Food is essential to life. That makes it impossible to give up if you need to lose weight. When food becomes an addiction it’s a lifelong battle to control one’s intake and the types of food eaten. Other addictions can be controlled by abstinence. We can’t just stop eating entirely. Some people find 12 step meetings helpful. Some people go to therapy. I’ve used both of those treatments. I even had weight loss surgery. I’d say I’m doing ok at this time. I’m at an acceptable weight, although according to my BMI I’m overweight. As a result of the surgery, I get sick when I overeat or when I eat too much sugar. That can be a good thing in a way but why do I continue to overeat and make poor choices?
I was a skinny kid. I had hyperactive thyroid which caused me to lose weight. I grew into a slender teen and young adult but as I reached my mid 20’s it became harder for me to stay at my 100-105 lb goal. So I became bulemic. I don’t know how or why it happened. I became obsessed with having a flat belly which meant restricting what I ate. I guess I might have been anorexic at times. I would go all day without eating and then eat 1/2 a small meal. If I did eat too much, I made myself sick so I wouldn’t gain weight. I did keep my weight at around 103 for several years. In addition to restricting, bingeing and purging I also exercised excessively which is another form of purging. I went to the gym and worked out on the machines like a wild woman, then took a cardio class, sometimes two, one after the other. Then at home, several times a day, I exercised to burn off calories. Once or twice I passed out at the gym from not eating and then overdoing the workouts. I truly needed help.
In my early 20’s I took amphetamine diet pills intermittently. I saw myself as being fat, so if the numbers on the scales went up 2 lbs I freaked out. The pills took away my appetite almost completely. I took them at work and at home. The upside was that I could work circles around anyone on the job and my apartment was spic and span. The downside was that I couldn’t sleep and was putting my life in danger.
I hit 115-120 lbs around age 29 or 30 and felt gigantic. I was in a committed relationship so it was hard to hide my bulemia. I was still ok as far as appearance. I kept exercising which was easy because my partner was a fitness enthusiast. I got pregnant at age 33 and my weight went to 150 lbs. I was very uncomfortable. I haven’t mentioned that I’m only 5’1″ tall. I don’t carry weight well. I know many people who are overweight and look beautiful. I’m not just being self critical about this. I have pictures to prove it! I always felt and still feel that it was so unfair how some women weighed more than I did and they didn’t have a double or triple chin like I did at my highest weight. I still carry weight in my face if I gain a pound. I wasn’t solidly built either, like some of my friends. I stopped exercising around the time I gave birth to my son. I weighed 135 after he was born.
I didn’t mention that I had a baby girl when I was 23. I weighed 110 when I got pregnant, gained to 122 then weighed 108 the day after I gave birth. She was 3 weeks premature and weighed 5lbs 15oz. She was healthy and normal which was a blessing.
When I was 35, things started going downhill. I lacked self-esteem and felt horrible about my weight which made me eat more. I can see now that 135 was a great weight for me! But at the time I felt so fat and unloveable. That’s part of what led me to leave my partner. I felt so unworthy. He worked out and ran without fail, even on vacations. I was still able to hike and remain somewhat active but I didn’t go to the gym anymore. After I left him, I became a compulsive overeater. My mental health declined so I started seeing a therapist and psychiatrist. The therapy helped me with some of my life issues but didn’t touch the overeating. My psychiatrist put me on meds for my depression and anxiety. I didn’t see improvement until many years later. I went through a cycle of ups and downs with lots of side effects from the meds. The doctors kept switching my meds and each one was worse than the previous one. I started gaining weight–as much as 50 lbs one year. I went through several doctors because of the insurance I had which also made my treatment inconsistent. Finally I was sent to a doctor who regulated my meds and I started feeling less depressed. By this time I weighed about 200 lbs. I kept going to therapy which didn’t help my eating problems. I had a lot of anxiety so I ate to calm myself. I tried diet after diet. I lost weight but each time I gained back the weight I’d lost plus more. I tried Overeaters Anonymous. I went to meetings in several locations but I didn’t feel the passion for success that I was looking for. I kept gaining weight until I reached 250lbs. I was having health problems from it and like I mentioned before, I don’t carry extra weight well at all. I went from a size 3 jeans to a size 22. After I had a knee replacement from carrying all that weight, I had weight loss surgery. That worked! I lost 120 lbs and I later lost 20 more. I learned about a new way of eating that was healthy and would help me maintain my weight loss. It was also the first thing that helped me come to terms with my eating disorders. It was like a light came on in my head.
I have an addictive personality. Over those years I dealt with other substances and habits that caused me problems. So I’m still a recovering addict today. I’m currently in recovery for a spending addiction. I go to AA meetings because they’re better than the “specialty” 12 step meetings. When an addict goes from one thing to another it’s called switching addictions. I still see a psychiatrist who does 30 minute therapy sessions. He’s the best doctor I’ve ever had. I feel good mentally and I feel confident about my life. I’m happy. I’m at the weight range my bariatric surgeon said I’d even out at. I’d like to weigh 10lbs less so my clothes would fit better. But I’m ok where I am now. Yes, I still have issues with food but when I relapse into overeating, I get back on my feet and eat normally again. I’m not cured. I’ll always have a food addiction and like I said, you can’t totally stop eating to solve the problem. We need food to sustain life. Besides that, food is fun! Social activities revolve around food. We meet people over lunch to talk and have fun. There are picnics, Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas dinner, birthday parties, potlucks and so on. Dessert tastes so good after a meal too.
Sweets can be addictive, sugar to be exact. And chocolate! I’ve heard that chocolate causes feelings that are close to how we feel when we’re in love. No wonder sugary snacks are so much fun. I’ve jokingly heard it said that Oreos are as addictive as crack! And salty snacks can be a problem too for people like me who lose control. Potato chips are one of those weaknesses I have. I can get into a cycle of sweet then salty, then sweet again. I tend to go for the unhealthy carbs when I’m bingeing. In contrast, when I’m eating well, I eat healthy carbs — fruits and veggies. After bariatric surgery they recommend a low carb, high protein diet. I modify that to include more healthy carbs and a little less protein. I’ve read studies about dietary habits and have come to some of my own dietary guidelines. Ones that feel right for my body and general lifestyle. Everyone is different. I embrace everyone’s different views and choices as long as they don’t harm themselves or others. That brings me to another thought… I believe that my body is a temple and to harm it with food is wrong. Overeating isn’t the only wrong thing I do by any means but it’s something more for me to keep in mind and to keep working on. I also use excuses as to how I eat sometimes. My family eats differently than I would choose to eat on my own. Going out to eat can be a challenge too. I used to fantasize about having my own vegan chef to prepare all of my meals and snacks. But I can do it all on my own if I make up my mind to do it. We are given choices in life. What we do with them depends on our commitment to follow through and change course when necessary. Life is good so not a moment should be wasted.