What To Do When Food Is Your Obsession

Food Obsession

Food Obsession: How To Gain Control

Hey All!

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving weekend! I took some “me” time, got mani’d and pedi’d and the hair did, and got a few things done around the house for Christmas! Didn’t do too bad on Turkey Day – managed to fry one up without burning down someone’s house or having to roll someone around in the grass……

I really would like to be funny tonite (or today, depending on when you are reading this), and I had a couple of ideas on what I would write, but something happened just a few hours ago that has kind of shaken me up .

I put a question to Nona earlier this week about being obsessed with the whole weight loss thing. I admit, I dwell on this subject more than I should, almost to the point to where it takes over most of my conversations. Nona informed me that she rarely brings the subject up herself, and that she uses her blog to vent and rant about the struggle. Sooo…I’m gonna take her lead and do that tonite.

For the month of November, I have been in all or nothing mode. I think with the weigh in being right after the holiday and me not reaching some of the goals that I had set for myself had put me in a tailspin. All that I have been able to think about is those numbers on the scale, what I they say now and what I would like them to say by weigh in. I planned what I was going to eat until then, when my period came and how I was going to deal with the excess bloat and how I was going to handle Thanksgiving.

The week of the holiday, I was on a downward slide, so I figured if I upped my water, and ate only when I was hungry I could get a good jump in before the next Tuesday. My only big meal was lunch. On Thanksgiving, I would only have that one good meal. Plus walking every nite, no matter how cold.

Well, it worked. I would have my flavoured coffee w/cream and a few macadamia nuts, a good lunch or a nice meal around five (nothing big after 7p) drink my 64oz of water, then go and do my power walk. Last Monday I was at 222 – this morning I weighed in at 217. I haven’t lost 5 lbs in a week since this whole thing started. And I admit, I felt great!! I finally had control over this thing…..

Compulsive Eating

Control…remember this word, we will be coming back to it…

I took and extra vacation day to rest up from the weekend and get a few things done. I ran my mom to her doctor appointment, we did a little shopping and I started and completed a small painting project. I got ADHD, what can I say? Anyhoo, I looked up and realized that it was about 7:15 and I had not had any dinner or water. I had a small salad for lunch, and I was very hungry so I made some tuna salad and poured myself 20oz of water. By 7:45, I had eaten the salad and managed to drink all 64 oz of water. The water was no problem, it was the food that I was having trouble with. On the Atkins Diet or any diet, you are advised to eat until satisfied, not stuffed. Because I was hungry, I was eating a bit more that I would have liked, but I noticed that I was trying to make do with two or three bites of food. I was equating the feeling of hunger and an empty stomach with the weight loss, when just the opposite is true. So I choked down a little more and finished off the rest of my allotted water.

Now, I usually go walking about an hour after my last meal. It was pretty late so I decided to do maybe a half hour on the stair stepper and call it good. That was before I got on the scale..

See, I am a scale junkie…I would say that I weigh myself 3-6 times a day. I use the scale to measure how much exercise, if any, that I would do that nite to either maintain my current weight or lose for the week. On a normal day of eating , if I weighed in before my walk, my weight would be up about 2 lbs.

When I weighed in tonite, the scale read 224 – seven pounds! I had a panic attack, my head literally swam. All that I could think about was how I blew it, how I shouldn’t have eaten that damn tuna (never mind that a gallon of water probably weighs 5lbs) and how I am not going to make my goal for the weigh in tomorrow. Then I looked in the mirror and something happened that made me almost get sick.

I didn’t like what I saw. You know how you look at circus mirrors and it’s all distorted? That’s how I looked. All that I could see was an old “before” image of me.

Emotional Eating

Well that did it – I bundled up and at 9:00 pm in 27 degree weather, I headed out for a four mile walk. Only, I didn’t walk. I felt crazy, just really anxious and the walk didn’t feel like it was doing any good. I still felt bloated, I felt bigger. So I started to run. Not jog, not fastwalk, but run – and run til I was out of breath. Then I would slow down, catch my breath and run some more. I probably was running two blocks and walking two blocks, something that I always wanted to be able to do at this point in my exercise training. And I tried to tell myself that I was finally getting to a new level, but I knew exactly what I was doing.

I was trying to control my body and get rid of this ugly feeling of failure that I had. A scale – an inanimate object – had me losing my mind. Look, I am far from being an anorexic, but I got a taste of what goes on and it scared me. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was so important to be at a certain weight or why I was being so competitive in the first place. Or why I was panicking.

