Weight Loss and Addiction to Foods – In Your Mind and in Your Body

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 from something. If you read today’s ezine, you will know that nicotine was a problem for me, but in no way was it as great as my problem with caffeine or sugar.
So, is it the food or the substance that is addictive, or is it that I have an addictive personality? Perhaps it is not important to differentiate between the two. They all look the same on the outside, but inside they feel very different. Allow me to answer my own questions. First of all, yes! If you ingest enough caffeine or sugar, say, your body will eventually begin to crave it in greater amounts; therefore, anyone can appear to be addicted to a particular substance. The difference between someone who is dependent, or craves a substance, and an addict and is that the dependent person can stop and the addict cannot. Or is it possible that he just will not? I know breaking an addictive habit is extremely difficult, but I think that in many cases, the addict chooses not to change. I think I hear you all logging off of your computers now, and I understand that this is a touchy subject, but please stay with me! It is important to understand that the “addict” uses whatever substance she has been drawn to in order to escape reality. I believe all substances can be used addictively, with some proving much harder to stop than others; but regardless of the drug, I believe that the way to fix the problem is to look at what the person is running from, what they are afraid of facing, what they are hiding from, or who they don’t want to knowing the answers to these questions.
Many of you have probably chosen food as a source of escape because initially, at least, it brings so much pleasure, a pleasure not unlike the first rush a drug addict gets from a hit of heroin. Why don’t you overdo the vegetables? Well, they don’t provide the pleasure that comes from your drugs of choice: fatty, salty, sweet and caffeinated foods and drinks. These substances affect our brains. They literally alter our moods, emotions, energy, everything. And just like heroin, too much will kill you. Presently, your drugs are socially acceptable, although happily, they are all getting bad press, and it is possible that one day, users will be shunned like smokers! Acceptable or not, do not fool yourself! Fats, sugar, salt, and caffeine are very dangerous, and if you don’t believe me, just ask a diabetic. You won’t have to go far to find one since diabetes is practically an epidemic in this country. Unfortunately, an addictive personality tends to get itself into a lot of trouble-medically as well as socially. Think about it…
So perhaps most of my readers should think of the addiction as residing in their personalities. Food, and many other substances, provides a perfect way to help you avoid that which you do not want to confront. So, you overeat, and eventually your body begins to rely on substances you ingest to manage basic functions-like waking up! Remember how you awoke as a child, excited and raring to go! Now we stagger about zombie-like until we can down a hit of caffeine. The same goes for routine happiness. Remember that eager, inquisitive child, who was happy just to be alive? Now our bodies are sluggish, and cranky waiting for the donut to provide the happiness of a sugar high. And we all know that without fail, the drug will wear off and down we will come and low we will go; but we needn’t despair-there’s always a little something just around the corner that will boost us up again.
In short, food has become an escape from some unpleasant reality. It might just be that we are frequently sad, or that we often feel pain from the past, and instead of allowing ourselves to feel the sadness and pain, we choose to eat and experience pleasure. Whatever the reason, we cannot escape from the fact that we are responsible for our behavior. Food does not control us, and I do not believe that we are addicted to food. We choose to eat too much of it when we are sad, angry, disappointed, and overwhelmed so that we can forget for a moment.
So what is the up side? Well, once you recognize that you are not addicted to food, but sad inside, it might be easier to look at the real source of the issue. That’s why I write these articles. If it were really just about the food, then we would all be thin. But it isn’t; it’s about something deeper and more personal, and we have been running from it for most of our lives. So to deal with the food and lose the weight and maintain the loss, you will eventually have to look at what you are running from. You can do this before, during, or after you lose it, but do it you will if you are to have any hope of maintaining your goal weight!
One last point: my older brother was an alcoholic and passed away a few years ago. Life was hard on him, and it broke him. The year before he died, he asked me why I was okay. He didn’t understand how two people from the same family could be so different-he was struggling and I appeared not to be. I told him something about faith and the spirit, but to be honest, the truth was that we were very much alike. I just chose different vices. Mine have been caffeine and sugar, and I have struggled with them. My faith did help me get past some of my addictions, but in reality, I just switched them to something healthier. Perhaps I now spend my too much time thinking about what I am going to be writing for this blog! Don’t fool yourself any longer: we are the problem, not the food, not the alcohol, not the cigarettes, not the sugar, not the blog. We are all the same, and life is sometimes hard. It can rough us up and be merciless. I now know, life is also precious, and we can’t throw ourselves away during the hard times. For my brother, I now choose strength because he couldn’t see beyond weakness; I now choose love and forgiveness of myself and others because he couldn’t; I now choose happiness with my body, my life and everyone in it because he is no longer can. I do this for him, so that we don’t both throw ourselves away: I can, at least save one of us. Starting today, will you consider honoring your body as the precious, strong and beautiful gift that it is? Treat it with respect and find the strength to look at what doesn’t work in your life and fix it. The alternative is too sad. You can have health and happiness right now.
Choose life, and choose food that gives you life.

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