Weight Loss

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Food Junkie

I never used to believe in food addiction. I didn't understand how anyone could be addicted to something you need to live. Isn't that like being an oxygen addict, or a water addict?

Well, no, I am realizing. It is not. We don't become addicted to the stuff we actually need to live, like whole grains and protein. Too bad! It is not very different from becoming addicted to gambling, or sex, or anything that produces a "high" in your brain. We actually aren't addicted to the food (or sex or gambling), we are addicted to our own brain chemicals that make us feel good. It is a pattern that we learn from childhood, for most of us. That is what tends to make it addictive: early on, we learned that certain foods make us feel good, comforted, loved. Our parents gave them to us to reward us, or we would eat them when we heard our parents fighting in the other room, or we observed other family members compulsively overeating and learned the behavior. Early on, eating certain things became associated with positive feelings, and they become our most powerful coping mechanism.

I know this isn't news to anyone reading this who has had WLS, or who has ever had a weight problem.

I am doing my own recovery work, unrelated (so I thought) to my eating, because I am married to a man with addictions. I'm learning that it was no mistake that I married an addict--wonderful person though he is. I was raised by parents who were at least food addicts, and I don't mean that in the sense of people who claim to be "addicted" to chocolate or Coach purses or Carmex. I realized when I first started goint to Al-Anon that the families people were describing were alcoholic families, and they were exactly like mine, except no one in my family drank or did drugs. They did, however, have an exceptionally unhealthy relationship with food, so much so that I believe they acted like any other addicts, and we all learned to respond to the addiction like any other codependent does. It sounds crazy if you haven't lived it. But I am certain that some of my readers have experienced the very same thing.

It has been through working my own recovery that I have realized how much I use food to cope with stress. STILL. Now that the blush of new WLS has worn off, 2 1/2 years after surgery, I don't have that "high" to keep me strictly adhering to my food plan. Like I described before, my days go pretty much according to plan, but I get home and I am "hungry" and foraging. Where I used to be able to listen to my stomach and stop if I wasn't physically hungry, now I am finding that to be much harder. I can actually notice now that eating sugar calms my anxiety and stress, something I didn't used to really be aware of. It is scary to observe this happening, and feel powerless to stop it.

I am undecided on how I want to try to get a handle on this. I feel pretty sure that I am not going to get to my goal weight (or really lose any more weight at all) if I don't get some better way to handle life than overeating. If it weren't for my band, I would be eating much more than I do now, and would have regained more than the 5 pounds I do have. I know the usual strategies, like exercising more, drinking tea, journaling, seeing a counselor etc. But I feel like this problem is much more core to who I am as a person than these simple behavior changes. I feel like something much deeper has to change if I am going to have a lasting way of maintaining my weight. It may involve going to OA meetings, although frankly OA scares me, with their Gray Sheets and eating soberly. And I don't know what their relationship with bariatric patients is like: are they accepting? Surely there must be many WLSers in OA meetings. I will probably just start by talking to our counselor about this and getting an idea from there on how I want to deal with this problem in a real and lasting way.

How have you all dealt with these kinds of issues? Any suggestions?


Bea said...

I've been reading your blog for almost a year now, as I went thru my insurance company's 6 month plan. Prior to my discharge from the hospital the nurse gave me brochures for OA. To my surprise she admitted being a sugar addict and that she attended meetings regularly. She said that she gave all her WLS patients the brochures to help when the old ways kicked in. Unfortunately it's been only 6 months since I was banded and I'm back sliding. I say if you recognize the issue OA can't hurt.

Diz said...

Wow! That's a toughie. We sound a lot alike when it comes to our families and addiction. I married an alcoholic knowing the signs and that I'm attracted to the very nature of addiction. While OA didn't exactly speak to me, I still say the Serenity Prayer and work hard at recognizing when my triggers are pulled.

Last week, after a particularly stressful morning, I headed to the pasta bar at work and got the alfredo with procuitto, sausage and chicken..all the veggies and cream sauce. While I loved every bite, I know exactly why I was eating it and what set me off. Fortunately, I've been good at not falling for it, but I lapse every now and then.

I know I will always fight the addiction but I'm beginning to like myself...flaws and all. Keep in mind Girlie, I'm only a year out from my surgery, so .....a work in progress.