Have you ever watched the show ‘Intervention’ where the family and friends of an addict intervene to help the addict put a stop to their addiction? These addicts are addicted to various drugs including alcohol, heroin, prescription painkillers, and various methamphetamines. They will do pretty much anything to get their next fix. They lie, cheat, steal, sneak around, and spend a huge amount of their income, or in some cases, their family’s income on feeding their addiction. Some of them even go so far as to manipulating and coercing parents and other family members into buying drugs for them. In my opinion, and my personal experience, a food addict has similar qualities.
Apologies to my freshman year college housemates, if you are reading this, but I used to steal your food. That chocolate cereal you bought for breakfast? I ate it whilst my green grapes rotted in the refrigerator. In my second year of university, when I was my heaviest, I used to go to the 24-hour store to get a late-night fix, which was sometimes chips and dip or other times a large candy or chocolate bar. There was a Chinese restaurant next door which I suspected had rats, but I still ate there if I was viciously hungover and too lazy to go elsewhere for dinner. I used to buy a baked “treat” from the library nearly every day, until I could no longer call it a “treat”.
With an addiction comes embarrassment, shame, and withdrawal from many social situations. Even up until my final year of university, I avoided many situations that involved eating what I refer to as ‘danger foods’ with my skinnier friends or people I didn’t know. “Danger” foods included pizza, chocolate and any fast foods. Looking back to when I was in high school, I was the girl who sat there and devoured almost an entire stuffed crust extra-cheese pepperoni pizza whilst my skinny friends sat there and pressed a napkin into their slice of vegetable pizza to soak up all the grease. This memory has always haunted me. What would I do now? I would make my own cauliflower-base pizza and eat until I was full. In fact, I did exactly that last Friday night and the recipe is on my Instagram if you want to try it yourself.
Most addicts hate themselves. They aren’t proud of their addiction, they are deeply ashamed and feel like everyone they know is judging them. For food addicts, especially those who are extremely overweight or obese, their addiction is visible in their size so they can’t truly hide. They know, and their friends know, that they didn’t just have salad for lunch. They had the full chicken bacon caesar with heaps of parmesan, croutons, extra dressing, and some bread and butter on the side, washed down with a big cup of diet Dr. Pepper. They know, and their family knows, that their “diet” isn’t going very well. The weight watchers meals are never enough to fill them so they secretly eat Nutella out of the jar with a spoon after dinner at night and treat themselves to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory every Friday afternoon. I can put my hand on my heart and say that I never did this; I lasted all of one day on Weight Watchers and then gave up. But I still eat peanut butter out of the jar sometimes. The worst thing about food addiction, or any addiction, is that you feel like you are fighting a losing battle. You feel like you are your own worst enemy. You feel like you are a weak person.
Portion sizes are an issue. Restaurants in particular do not measure their portions by serving size and meals have gradually expanded as we, the hungry consumers, ask for more more MORE. Our plates are often piled with enough food to feed two or three people, which results in us over-eating and having to eat more food to feel satisfied. This spirals out of control and before we know it, we are roughly the size of a small car. Snacks are also an issue. When I was fat, I was angry. I used to eat the same meals as my friends but yet I was twice their size. Why? In-between those meals, I was consuming about 1000 calories in snacks, which were usually not very healthy, and the pounds were just piling on bit by bit. Beware of snacks; especially the ones that don’t come in portion control or resealable bags.
So, what about now? In all honesty, I still struggle. My portion sizes have been vastly reduced. Fast food no longer appeals to me. Bread, ice cream, pasta- not even interested. Crisps and crackers- no thanks. Popcorn- only if I am at the movie theatre. Sugar- a HUGE BIG MASSIVE problem. For a while, I was limiting the treats to once or twice a week. Then I started making healthy versions of “treats” like chickpea brownies or almond flour cookies, but then I would devour the entire batch and it sort of defeated the purpose of baking healthy. Then I tried supplements and stopped adding honey or maple syrup to my oats and even gave up caffeine. Then I started substituting fruit as treats but again, I would eat too much and I was consuming so much fructose that I might as well have just had a slice of cake since the sugar content would have been pretty much the same. Then I cut out almost all grains, fruits, and dairy products, and started limiting my consumption of nuts and tried going cold-turkey but the cravings got more intense and I felt like I was going through genuine withdrawal. So then, I was pretty much back at square one. Phew. So, what is the answer? Honestly, I don’t have the answer just yet. Hell, I just ate three chocolate chip cookies and now I am begging my boyfriend to eat the rest so I don’t end up polishing them off. Sugar is the only thing I am still struggling with. In fact, I would dare to say that giving up sugar is a hundred times more difficult than when I gave up cigarettes. But, I have asked my trainer for help and I continue to share my woes with my nutritionist friend, Karen (@GoodCleanChow), whose head I have surely melted, and hopefully I will soon have the answer for you. In the meantime, I’m trying to stick to peanut butter, blueberries, and herbal teas. Tonight’s tea menu: fennel and orange. See you next week.