Life as a recovering food addict

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I haven’t written about my food addiction in a long time. There’s a very good reason for that. I’m done. I’ve finally, after 35+ years, got the demon under my command. The demon that consumed my every waking moment. As with all addicts, it will always be part of my life, but right now, at this moment, I control it, rather than it controlling me.

It wasn’t easy. It took some massive soul searching, many dark nights of the soul, and finally some decisions others might refer to as drastic, followed by deliberate action, with the knowledge that I deserve better. It’s been the most interesting and life changing six months of my life and today I’m fitter and healthier than I have been since my teens. I saved my life.

My food addiction had begun to impact on my health in a variety of ways; fatty liver, fatty pancreas, both of which eventually would lead to diabetes and potentially cirrhosis of the liver. I was often tired, lived with constant pain and had a myriad of issues as a result of the excess weight I carried and continue to gain as time went on.  I felt powerless to change, and had tried everything. And I do mean everything.

Over the years I have lost, gained, lost, gained, lost and gained again more times than I can possibly count. I have written about this many times, there’s a whole section dedicated to addiction on this blog. At this moment I’m actually a healthy weight for my height. I look and feel good and sometimes don’t even recognise the person I see reflected back at me in the mirror or in photos. This is not about weight and never has been. It’s about addiction, but the side effect of food addiction is obvious.

The behaviour associated with my addiction held a lot of shame for me and it was something I never spoke openly about until about a year ago when I started this blog. I mean, I’m an intelligent woman, confident and professional and I was completely cognisant of what I was doing. It seemed so incongruent with every other aspect of my life, but addiction is addiction.

Writing about my addiction and talking openly with others was the beginning of my healing. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done and the rawness and vulnerability I felt was excruciating to begin with. However the more I spoke about it, the easier it got and my healing began.

I was talking with a soul sista yesterday who is identical to me in every way. She is the first person I ever met who got me, really got me and had done all of the things I’d done and felt the things I’d felt. I was telling her that I felt like writing a book about living with this addiction, it would have to be fictional but with my story behind it. I would need to make it fictional as some of my thoughts and actions would be too painful and embarrassing to share as a non fiction book. At least if it was fiction, people wouldn’t be sure which parts were true.

She said something that surprised me. She reminded me of how greatly my life had changed and how much I’d moved on. I had left the beast behind, why not keep running and leave it further behind, and continue to enjoy the freedom of living without it? Why rehash it again, when for the first time since I was 14, I was free of the daily thoughts, torture and anguish it caused me?

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She was right. I have moved on. The beast is lagging way behind me now, and I am controlling this demon that ruled my life. I am free, unburdened and lighter than ever, in every sense of the word.

If you have an addiction, no matter what it is, please know that you are not alone. Addiction shows up in many ways and for a variety of reasons, too many to discuss in this short post. But it is very very real.

Please seek help. Please take whatever steps you need to take and do whatever you can to overcome the demon and live your life to the fullest. Please don’t let one more day pass without embracing the amazing human being that you are and living your life free of the burdens this life sapping monster brings with it.

You deserve it.

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Getting a fix

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Standing there, my fix in my hand, I am ready to pay.

The moment had finally arrived. All day it had consumed my thoughts. What can I get, where can I get it, when can I get it. I tried doing other things, distracting myself. Keeping busy. Considering what I could use from home. Nothing I did took the thoughts away. I need a fix. I need it this afternoon. It is not negotiable. But it’s only a few hours until dinner.

No I need a fix.

I hopped in the car and went to the service station and chose my drugs. A packet of Twisties and a dark chocolate coated peanut brittle. Yes that will do it. Hmmm maybe I should get a chocolate ice cream too, yes good. What about packets of lollies…what if I need them and don’t want to have to come back, shall I get them just in case? Whatever I need I must get now, right now. Shall I get smaller packets because I know I can’t stop if I get a big pack and I must finish what I get tonight, so shall I get a smaller one. Just like yesterday when I wanted cake, I didn’t buy a cake that could be cut because I KNEW that I would eat the whole thing. Better to eat an individual smaller cake. No I will stick with these three things and I can come back. Or should I? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes.

I paid and walked out with my three things. I ripped open the Twisties and started scoffing them before I even reached my car, only metres away.

Home again, Twisties inhaled, I decided to savour the chocolate. But just a tiny bite first, until I get comfortable and sit down to enjoy it. No, it’s gone. Big bites, big chunks, eaten and swallowed.

It’s over.

Did it satisfy me? Well I enjoyed the sweetness. Did it fill whatever need I was looking for it to? Not really. I don’t really know what I wanted or expected it to do. All I know is that I needed it. Now I am thinking about the chocolate ice cream in the fridge. Might as well eat that next, no need to wait.

