot of overweight Americans say they like the way they are but then why do they try and fail at so many diets?  It's not because of the diets themselves but it's because they have an addiction.  Food addiction is probably the HARDEST addiction to get over...Why?  Because we still have to eat in order to live.  Alcoholics can go without alcohol and they can avoid being around alcohol.  Drug addicts don't need to be around drugs or have to use drugs in order to survive.  But Food Addicts still need to eat.  It's everywhere you go; it's on TV almost 24/7.  Yet people are expected to give up their food addiction on there own and are criticized when they can't.  Alcoholics and drug addicts have rehab centers, counselors and the support of people around them.  Drug addicts can find people to be around that aren't going to shoot up and alcoholics can find people that won't drink around them but how do you find people that won't eat around you.  How many places of employment have vending machines or have doughnuts brought to every meeting?  How many holiday parties do you go to that aren't full of goodies?  Can you go to the movies without seeing tons of advertisement for candy and popcorn before the movie starts?  Yet we constantly criticize people when we see them shoving their mouths with unhealthy foods.  If you know someone who is trying to lose weight do you stop eating around them or do you brag about how you can eat and they can't?  We are more inclined to go out of our way not to drink around a recovering alcoholic than we are to not eat around someone trying to lose weight.  Why is that?  It might be that you are addicted to food too and not realize it.  You don't have to be overweight to be an addict.

Yes, I am a food addict.  I am able to control it most of the time now but I still struggle with it.  It never becomes easy.  You don't wake up one day and say "Wow, I never want to eat cake ever again" and then never do it.  It just doesn't work that way.  You can go years eating healthy and taking good care of yourself and then one day you decide to take a bite of your friend's birthday cake and BAM it all comes back to you, those cravings that is.  I jokingly tell people that when I go to the grocery store I "visit" the bakery and say Hi to my old friends but I'm not joking.  I really do visit and look at all the baked goods.  I look to see if calories are listed hoping to find something that is less than 200 calories and has only one serving (because I can't get multiple servings b/c I know I will eat them all).  Luckily I don't find any except for the grab your own doughnuts section but I've seen too many shows about people using their hands to pick through them and put them back.  At least my germ phobia helps me out there.  My weakness or addiction is sweets: cookies, cake, brownies...  When I get my "cravings" I start to think about what I can lose if I give in.  I have health problems as it is and unhealthy food would only make it worse.  I preach to my kids about eating healthy and try to be an example so if I give in I could influence them in a negative way.  When I was 18 I "tried" to be an anorexic but being addicted to food made it to difficult so then I thought about binging and purging.  Fortunately I was too vain when it came to my teeth so after seeing pictures of bulimics with rotten teeth I couldn't go through with that.  Then I became an exercise addict.  I worked out for 4-6 hours per day so I could eat a lot.  I would still put on weight even with all the exercise and that started my cycles of weight gain, diet, weight loss and then all over again. 

Fortunately, I had my kids in my 20's and I knew when I became pregnant with my first child that if I didn't learn to deal with my addiction at that moment then I might teach my children to become food addicts as well and I didn't want to do that.  At first they were my one and only reason to battle my addiction.  I want to clarify that I am not saying parents who can't overcome it are bad parents because they are not.  Our society teaches us to be addicts; it is everywhere you turn around.  It just happened to be my current motivation at that particular time.  But with addicts that initial motivation fades and you need to re-evaluate and find another motivation.  It can be a constantly changing thing.  So when you feel you are becoming weak go look for a new motivation.  You have to learn to be creative.  Sometimes if I start to put on a few pounds I take out a favorite form fitting outfit and put it on every morning until I can feel comfortable in it again; or it may be a bathing suit.  I may take a very unflattering picture of myself and put it on my mirror so I can see it every time I fix my hair in the morning and when I wash my face before I go to bed.  It could also be looking at other peoples success stories to help give me that extra motivation.  Each time may be different but you have to find that ultimate motivation. 

I was watching Dr. Oz today and that was what motivated me to write about this.  There was a single mom on the show who was struggling with food addiction.  She tried to hide it from her children but she couldn't do it so she would share her addiction with her kids.  She felt so bad at times she wanted to take her own life and as much as she wanted to stop she couldn't.  Dr. Oz acknowledged that it was indeed a serious addiction and helped put her into a rehab facility while a good friend watched her kids.  A rehab center!  Just like drug addicts and alcoholics.  Praise the Lord, finally people are stating just what this horrible disease is and some people need serious intervention.  I also watched Biggest Loser and this daughter talk about seeing her dad who lost over a hundred pounds.  She said she was so excited because she's only seen a fat dad her whole entire life and now she has a new dad.  She said she can't wait to start her journey to weight loss.  Her dad loved her so much, do you think he intentionally let his daughter get overweight?  No!  But he's an addict and couldn't stop.  Lets stop criticizing people who are overweight and when you see them out eating a double quarter pounder with cheese and a super sized fry and coke don't judge.  Heck say a little silent prayer for them.  Lets start educating people about this serious addiction and if you know someone who keeps trying to stop eating unhealthy foods and fail over and over again then be empathetic, get them to seek help, more help than a friend, personal trainer or a weight watchers representative has to offer.  As with many addictions it's not about the actual substance, it's about emotions and compensating for those emotions.  You do it because it makes you feel good, you get a rush and you want that feeling over and over again until one day you turn around and you realize you don't feel so good anymore, in fact you feel awful but it's too late, your hooked and you can't seem to do anything about it. 

I'm not trying to be a downer.  I just want to educate the world about this secret addiction no one wants to talk about.  I want people to be empathetic to addicts and I want you to try to help them.  If you are an addict then I want you to know there is hope.  Find your motivation, find a good friend to support you and if all else fails find a good counselor or get into rehab.  It may seem impossible because you may not be able to afford it or leave your kids but then what would happen if you die?  There is always a way so don't make anymore excuses.  Then once you have helped yourself then go out and help others.  When I help people lose weight it's not just about the knowledge I have learned in college that I use to help them, it's about knowing what they are going through because I've been there.  Not judging them but encouraging them, listening to them and supporting them when they have setbacks.  I got into this field because I know how hard it is and I wish I would have had someone to support me.  I felt too ashamed to talk about it to anyone.  I don't want anyone to have to go through that.  So I thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you can get something out of it and help educate others.  We can do it together! :)


  1. Even though I've read books like Fast Food Nation and am aware of the dangers of eating that junk, I still eat it when I'm hungry because they own a small portion of my brain, plus there aren't many options when you're out on the open road between major cities. I know the answer is to prepare my own food, that's where the laziness comes in. There's definitely a chemical high that you get after eating fast food, then you come down 10 minutes later and want to curl up and be left alone to die.

  2. Hey Nick, thanks for the comment. You know it is how we are programmed by society. Most people I council know how they are supposed to eat they just can't. So I try to help them make small tweeks here and there and make these changes slowly. It's like wellness coaching.