So, I arrived home winded and confused, and immediately sat down and took a minute to count my blessings. My mom is in good health, my brothers are prosperous and have their right minds, I have great friends both here and in the blogosphere, I am gainfully employed and life overall is good and filled with God’s blessings.

So why can’t I get over the scale? I did weigh myself again – the running worked, down to 219. And I have told myself that I will be happy with whatever the scale says tomorrow – but I don’t know if I believe that…..

Til next time…..

Oh! Shout out to Nona! Glad you are feeling better! And to Dia at Runchilde, congrats on your recent loss! You will be on that motorcycle in no time!



Listen to the Hunger | Food Addiction Series Part Three

Food Addiction

Food Addiction: Beginning Road To Recovery

Moving to the USA to attend graduate school, was a big change for me. Moving is generally recognised as one of life’s big stressors, and this move was no exception. It wasn’t just the challenge of getting used to a new environment that was problematic for me, I’d lived in Paris for two years preceding my move to the USA and so was prepared for that challenge. The thing that made the move most difficult for me was America’s racial politics which depending on one’s temperament, can generate more distress and heartache than any human should have to endure. My sense of displacement, alienation, disillusionment, hurt and anger manifested themselves as a gnawing hunger which eating did not satisfy.

This hunger grew more and more insatiable as time went on. I felt as though a huge hole had opening up in my soul and I needed to fill it to survive … to be whole. At first I would make myself little treats that I’d always enjoyed at home over conversations with my friends. I was trying I guess to recreate the warmth and connectedness of those moments. When that didn’t work I increased the quantities and when that didn’t work I began to branch out, trying one thing after another in larger and larger quantities. By the time I was consuming 20,000 calories a day in cakes, ice cream, sweet biscuits, chocolates and growing larger and larger, I realised that I was locked in a destructive cycle from which I desperately wanted to escape.

Every morning I tried to start fresh. I’d promise myself that I would not eat as I had done the day before. Sometimes I made it until 10am, sometimes noon but always I caved in before the day was over. It often started with having just one chocolate bar and that one would lead to 10 within an hour, which would lead to whole cakes, pints of ice cream, boxes of sweet biscuits etc.

Compulsive Eating

Luckily for me, I happened to be invited to a party about 6 months into my binging career, where I overheard a women talking about her problems with compulsive overeating. I was not that familiar with the term then but I recognised it immediately as one that fitted my behaviour very well. I managed to catch her alone later on that evening and asked her how she managed to stop compulsively eating. She suggested I read a book called Listen to the Hunger by Elisabeth L. and gave me her number to call her once I’d read it. I got the book a few days later. It is quite a small book. Only 84 pages and I read it in one sitting as I cried and binged on chocolate bars.

The introduction read:

If someone habitually overeats, it is safe to say that person is hooked on using food to do things food cannot do. Habitual overeating is an addiction as powerful as the addiction to alcohol or other drugs. In many ways, it is even more difficult to deal with food abuse, since no one can stop eating completely. We can put alcohol and other drugs out of our lives. We do not need either substance for survival. We do need food. We must find a way to identify our legitimate hunger for food without letting it expand and absorb other hungers that need to be fed.

If whenever we feel a twinge of emotion, our first impulse is to put something in our mouths, we are misreading our inner signals. The key to getting “unstuck” is learning to pay attention to what is behind the craving for excess food. What needs are being masked or covered up by the desire to eat more? What is the hunger about?

The path away from food abuse leads out of the boredom and despair of compulsion into a many-splendored world of feeling and participation. The way out is sometimes steep and twisting, with temporary roadblocks, detours, and slippery places. It is a path to be travelled daily with all the aid and assistance we can get. Professional healers can help. So can fellow travellers. Our greatest resource – which is always available – is the inner voice that tells us who we are, what we feel, and what we need. If we will take time to listen and learn, we will slowly discover what the hunger is all about. The hunger will lead to an ever-increasing knowledge of what life is all about. We will grow through our hungers into greater understanding and strength. Each day will be richer and fuller. We will not cease to be hungry, but will learn what satisfies.

That was the beginning for me of a long and arduous journey of recovery from compulsive eating and sugar addiction to a healthy and balanced life.

Read The Entire Food Addiction Series

The Beginning of An Abusive Love Affair | Food Addiction Series Part Two

Food Addiction Series

The Origins Of My Food Addiction

I have searched my memory for the one defining moment that moved me from a “normal” eater to a “not-so-normal” one, but I can’t find it.

I don’t think there was just one defining moment but rather many little moments that had the cumulative effect of driving me to eat more than my body needed for its health.