Once again, fucking addiction has me in its grips and one fucking day at a fucking time I avoid looking at it, unless I am feeling strong. When I am strong I can face it and slay that dragon, or at least put the dragon in it’s box for a little while. Today the dragon is slaying me.

Until tomorrow.

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The bitched named addiction – raw and real

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This is me, raw and real. Tonight there aint no sunshine, rainbows, unicorns or fucking lollipops, although I do like lollipops, a lot.

I have written before about being an addict. In case you haven’t seen it, I am a food addict and my drug of choice is sugar. It has taken me many years to own it and this year I finally did and have been working through it. Addiction is fucked. For those of you who aren’t addicts, I really can’t explain it, but believe me when I tell you it is fucked.

As of today I was 35 days clean of sugar. Probably the longest I have ever gone without lollies, cakes, chocolate, soft drinks and the rest in my entire life. I was feeling really good about it, although being an addict, I never felt like I had it beat, but rather managed – one day at a time. But part of me kinda hoped it really was beaten.

Well, all that changed this afternoon. I am doing a Diploma in Positive Psychology, which I am loving, and as part of it today we did an exercise in savouring – mindful eating. I have facilitated this exercise before and I really love it, and I usually do it with sultanas. Today we did it with Lindt balls. To be fair, they did offer me a mandarine, but I wanted to be part of it and thought I could do it. How fucking wrong I was. As I left, I grabbed another one didn’t I? Actually that one was shit, it was strawberry and tasted like cough medicine. Well once the sugar rush hit my brain the addiction was triggered and like an addict I was mindlessly looking for more. Strange that an exercise in mindfulness led me to become a mindless junkie. Got home, and had or rather scoffed two biscuits, and prior to that, they hadn’t even crossed my consciousness all week, and then I headed off to a workshop. Guess what they had there – fucking Lindt balls!! I had one, then another and then another and so on, stuffing the wrappers into my pockets so nobody could see me.

Addiction is fucked.

After the workshop my addict brain was still peaking and needed to continue, because hey what was the point of stopping, I had fucked it all up now, so I might as well keep going, and tomorrow is 1st August and all new things must begin on the 1st of the month right? So off to KFC I went (what tha?) and sat in my car and ate that shitful greasy food.

Didn’t enjoy it, didn’t taste it, and felt sick during and after it.

Addiction is fucked.

I am a successful woman who has everything she has ever dreamed of and to everyone else I would appear to have my shit together. Yes that is true. But I am also an addict. People who work in the addiction field say that food addiction is the hardest of them all to beat. Not to say that quitting any other kind of substance is easy, but abstinence might be a little bit easier to manage when you can avoid your substance entirely.

But we have to eat.

Addiction is fucked.

So as an addict, I have decided not to dwell on it, apart from writing this, and I really wanted to write about it while it was fresh in my mind.

I also wanted to share it.

You may be wondering why I would share something so damn personal and to be honest, something most people would find embarrassing. The fact is that there are millions of people living with addiction every day and many of them are food addicts. There is great comfort in feeling a sense of community or connection with others who have lived or are living with a similar experience to that which we are living.

For that reason alone, I share. Addiction is lonely and isolating and people don’t talk about it, so often addicts, and especially food addicts, suffer in miserable silence. If you are one person reading this who has always thought that you are fucked up, or that there is something seriously wrong with you.

You are not alone.

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14 days without sugar.

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As of today, I have been 14 days sugar free which I am very happy about. It is the longest I have gone without it intentionally in a long time. There were periods when living in Ghana where I couldn’t get it and a few other times in my life, but this is the longest in many years. Oh and by sugar I mean the white stuff; lollies, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, soft drinks etc. I eat fruit, whole foods and an occasional yummy raw dessert made with dates for instance, and there may occasionally be some tiny amount in something if I misread a label, but the point is I have not eaten any of the junk and comfort food that I usually would.

The last time I had a bad day, just over 2 weeks ago I started with a bag of liquorice all sorts, followed by nutella, other lollies, cakes and things that I just can’t recall now as it becomes a big sugar filled blur. Once I get the tiniest taste, it’s all over. It is just like cocaine to me. I could NEVER imagine a day where I can have one lolly, one biscuit, never ever, so I must abstain, for now and maybe forever. Just like an alcoholic remains abstinent from alcohol. In fact I posted in my private accountability group a few weeks ago “I just saw a woman take one biscuit!” my fellow food addicts got it right away, impossible to contemplate.

