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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Food Addiction

How timely that as I've been thinking more and more about food addiction and its role in my life, I came across this great post by Sparkly Jules. She has a great way of getting across the pervasiveness of food addiction in one's thoughts...check it out.

I went for a run today, and again was shocked that my running felt so sluggish and slow. When I went to enter my 2.8 miles into my running log, I looked back on all the runs I have recorded. I always record my weight as well. It appears that I am the heaviest I have been since I started running almost 2 years ago. So, the sluggishness isn't all in my head.

Everything is just so. much. right now. I'm studying for boards, going to 12 step meetings, trying to figure out my marriage and maybe even improve it, going to therapy, finishing my thesis, and working full time. (Giving free anesthesia...not free for the patients, but I don't get paid.) I'm looking for a job now, one that WILL pay me, when I am done with this and have some credentials. It's been a long 2 years. I understand in my head that everything I have been attempting to do since I have been in school is a lot, and a weight gain is not a surprising affect of trying to do too much and living in too much stress. But knowing this in my head doesn't make the reality easier. I still feel tremendous pressure to lose the weight, and still do all the other things I have been doing all along.

And yet, before I can even become conscious of a surge in stress or unpleasant emotions, before I even notice the emotions, I am eating something that will give my brain a boost of endorphins and glucose, something carb-y, sugar-y, whatever. I've already eaten it before I notice what happened. This is an example of neuroplasticity; a response becomes automated in the brain, and the neural pathways that produce this response become larger and more reinforced. It is exactly what happens to addicts, when they find themselves drinking or using again despite their desire not to, and find themselves doing it before they are conscious of having done it.

The idea that we can overcome these kinds of impulses through sheer willpower seems laughable at times, and indeed research has shown that this is a large part of why diets don't work. Our brain chemistry is smarter than we are. Yet, in learning about addiction I also learn that while we are powerless over addiction (our own or another person's), we are not powerless over our behavior in response to that addiction.

So, I'm working it. I'd like to get my butt into some individual therapy to try to get a handle on the food issues. That's about 3 years too late, but it's not like I can't start now. But then again it feels like yet another thing to add to my already overflowing plate. It's a good idea, if I can make it happen.


ETA: Here is the text of Jules' post, because sometimes it's just too much to click another link. I really love this post. Be sure to read more of Sparkly Jules' blog if you have time. It's varied and experiential, and well-written, and alternately funny and hopeful and poignant.

What is Food Addiction Like?

I will attempt (donuts) to try and explain what it feels like (waffles) to be a food addict (pancakes). I had a therapist once (danish) who said he'd had it explained to him by previous (cookie) patients that it was (donuts) in some ways sexual in nature. That first bite of (donuts) of food, whatever it might be, was very orgasmic. I told him (waffles) that I agreed; it was, in many ways, a very (pie) sexual experience, one that I felt throughout my (cake) body.

I am as addicted to food (donuts) in the same way that an alcoholic (banana bread) is addicted to alcohol, and a drug addict (ice cream) is addicted to a drug. I have a paternal aunt (pudding) who has been to drug rehab five times over the last (muffins) fifteen years, and she's still not (sourdough bread) sober. Her addiction has a much more unfortunate outcome--she is unable to maintain jobs, (pizelle), relationships, and any sort of stability (cheese won tons) in her life while she is using or drinking. In fact, I've cut off all contact with her until she quits.

As a food addict, the side effects are two-fold: 1. obvious obesity 2. (donuts) poor health, although obesity does not always equal poor health, over time, it will, in one way (chocolate) or the other.

As for exercise, I would love to exercise. I always (cookies) feel better after I do it (toast with jam). In 1979 I broke a vertebrate (pizza) in my back and it has never been the same. I was sixteen. It hurts in varying degrees (cheese) nearly every day. Since I have had the Swine Flu (ham), it's been even worse. I'm not sure what the correlation is there, but that's when the (pie) pain got worse.

I took myself over to the local indoor mall New Year's Eve. I needed some (cinnamon rolls) pantyhose, and there is a Lane Giant there (waffles). Guess what? They no longer carry pantyhose. Although I''m (croissants) glad to hear that because I've always hated pantyhose, I did want a pair for NYE (baguette). So I walked that mall, and my back hurt so badly, that about every 10 minutes I had to sit down to take the pressure off of it so I could keep going (caramel corn).

Add into the (tortillas) mix my bad left knee, which I fell on 12/30/04 and never really had it seriously looked at aside from an (Trader Joe's Gorgonzola Crackers) x-ray. It ain't right, tho, I kin tell ya that. Of course, I could never convince any of my (pie) doctors that it was an injury and not weight related. (Brie.)

I also have diabetic neuropathy in my feet. It was so bad in the fall of 2005, my first semester back in college, that by the time I had (cannoli) walked across campus and then several blocks to the car, I was crying, no, sobbing. Burning, stabbing, shooting pains. I take medication for it that keeps it to a dull (tiramisu) roar, now. That and keeping my BG level. (ha ha ha!)

So, just for a moment, (strawberry shortcake) imagine that you are me. You're carrying 150 extra pounds (a whole person!), you have a bad back that has been exacerbated in some way (donuts) recently, a bad knee and bad (donuts) feet. How motivated are you, really, to get up
off of your duff?

Remember the Schick Center for weight loss and alcoholism (cream puffs)? They used aversion therapy. My GF attended for weight loss. Every time you take a bite of (cupcake) something, they shock you. With booze, they made you drink and drink and drink until you vomited your brains out (donuts).

So when I think about exercising, I think about pain, because I know I'll have it and that's just getting out of (Danish) the chair. So I am averse to exercise due to the constant pain. And yes, it is a vicious (waffles) cycle. Many people who have WLS (weight loss surgery) do not start exercising (donuts) until they have lost a significant amount of (pie) simply due to pain.
I say this not as an excuse, but as an explanation. If I decide to exercise, I have to force myself to do it, even while doing it. I have to stop and (Linzer torte) rest a lot due to back or knee pain. Oh, and then there's the asthma. I need to be careful not to set that off, too.

So you see (pancakes), it just sucks to be me.

Seriously. I'm a food addict. The only person who gets hurt is me. That does not make it any easier, nor does acknowledging that I am a food (pie) addict. (Cinnabon) it's like trying to wean yourself off of crack or meth: it's nearly impossible. And then your body (Danish) works against you by changing up your metabolism (cookies) when you do "diet": 97% of all diets fail with dieters gaining back more weight than they lost. That is a scientific fact.
It's a terrible, horrible, sad place to be. I wouldn't choose this for anyone.

Addictive personalities also don't change once they discard a harmful (pie) addictive behavior. I've known many recovering alcoholics or drug addicts who replace their substance of choice with coffee, cigarettes, candy or food, or all of the above (donuts). The addictive behavior just moves to a new place. I've seen post-WLS people suddenly become alcoholics, or compulsive shoppers or sex-addicts. It's a b*tch and a half, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone (donuts).
So I hope I've made myself clear (as Jell-O) with the insertions of food items, noticeably carbs. That's what my day is like. Food is constantly (peanut butter cookies) popping into my brain. A visual or auditory trigger can produce thoughts of food as can certain situations, and emotional (donuts) reactions, such as extreme stress or sadness (cake). It's like this for me, every d*mn day (chips).

I'm doing the best that I can here (bearclaw) with what I've got. I'm only human (napoleon).
And I have an ultra-sound scheduled for next Monday to see if there's an alien or something growing in my right side (potato salad).

Thanks for letting me share.


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