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Revelations of a Weary Food Addict

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I feel sick to my stomach. Like I might puke. I keep getting saliva in my mouth like it’s coming. But I know I won’t. I just ate too much. I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t anything. I was just here, in the house, watching TV or working on the laptop and I just kept going back for more—pretty much all day, outside of the times I left the house with the kids. “This is the last…” I said several times today. “I’ll skip dinner,” I remember thinking. “I’m done,” again and again.

When I woke up this morning I was determined to eat right and eat lightly. I’ve put on a few and I know how easy it would be to put on a few more, then more, and before I know it, those two months of close monitoring—of dropping fourteen pounds, of feeling so good about how much better I look and how well my clothes are fitting—it’ll be gone. Like every other time. A flash of good health. A short term stint, folowed by months of slow gaining until a year or two goes by before I can get back in my jeans.

I know how to eat right. I’ve read every book. I listen to Dr. Oz and Bob Greene and watch Biggest Loser religiously. I’ve had months of good health, many times over. I know how good it feels to eat right, to have energy, to wake up feeling good in the morning, to look at my face and like what I see, to be confident that every item in my closet will actually fit. I know the trauma my system is enduring right now, trying to deal with all the shit I threw into it today. I know that when I eat too much, I go to bed feeling like crap, I get that acidic feeling in the back of my throat, I don’t sleep well, and I wake with puffy eyes, regret, shame and a plan to do better.

In that way, I am no different than any other addict. Every alcoholic has sober moments and knows how shitty she’ll feel if she drinks too much. Every drug addict knows that the fall after the high is the sickest feeling in the world. And yet still, somehow, they can’t seem to get through the ins and outs of life without being self destructive. We food addicts have it worse in some ways. We can’t just give it up. We have to learn to deal with that demon and keep it in the house. And as I’ve proven, it doesn’t seem to matter what food it is. Now, I’m surrounded by mostly healthy choices and yet here I am, sick from granola, nuts, chips, and anything I could find.

But on the other hand, I am grateful that I don’t have those other demons. I’m not exactly dangerous to others when I eat too much. I’m not likely to kill someone on the road. Or say something terrible to someone. Or drop dead of an overdose. But I am sure that my body is working too hard right now. And I’ll turn down a social invitation if I’ve already eaten too much that day and I’m feeling like I have to undo the damage and I’ll avoid sex with my husband. My addiction does impact my life and relationships.

But I’ve done Overeaters Anonymous (and Weight Watchers, and Atkins, and The Zone, and Sugarbusters, and 20/20 Lifstyles, and I’ve read Skinny Bitch and Marilou Henner’s book, and Sugar Blues, and a book on juicing and a book on yogurt (!) and I’ve even been hypnotized). I’ve tried AA’s 10 steps. I know “the program”. But I’m not using food to fill a void. I’m not burying some sort of child molestation and depression or anything else. I’m a happy person with a wonderful life, tons of interests, and plenty to do. And yet still, sometimes, at the end of a day, this is where I am. Lying here, looking at my belly, protruding so far that I look six months pregnant. Obviously, I can’t say anything’s worked for me—in the long term anyway, because here I am right now, knowing I probably took in between three and four thousand calories today. (I can’t say for sure because although I began the day tracking my food, by 11am, I had stopped and now, as hard as I try, I probably can’t even remember everything I put in my mouth.)

When I think about all this, it makes me sick, baffled, weary. And yet, what can I possibly do about it? I’ve tried everything. Everything works and nothing works. It’s up to me. It’s my mind. It’s my problem. The only option is to keep trying to do better. I know I can’t behave like I did today all the time. I’d spiral into some sort of serious depression. And hopefully, today’s day-long binge and evening reflection will help me to stay strong tomorrow and get back on track and I can build from there. All I can hope for is progress, and strangely enough, I’m better than I used to be.

When I was eleven, I’d come home from school and if no one stopped me, I’d eat four oranges or a dozen Oreos. It was something to do. Eating became an activity. At twelve, I realized (because a teacher at school pointed it out to me) that I’d started gaining weight. So I started eating diet bars instead of meals. I’d be so proud of myself when I got through a whole day eating just 700 calories. But then of course I’d pig out with my friends to the point of sickness. When I was fifteen, I’d barely eat at school but then head to the grocery (driving without a license) for junk and binge through the afternoon before my parents got home from work. At eighteen, I tried Exlax to get rid of it all without gaining weight. At 23, I once went to the drug store at 10:30 a.m. looking for cookie dough to nosh on. I don’t do those kinds of things anymore. It is progress, I suppose, that I don’t keep much junk food in the house and I don’t go to the store to satisfy cravings for sweets and chocolates. I don’t buy ice cream anymore because I can’t handle the temptation to eat the entire container. It is progress that I start my day off with a healthy breakfast no matter what came the day before and not the two big bowls of cereal and/or giant bagel and cream cheese that predominated the mornings of my twenties. It is progress that I work out regularly and have for several years now.

So as pathetic as I feel right now, as irritated as I am that food, that just eating too damn much is still an issue after all these years and all the things I’ve tried and learned, I have to remain positive. I’m forty. More days than not, I eat well. I try hard to provide healthy choices for my kids. At least for now, I’m in a healthy weight range. So, tomorrow is another day and I will do better.

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