So many people, including health care professionals like doctors and therapists, deny that food addiction is real. I’m here to say to you that they’re wrong. I struggled with food addiction for 38 years of my life. I’m only 45 so you do the math. I was not food addicted as a very young child nor have I been in the last two years since my surgery.
Food Addiction in Action
To me, obesity is a mental and physical disease. People use food to cope just like drug addicts use drugs or alcoholics use alcohol. Food becomes their coping mechanism. Whenever they have an uncomfortable feeling, a food addict eats. They are trying to mask their pain so that they can feel better again.
It’s true that certain foods like simple carbs (found in cake, cookies, brownies, etc.) can help to boost serotonin and dopamine, which are feel-good chemicals, for a short period of time. So, in essence, these types of foods can be a form of medicine for the person who needs more significant help in finding coping mechanisms to deal with their pain.
Unfortunately, as time goes on, more and more food is needed to get the same boost. You go from a single brownie to a plate of brownies to get the same ‘high’, and your weight balloons up to a point that’s out of control.
My Struggle with Food Addiction
The food addict has become significantly obese. Usually, they are morbidly obese. Me, I was at a 68 BMI. That’s off the charts. I had learned to eat my way up to 400 lbs. I became a weight gaining machine. My body was out of whack. My metabolism didn’t know what to do. I would diet and lose a little bit of weight, never anything significant. Then, I’d gain it back plus some. It was very frustrating.
People thought I wasn’t trying to change my situation, but I was. It hurt and I took a lot of that negativity in. It only caused me more pain, which led to some serious bingeing. I was stuck in a vicious cycle, one that I didn’t know how to get out of.
Overcoming Food Addiction is Not Easy
I had a lap band in 2010. I thought it would ‘fix’ me. I did lose a significant amount of weight. However, I had problems with the device from the get go. Three years passed – and a lot of doctor’s visits – before I finally gave in and had it removed. By this time, I realized I needed help with figuring out why I ate. I knew there was a reason, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.
I began working with Alexa Sparkman. She’s a nutritionist in Austin, Texas, who runs a support group called Overcoming Mind Hunger. I went through the introductory group on three different occasions and worked one on one with Alexa. The first time I went through the group, I did not want to be there. I was only able to keep down pudding and yogurt with my failed lap band and I was pissed off.
I did read a lot of the books Alexa had on her shelves. I loved the Geneen Roth books about emotional eating and how to overcome it by eating intuitively. I didn’t believe I could have this life with eating what I wanted and not gaining weight. I didn’t believe or trust that my body would return to its normal weight on its own.
The Turning Point
At some point, I began to realize that I could do what others had done and begin to intuitively eat. I learned about physical vs. physiological hunger. This was key to me. I didn’t know about it. Alexa patiently waited until I got it – sometime around the third time I was in her support group and after we had down some significant work together.
I realized that there are no good or bad foods. When I though that way, food was either a punishment or a reward. I needed to get my mind in place. My body had regained the weight I had lost with the lap band. I was upset, but knew I needed to figure this shit out or I would never lose weight again.
Finally, I decided to have the second weight loss surgery in June of 2017. It was not an easy decision and I kind of fought it. I thought I could figure out how to lose weight for good on my own. Then, I hurt my knee really bad. They thought I needed surgery. In order to get insurance approval, I needed to get down to a 40 BMI.
The only way I could do that was to have another weight loss surgery. I was reluctant to say the least, but Alexa assured me that I was a different person and that I would be successful this time.
Alexa was right, as usual. I have lost over 175 lbs to date. I exercise daily and I eat intuitively. I know when I’m hungry and I know when I’m full. I do NOT count calories and I eat what I want. What I want has changed significantly, however. I do not crave cookies although I still eat them occasionally. You can make room in your life for the foods you used to think were bad…just not everyday and certainly not to cope with your feelings.
I feed by body, not my mind or soul. You can learn to do the same. Get the information you need to overcome food addiction with my Intuitive Eating Education package. Invest in yourself and let me help.