Thursday, March 10, 2011

Am I an Addict?

This whole “recovery” thing is REALLY frustrating. All I really wanted in the beginning was to get down to a normal weight and stay. Done. I got there. Even with some fluctuations over the last year or two, I have pretty much stayed that way. So why do I feel like I am back at square one (to say nothing of day #1) in my recovery?

A lot of it is because my sponsor is tough.  By that, I don’t mean that she is unreasonable or arbitrarily strict.  I mean that she demands I deal with the under-lying issues of food addiction—do I, or do I not have a disease that makes me respond to food differently than normal people?  If so, what does that mean?  What do I have to actually do in order to control the physical addiction and the mental compulsion? 

She makes me ask hard questions. I don’t like the answers.  Furthermore, the answers aren’t really clear or cut-and-dried, black-and-white like I want them to be. Actually, even as I write that last sentence, my real fear is that the answers are cut-and-dried.  I just am not sure I am ready to accept that right now. I am still secretly convinced that there must be—there has to be—an “easier, softer way”. 

So, I have committed to looking, yet again, at the original issues that plagued me and see if I can sort through them.  My purpose in doing this isn’t in an effort to find some magic bullet that will get me down to a miniature size dress—that is pretty much a non-issue for me now.  The purpose is to get back to the mental, emotional and spiritual freedom that I used to have in the early days of my program where I didn’t waste an ounce of energy negotiating with myself on what I could or could not eat—where I ate a pre-planned meal and didn’t think about food again until the clock said it was time to eat my next pre-planned meal—and where I was happy and grateful to do that.

So the specific question for this blog:  Am I a food addict?

I would like to believe that because I am a normal size and weight that I am not really a food addict any more.  However, experience tells me that is a lie.  I attended an OA meeting last Saturday where the speaker shed some amazingly clear light on that subject.  She explained that when she first joined the program she had a hard time accepting the labels, “food addict” or that she had an incurable “disease of mind and body”.  She did, however, recognize that she didn’t eat the same way that normal people ate.  Her sponsor asked her to write down on paper what being a “normal eater” looked like and what being an “abnormal eater” looked like.  She came up with something I think is wonderfully insightful.  I asked her (Courtney) for a copy and here it is:

Normal versus Abnormal Eaters

What do normal eaters say?

Do you want to split this?
This is too much food.
I’m too full for dessert.
I’ll have a child size.
I forgot to eat.
It’s too rich or too sweet.
I’m too nervous/stressed/excited/sad/happy to eat right now.
I’ve lost my appetite.
I’m not hungry—I’ll skip lunch.
I’ll just have a taste.
I can’t finish this—would you like it?
No, I don’t need a doggie bag.

How do normal eaters react to eating and food?

They stop when they’re full.
They eat for fuel, not for comfort.
They don’t use food to suppress feelings or to dial down intense feeling.
They don’t go into a food trance.
They have a bite or two and walk away.
They don’t have cravings or yearning for certain foods—
Certain foods don’t trigger them to a binge.
They don’t have an emotional drive to eat.
They don’t feel desperation that they have to eat “right now.”
They don’t feel guilty after eating.
They eat to feed and nourish their bodies, not their emotions.
They don’t get overly excited about eating certain foods.
They leave food on their plate.
They are not into high volume.
They don’t obsess over, sneak, or hide foods.
They share food with others.
There is not the emotional attachment to food.
They don’t use food for soothing, comfort or to meet their emotional hunger.

What do abnormal eaters say?

I have to have it right now.
I’ll feel better after I have this.
I’ll start dieting tomorrow (or Monday).
I can control this with enough prayer, exercise, shrink appointments, etc.
I’ll only have 3…or 4.

How do abnormal eaters react to eating and food?

They have a long history of dieting, starving, bingeing, trying to control their eating, loss of control, and promises to do better next time.
They feel a desperate need to eat something right away.
They have a deep emotional attachment to food, to certain foods, or to eating in general.
Eating has become an automatic soothing response to stresses.
They use food and eating as a way to get comfortable or to dial down uncomfortable feelings.
They use food and eating as a way to cope.
They eat instead of problem solve.
Food has become a psychological tool.
They use food and eating to avoid feelings that are too intense or anxiety-provoking.
They haven’t learned how to cope with life and emotions in a way that doesn’t include food and eating.
They need certain foods to treat and satisfy.
They usually stuff food in very quickly.
They usually chose comfort foods (not carrots) and fell guilty about it.
Food is a love object.
Food is used to sooth and comfort.
They short-circuit their best problem-solving abilities by going into a food trance.
They choose high sugar, fat, and salty foods to go into the food trance.
They have an unexplainable driving need to eat that no amount of will-power can control.
Emotional hungers trigger emotional eating.
They eat when they’re not hungry.
They don’t stop when they are full.
They use their obsession with weight and body image as a way to distract them from what’s really bothering them.

I didn’t have to read through much of this to recognize that I am clearly (even now) not a normal eater.  Although the obvious symptoms of me being an abnormal eater have been greatly reduced over the last five years on program, it is clear that I still have a problem.

I may stop when the scale says I am done eating, but I don’t want to!
I still have a gut-reaction to eat when things are upsetting or stressing me out.
Food still sooths and comforts me like nothing else does.
I still have a strong emotional attachment to food.  This becomes clear in certain social or family situations where a particular eating experience is inseparably connected to my enjoyment of the event.  I don’t enjoy the people or the occasion they same way unless the food experience is involved.

Yep.  I’m still a food addict.