Everyone knows some foods can be addictive, just like drugs and alcohol. It's generally agreed that certain types of foods are more likely to be addictive than others (I never heard of anyone being addictive to, say, cabbage... right?) because of the response they get from the body. But you know, it's really a lot like alcohol. Some people can drink moderately and never get even a twinge of addiction. Some people can even binge drink and then quit and be fine with that. Same with foods. Some people can eat a piece of cake and not have a second thought about it, and others flip out and want to binge on cake for days. I personally have experienced both reactions. Why is that? Seems like even the same person can go through times when they feel addicted or compelled to eat certain foods, and other times when they can have a serving and be fine. That's been my life.
I've written before about my mother's alcoholism. She came from a dysfunctional, alcoholic upbringing and she learned early to turn to alcohol for many things: fun, numbing, comforting, socializing, even dying (although thankfully she did not succeed in her attempt to use alcohol + medication to end her life before I was born). When my Dad met her, she was a bar hopping, heavy drinking young lady. And though he helped her quit with AA for long periods, she always went back to the drink. When I was a toddler, my father would often come home from his work to our Army base home to find his elderly dad babysitting me, my mother no where to be found. He would get back in the car and go looking for her, often finding her drunk at some bar, and bring her home. I remember as a small child going to visit her in the hospital where she was inpatient getting some kind of alcoholic/mental health treatment. She used to make little animals out of yarn during their craft time, and I'd always get excited to go see what Mommy had made for me each time we went to see her. By the time I was in preschool I had a whole family of yarn animals on a shelf in my bedroom, but I still didn't have a present mother.
Eventually my mother Found Jesus and we moved to another state. This fresh start with new friends and a new religion, along with continued participation in AA, gave her the stability she needed to stay sober for more than a decade. Yes, she found a new addiction in junk food (and as a result gained 100 pounds and stayed morbidly obese for the rest of her life), but being a food addict was a lot more socially acceptable and didn't land her in the mental ward like alcohol had. She was able to get a driver's license, build lasting friendships, and settle into a typical stay-at-home-mom life.
You know what I don't get? A few years after we moved, she stopped going to AA. And she started having a drink here and there. When we'd go out to dinner, she would have a glass of wine sometimes. At home, we had a booze cabinet because my Dad liked to come home from work and relax with a martini, and my mother would occasionally join him with her glass of Southern Comfort or Peach Schnapps. But she didn't go overboard, even with a whole cabinet of alcohol right there for the taking. Once or twice a year, we'd go visit her family in another state. They still drank. they still got drunk. And that's when I'd see her drink a little too much... but never enough to be slurring her speech or passing out or not remembering what happened. But somehow she could go from a night drinking with her family right back to her regular, functional, not-alcoholic life at home. Somehow she got to a place where she could have one drink, once in awhile, and be fine with that. How is that possible for an alcoholic? Myself, I quit drinking when I was 17. I had started in my early teens just because that is what my family did. I'd get into that booze cabinet when my parents weren't home sometimes. I'd drink out of sadness over things that were happening in high school. I even took medications and drank one time, and laid on my bed passed out for more than 24 hours before waking up. I was in a depressed state over some deaths and other circumstances of teenage life, and I knew I, too, had that addictive, alcoholic tendency. I could feel it as I sat in class counting the hours until I could get home and numb myself with alcohol. I knew where I was headed, because I had watched it in my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and my mother. That's why I quit cold turkey, right after graduating high school, at the age of 17. Nowadays I can have a drink here and there if I want one. A glass of wine, some kahlua. It's probably been two years since I've had any alcohol. And I don't have any desire to drink and don't think about it much anymore.
So... does an alcoholic have to give up alcohol 100%, for good, forever? How could my mother manage it so well for so long? How could she go from being a raging dysfunctional alcoholic to someone who could have a drink here and there and be fine with it?
Does a person with a food addiction have to give up their trigger foods 100%, for good, forever? My experience tells me no. How is it I could go from complete obsessiveness about certain foods (Pizza rolls, pizza, cake, chips, cookies!) to being able to have a little bit here and there in a sane manner? I've been there. I've been in a place where I am losing weight and eating healthy foods most of the time but still make room for, say, a scoop of ice cream on a hot day... and it didn't trigger me at all. How is that possible? This, I think, is what has kept me from giving up addictive things 100%.
I know the foods that are addictive to me. They are foods I cannot IMAGINE giving up 100%, forever. Chips. Candy. Cake. Ice cream. Pizza. Bacon. Cheese. Coke. There have been months, even years when I have rejected these foods and done fine without them. Don't miss them much, for awhile. But then I go back to them, because they are my comfort foods, my numbing agents, my familiar place. I hold out hope that I can find a way to have them once in awhile. I can't get my head around giving them up forever, so I do the whole "just for today" thing. But that's not fooling anybody. I still know the goal is to give up certain things because they aren't good for me and keep me in a bad place, or keep dragging me back there.
My mother was an example of someone who took their Drug that was killing them, cut it out, and then slowly let it back just a little bit. In a controlled way. It wasn't hurting anything. She was fine. I have always wondered how she could do that... stay sober, yet have a drink once in awhile. She got over her addiction or something. Until more than 2 decades later, she once again grabbed that bottle of booze and downed it with a handful of pills intending to end her life.
It's never really okay, is it? Those addictive things... we might think we've tamed them and let them in just a little bit. In moderation. In control. Let the deadly back in so it can lurk. Lose a hundred pounds on Medifast or whatever, then stay in control but just have a few chips once in awhile. A piece of cake here and there. It doesn't trigger anything. It's fine now, I can control. Until I can't, and somehow all that weight comes back no matter what I do. That addictive junk can seem so innocent in small, controlled amounts. It's still deadly though. It'll kill us in the end.
I am 38 years old, female, a degree-holding stay-at-home-mom, and I weigh 278 pounds. I have been obese for ten years now. Time to get out of this fat prison I have made for myself.
--This is the original introduction I wrote when I first started this blog in 2007. I leave it as a reminder to myself of where I came from. Currently, I am 46 years old and weigh significantly less...see the blog for details. I lost 103 pounds, then had a partial regain, and am once again working at weight loss and better health.
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