Comfort Food, My Crack Cocaine



3001170276_3e0d7a9f43 It is a proven fact that middle aged women have about as much chance of losing the last ten pounds of unwanted body fat as being abducted by little green (skinny) aliens. The odds get worse if said middle aged woman has a food addiction.

Last week was an emotionally hard week. A dear family member was offended by something I wrote in this blog, my landlord called to tell me more rent was due than I budgeted for, and I was very worried I was coming down with a nasty, painful, bladder infection. Forgive me if that is too much information, but it's the truth.

My first inclination under Level 8 stress (on a scale of one to ten, ten being the Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina) is put something in my mouth. If I were a smoker it would be a cigarette, if I were two years old it would be my thumb. Being 55 and smoke-free for ten years, I satisfied my need for oral gratification with pasta.

Once I had my fix, I could talk myself down to a Level 6 on the stress-o-meter. My relative and I would work things out, the rent would get paid (it's only money), and I started guzzling cranberry juice and water to wash out the bugs in my bladder.

What is food addiction? Some experts say it consists of:

  • Using food to soothe emotions. Yup.
  • Thinking about food all the time. Well maybe not all the time, but a lot!
  • Secretly eating or binging when alone. Does eating ice cream from the container with the freezer door open count?
  • Eating until the food is gone. How can you leave just three tortilla chips in the bag?
  • Feeling guilty about food. I ate all that? What is wrong with me?

Hello, my name is Elvira and I'm a food addict.

My addiction may not be severe, I'm not a binge eater and I eat pretty healthily. My addiction won't kill me or make me morbidly obese. But it's no use denying it either.

There are many for whom food addiction is a very serious matter and who fight for their very lives to not binge, who feel mortified that they hide stashes of food so that their family doesn't see how much they eat. Who desperately wish their happiness were not so dependent on food. Food addiction is not a joke.

So now what? I turn to the experts on addiction recovery, the guys who follow the 12 Step recovery program developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. You can find 12 step programs particularly geared for food addictions at Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.  Another approach was developed by Darren Littlejohn, a recovering addict and Buddhist,  12 Steps to Recover From Any Addiction. I do not know enough about these programs to endorse them, but the 12 step tradition is one I respect and know has provided a life-line to many in recovery.

I also found good advice in the comment section of a post called Break Your Food Addiction. The writer is anonymous. She said:

"I am a food addict…
However, there are some things that have helped me manage my
addiction. They certainly don't eradicate my addiction, but it helps me
avoid many of the side effects including: shame, guilt, obesity, large
grocery bills, and eating disorders.

1. I keep a food diary, and I
make myself keep a record of binges/calories/purging. Even though I am the
only one reading it, it still helps me eat a healthy amount of food for my
age and height.

2. To cut down on impulsive food buys, I write a
grocery list prior to going to the store. I really think about impulse buys
by asking myself one simple question: will buying this upset me later?

3. I drink 12 ounces of water before I eat large quantities–this helps
me eat less than I would prefer to.

4. I put my food on small plates
to trick myself into thinking I am eating more than I am.

5. I have an
awesome oral-b professional care toothbrush, and I brush after major meals
to discourage eating when I am full.

6. I chew gum or suck low-cal
candy, drink low-cal drinks, and plan my snacks. I generally need something
to eat every 4 hours, so I plan accordingly.

This may make me sound
like a total nut, but these are the things that help me. Bottom line: it
sucks to have a food addiction, because you can't escape it. But you can
help yourself avoid things like obesity, eating disorders, and large food
bills.

Good luck to everyone!"

Far from being a total nut, this writer shows strength of spirit and wisdom. To her comment I can only add: Amen to that!

Do you think you might be a food addict? Do you have any tips for handling it? Have you tried the 12 Step programs I site above? Did they help? Share, please!
 

photo courtesy of jpellgen

5 comments


  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    My name is SD and I am a food addict. I use food all the time. I like the idea above about impulse purchases. “Will buying this make me upset later” I am going to try that because inevitably after I eat something I know I shouldn’t the guilt follows. I think I will use that line for eating as well. Will eating this make me upset later?

    2009/08/03
  • Dear SD,
    I love how you took a good idea and made it even better for yourself. I will do the same.
    Dr. A

    2009/08/03
  • Interesting. Thanks for being open about the stress you have in your life. So often it seems like the experts have perfect lives and never have to bother with the problems that so many of us have. Its nice to know that you are like the rest of us, with flaws but still human.
    I love reading your blog!

    2009/08/03
  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    It worked!!! I was out to dinner tonight and I was craving the potato skins and thought to myself will I be upset later and I said yes and ordered a salad. I may decide differently tomorrow but for tonight it worked.

    2009/08/03
  • Wow! That is super! One day at a time!

    2009/08/03

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