A funny thing happened to us in the last decade. We all became a little bit “Therapy Smart” (T.S.). We read all about how to fix bad relationships and dysfunctional families, how to let go of crutches and get in touch with our inner child, how to love our true self and leave behind our codependent habits. We know the symptoms, the lingo, the psychotropic remedies, and we just love to talk about all of it! We have become so T.S. that every one of us could just about buy a couch and hang up a shingle! I have begun to think that being T.S. is putting us in a sort of disorder purgatory where we are trapped, with little hope of escape. Even if a health care professional hasn’t pinned a label on us, we look within, evaluate and pronounce our own diagnosis, thanks to our books and Internet research. Once we accept the physician- or self-imposed label, we tend to wear it like a badge of honor. So, if you come from a dysfunctional family and that’s the reason you continue to abuse your body with food, then isn’t that just that? Won’t you always define your family and yourself by that label? Suffice it to say that because of your diagnosis, you can’t exist like “normal” people, and you’re fated to be perpetually dysfunctional.
I have thought a great deal about this new phenomenon of self-definition by diagnosis. Unfortunately, and all too often, I hear people label themselves with a word that is not entirely accurate. When I first heard it suggested that overeaters fell into this category, I became very angry because I did not want to see this group of people presented with yet another excuse for their inability to take control of their lives. They did not need one more “T.S.” diagnosis that they could point to and say, “See, it’s not me, it’s my disorder!” Despite my anger, the label is now officially out there-you know it’s official, by the way, when it has its own local listing of support groups. At the risk of angering some of you who have embraced this particular diagnosis, I am going to forge ahead and name the nemesis. Apparently, you of elevated weight are Addicts.
Are you? Are you a food addict? Is that the reason you just can’t stop? Is that the disease that has you in its clutches, controlling your every behavior around food? Well, I know many people believe just that and have joined support groups to talk about how their addiction to food has damaged, even ruined, their lives. Many have found relief in the knowledge that it isn’t their fault: the fault lay in the addiction, the disease that, by definition, will never go away because, as we all know, once an addict, always an addict. I have even heard it said that food addiction is impossible to address because we must eat: we can’t simply swear off the stuff, ditch the people we used to do it with, and avoid places where we have access to it as alcoholics are advised. So we’re kind of doomed, right? If we’re overweight and we can’t stop eating, there is pretty much no hope, and we might as well accept our fate. Well, here is where some of you might become angry.
I don’t buy it. Not for a second. There are certain substances in the foods we eat that are habit-forming, but we are not addicted to food! We need food, and to suggest that we could be addicted to it-as if it were a toxic substance-is preposterous. I hope I haven’t lost you yet. At least hear me out, if this is rubbing you the wrong way!
In my work with Reiki and spiritual counseling for the last 13 years, I have explored this word from many different perspectives: from the more common alcohol and drug addictions, to shopping, dating, sex, and video gaming addictions, to so-called addictions to Facebook, exercise, and even cleaning! Name it, and someone’s addicted to it.
This is a tricky subject to write about because I don’t intend to minimize a very serious issue. I believe that every addiction is an attempt to escape from a reality that we don’t want to deal with. We don’t want to look at it because doing so makes us hurt inside. Who wants that? Better to continue ignoring it by having a drink, taking a shot, popping a pill, or binging on food. There are real addictions, of course, and I should know, since I have been addicted to many different substances in the past: nicotine, caffeine, sugar, carbs, etc. My question is this: Was my body addicted to the substance or did I use the substance to escape …