So it’s been a good two weeks. For some reason I have not really craved it this time either, I think because I have changed my thinking. I am not on a diet, I am taking it one day at a time and it is working. The other thing I am doing is for the first time in over 20 years is I am eating full fat foods. Coconut milk, almonds, cashews and all sorts of goodies that nourish and satisfy me. I really believe this has made a massive difference too, as well as changing my mindset from a diet, to one of abstinence for my health and wellbeing.

Let me tell you a story of how much of a drug sugar is to me. I went to the doctor for some standard tests and my GGT liver enzymes came back at 74 (they should be 0-35) but she wasn’t worried as she thought I must have had too many wines the night before, as this liver function test is particularly sensitive to recent consumption of alcohol. Thing is I rarely drink, and it had been over 8 months since my last drink when I took this test. Off I went for a scan as it appeared I had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, common in pre diabetics and can lead to fatal conditions such as cirrhosis, which my non drinking grandmother also had. What did I do after my scan? Walked straight across the road, spent $5 on lollies and chocolate at Charlesworth nuts and about $8 at Bakers Delight and went home quickly ate myself into a food coma, literally! I also have a fatty pancreas the scan showed. My doctor stressed to me the importance of reducing sugar right down, even to the point of monitoring my fruit intake, which my integrative doctor had been asking me to do for 3 years, to no avail.

This was in September.

For some reason I was not able to keep it in the front of my brain, just as any other addict, and I have had some rough days where my liver was actually inflamed to the point I could feel it earlier in the year. You can only imagine what I ate to get to that point.

Madness? No – addiction.

Anyway after a few practice starts (I will not use the word fail) I am now finally heading in the right direction.

I am feeling more energetic than I have in a very long time. The trouble with the sugar cycle is this. Feel like shit – eat shit.  Eat shit – feel like shit. Feel like shit – eat shit. And around and around it goes. This goes for my physical wellbeing as well as my mental health. It is a really fucking hard cycle to break out of, as when I feel like shit my brain is also cloudy and I can’t even think of what food I might buy, what meals I could prepare or anything, so most nights for months and months I have had toast for dinner, if anything. The difference in my mental health is also almost indescribable and I am looking forward to doing more research and working in this area in the future.

The way I sum it up in a simple sentence is this.

Eat real food, feel real good.

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Addiction and eating disorders.

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I have an eating disorder.

I am an addict.

There – I’ve said it.

Only a very small handful of trusted people close to me know this. It has taken most of my life to actually come to terms with these facts, admit it and now own it and deal with it. My eating disorder is known technically in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Version 5) as OSFED, which is a rather unfortunate acronym for ‘other specified feeding or eating disorder’. What this means is that it’s a disorder that doesn’t fit into a certain set of diagnosis criteria. Basically – I binge eat, but not all of the time. OSFED conditions are more common than Anorexia and Bulimia but are often not spoken about and not always well understood.

I go between being holier than thou, eating everything gorgeous organic and healthy, counting calories and watching everything that goes into my mouth and then I swing over to eating every single fucking thing in sight, sugar, fat, sugar, sugar and anything else I can find, but definitely nothing healthy – ever! This happens especially the night before I start another “diet” because I will never get to see those foods again – right? These patterns have resulted in me yo-yoing up and down since the age of 14. I can tell you almost exactly what I weighed, what size I was and all of the relevant stats for every single age of my entire life. I can tell you the calorific content of every food and not a night goes by that I don’t count in my head (if I haven’t used My Fitness Pal) what my intake has been for the day.

I weigh myself every single morning without fail. Sometimes I feel like it’s the definition of insanity – continuing to do the same thing but expecting a different result. I want to stop doing it, I know it is not helpful and in fact it is harmful, but old habits die hard.

I said I am an addict – my drug is sugar. I have been addicted to sugar for as long as I can remember. I have been clean for 12 days – and every day I need to look at sugar as an alcoholic looks at alcohol or a smoker looks at cigarettes, except that food is necessary for life and of course it is socially acceptable, so it’s a fine line to walk.

At this point in time; today Wednesday 8th July 2015 at 10:15pm, I have lost 3 kilos since I went clean, I am eating life giving food, I am enjoying preparing meals and I am feeling great. I HAVE to take this one day at a time (as they say in 12 step programs) because it is the only way to approach it.

This addiction to food and especially sugar is a monster that I need to tame every single minute of every single day, for the rest of my life. I am tired of fighting it and I want to gain control of my life,  my health and my future. This is a huge thing for me to be writing this. I can’t say just how huge, but anybody who knows me well will understand that I don’t fess up to this kind of stuff. Everything is always awesome in my life – or so it appears.

I have so much to write on these two things, it feels so good to express it and while I am writing this blog for me, if one person reads it and it helps them in any way to know that they are not alone, then I will be extremely happy.

To be continued…….

Rae-Anne 🙂 xx