Saturday, June 4, 2011

Addictive Behaviors in Relation to Eating

Over the past several months I've come to admit and even (partly, at least) embrace the fact that for some reason that is still unknown to me, I turn to food for comfort.  I say that I embrace that fact because 1) It is part of my psyche and 2) it  helps me to know that I'm doing something for a reason even if I don't know what that reason is yet.

The absolute truth is that I honestly believe this comfort seeking I do with food is part of a broader spectrum of addictive behavior.  I don't say this lightly - I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject and the addictive behaviors I've been exhibiting for many many years sort of speak for themselves.  Read on:

I found the following in an Indiana State University study, and the passage was Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility, Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987. (c) Copyright Ruth C. Engs, Bloomington, IN, 1996:  The study findings are in black.  My responses are in red:

    There are many common characteristics among the various addictive behaviors:
The person becomes obsessed (constantly thinks of) the object, activity, or substance.
This is true with me.  I'll be honest with you.  I ALWAYS have food in the back of my mind.  I think about it all the time.  Whether it's what we're having for dinner or when the next time we'll go out to dinner is, it's always there.  Even when I'm doing really good on my food plan, I'm still thinking about GETTING TO EAT THE MOST FOOD I CAN for the Weight Watchers points I have for the day.  It's constantly in my head.
They will seek it out, or engage in the behavior even though it is causing harm (physical problems, poor work or study performance, problems with friends, family, fellow workers). 
The manifestation of my addictive behavior is evident.  I'm carrying around  70 pounds of extra weight because of it.  However, when I binge, I can FEEL the harm it's doing to my body.  I feel painfully stuffed, slow, sluggish, and full of self-loathing.  When I start a binge I know all of those feelings are coming but I do it anyway.  Sometimes I tell myself that I need to feel those feelings so I won't do it again in the future, but I always do 

The person will compulsively engage in the activity, that is, do the activity over and over even if he/she does not want to and find it difficult to stop.
When I start a binge, I have never really been able to totally stop it until ...for lack of a better explanation....I'm done.   There's almost a peace that comes over me when it's time to be done, I guess.  I will be full, to the point of nausea, but will still continue to eat until I'm "done."  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying it's ok to continue and continue.  I whole-heartedly believe that I need to stop, and I want to stop with everything that I am.  But I have not been able to yet.  Once it starts, it's a fight until the bitter end.

Upon cessation of the activity, withdrawal symptoms often occur.  These can include irritability, craving, restlessness or depression.
Once I have a binge, I'm usually calmed and can focus again on my weight loss efforts.  I have a period of hating the hell out of myself and  then I focus again.  Within about 2 - 3 weeks, though, I'm starting to get the "itch" again.  I'm trying hard to figure out what this itch is and why it visits me.  Is it hormonal?  Is it psychological?  This is key, I know - but so hard to figure out.  Once I get the itch it's very hard to stop the momentum of the itch.  Depression comes with it and I do get irritable.
  The person does not appear to have control as to when, how long, or how much he or she will continue the behavior (loss of control). (They drink 6 beers when they only wanted one, buy 8 pairs of shoes when they only needed a belt, ate the whole box of cookies, etc).
So true.  When I prepare a favorite food I tell myself, "Only one portion!  Exercise self-control!"  Then I proceed to devour whatever it is.  Cookies?  Forget it.  I can't eat only one.  Pasta?  I can't be normal with that either.  Ice cream is equally as tempting as is cheese.  But it's not the food that's the culprit.  It's the emotional associations I've made with the food.  Yes, all those things are freaking delicious.  But there are other delicious things I can stop with at one portion.  But somethings I can't be trusted with yet.

He/she often denies problems resulting from his/her engagement in the behavior, even though others can see the negative effects.   
For many years I didn't address my weight problems.  I let them go and just played the part of jolly fat funny girl.  It's when I got sick of being the fat funny one that I decided to do something about it.  I always attributed my weight to simply loving food.  Now I know that it goes much deeper than that.

The person hides the behavior after family or close friends have mentioned their concern. (hides food under beds, alcohol bottles in closets, doesn't show spouse credit card bills, etc).
Uh.  Yeah.  Binges always happen in secret.  Nobody has mentioned their concern but I can't fathom binging in front of anyone.  Ever.

Many individuals with addictive behaviors report a blackout for the time they were engaging in the behavior (don't remember how much or what they bought, how much the lost gambling, how many miles they ran on a sore foot, what they did at the party when drinking)  
I often feel like my eyes roll in the back of my head while I'm binging and the amount of food I've consumed completely gets away from me until I'm done.  I'm totally not in my right mind or - duh - I'd stop.  I feel powerless, hopeless, useless, and in all other ways like a waste of space when I engage in this  behavior. 

Depression is common in individuals with addictive behaviors. That is why it is important to make an appointment with a physician to find out what is going on. 
I do struggle with depression at times.  Totally not ready to discuss that with my doctor, though.  
Individuals with addictive behaviors often have low self esteem, feel anxious if the do not have control over their environment, and come from psychologically or physically abusive families.
Here's the thing.  Yes, I have low self-esteem.  I think most fat people do.  I never felt good enough to be out going, I never felt pretty enough to flirt with the guys I was truly interested in while I was in school, and I still find it amazingly sweet that my husband tells me I'm beautiful but I always feel like he's just saying that to be nice.  I do feel a bit anxious if I'm not in control of my environment, that's also true.  If something's not being done "my way," I have an overwhelming urge to take over and complete the task (getting better at this, though).  However.  I don't know that I'd classify my family as psychologically or physically abusive.  My mother's absent, that's true - and she was somewhat when I was a child, too.  My father was always around and my siblings and I tend to put him on a pedestal now that he's gone but the man also had his faults - but he was not an abusive man.  So I don't know where I get this from.


There  are lots of times when I eat for pleasure or nourishment.  I'm "off the wagon" maybe three or four days out of a month.  But those three or four days are fucking HARD.  Emotionally they are draining.  I feel like I am letting everyone down when I'm so far off plan.  I want to be there for others and help other people on their journey but when I'm off plan I feel like such a fraud when I offer support to others.  If I'm not walking the walk, I find it very difficult to talk the talk.  

I have been trying, though, the reach out when I need help.  This is very difficult but I'm trying.  These addictive behaviors are shameful but being honest with all of you about them is very liberating.   In all reality I think I will struggle with my relationship with food my entire life.  But I can get better at dealing with it and that's what I'm trying to do every day.

I'm human.  I'll falter.  But I have got to get back up.  I have got to remember that I'll be able to fight another day.  Being kind to myself isn't something that comes naturally, but it's so imperative not only in my weight loss journey but in the journey of my entire life.

As always I thank you all for listening.  Many peaceful wishes to each of you.

1 comment:

  1. reading this brings tears to my eyes, I feel the same highs and lows of food addiction as well as the binging. When I was a teenager I went as far as taking epicac to throw it all up once. I didn't grow up in an abusive home, my mother was always there, but my father was not sweet and fatherly. I don't blame him for my issues, I think I just love food and it's my addiction. It will be a lifelong battle for me as well. Food is like a legal form of drugs for me.


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