My parents, though married for 50 years, have had an acrimonious and contentious relationship which I think created great obstacles to them being emotionally available parents. They fed, clothed, housed, schooled and protected us, but they were almost completely incapable of providing emotional stability, nurturing, support or guidance.

When I look back at my childhood, I still feel keenly my sadness, loneliness, bewilderment and fear. I suspect that my inability to manage so many distressing and destabilising emotions drove me to seek comfort in sweet foods. Of course, I don’t remember the exact moment or circumstance when it struck me that sweets had special powers to anaesthetise pain, but I do remember that from the age of 8, I developed such an obsession with sugary foods that I was driven to steal coins from my father’s trouser pockets to finance my growing taste for toffees, sugar cakes, nut brittle, boiled sweets and whatever else I could get a hold of. I was even willing to risk the wrath of God, by keeping half the money my mother gave me for Sunday School collection each Sunday, to buy sweets on my way home from church.

Emotional Eating

My mother ran a very healthy kitchen and she rarely gave us snacks or sweets, so I had to be very careful about concealing my habit from my parents and my three sisters. One thing I could not conceal though was my growing body. I moved from an average sized little girl to a chubby one seemingly overnight if you go by my childhood photos. Yet I don’t remember anyone expressing alarm or realising that something must be wrong.

A few years ago I told my mother about my stealing and secret binges as a child and in her characteristically emotionally detached way, she said, “Oh that’s why you used to bring your lunch back home almost everyday.”

I didn’t remember not eating my lunch, but I did remember eating so many sweets between leaving school and arriving home that I didn’t have any appetite for dinner and would often just nibble stuff and push my food around my plate to make it look like I’d eaten something so I wouldn’t get into trouble for not eating.

I asked my mother if she didn’t find it strange that I didn’t eat lunch and sometimes didn’t eat dinner, but was growing fatter by the minute. She just shrugged which I took for a ‘no’.

When people talk about obesity being a family illness, they are usually referring to parents who overeat and cultivate the same habits in their children, but what you hear less about is children eating to comfort themselves in a dysfunctional environment or parents who are themselves a healthy weight but watch their children growing fat without acknowledging that something is terribly wrong in their child’s life.

My mother did try to intervene a few times when I was a teenager, after doctors warned her that I was too heavy for my height, but whatever strategy suggested by the doctor she tried to enforce never worked because it did not take into account the reason for my eating.

When I left primary school for high school at 11, I no longer had to steal to acquire sweets because I got an allowance and could buy whatever I wanted. It seems to me though that when I entered high school my consumption of sweets slowed down and though I did continue to have what I called at the time a “sweet tooth”, it didn’t seem quite as intense as it had been in primary school. I went from what I now understand was “binging” to “grazing”, which essentially means that while I still needed sugar I no longer felt the need to eat huge amounts of it all day long. I just took smaller quantities throughout the day. So for example instead of having 5 bags of M&Ms for lunch. I would have lunch and one packet of M&Ms after for a treat. If my friends and I went out for ice-cream intead of ordering a double cone in front of them and then when they were gone doubling back for two more double cones, I was satisfied with my double cone while they ate their singles.

I was definitely still attached to sugar and I was still overweight but as I grew less emotionally dependent on my parents and began to develop my own life and perhaps some emotional resilience, sugar played a more minor role in my life … that is until I moved to the United States for graduate school

Read The Entire Food Addiction Series

Compulsive Eating: When You’ve Fallen Off The Wagon

Compulsive Eating

How To Control Your Compulsive Eating

Hey All!

It’s been like a rollercoaster these past few days! Yes, I fell off of the wagon, but I am back on and holding on to the reigns!

“Oh goodness, Tracy, how ever did that happen?” I can truthfully say that it was not my fault….It was my Uncle’s fault….He died. The wake was last Friday and the funeral was on Saturday. All weekend long I was up to my ass in fried chicken, sweet potato pie (I ate a whole one by myself), greens, dressssinng, and every kind of cake you can imagine.

Ladies, it was not pretty. Now I know how drug addicts feel when they relapse – I totally lost control. And I kept telling myself “Okay, just have one more piece of this pie, then stop. You can cheat a little, it won’t hurt”. Next thing you know, Sunday morning I’m at the all you can eat breakfast buffet with two plates full of french toast sticks and a bowl of maple syrup. The maple syrup was my beverage…

What stopped me dead in my tracks was two things – I started to feel dizzy and lightheaded from all of the sugar and carbs that I was eating, and I totally forgot about a certain purple sequined dress that I had to squeeze in THAT NEXT SATURDAY!!

Compulsive Eating

Soooo, I put that weekend behind me, and started fresh last Monday – four pounds heavier!! have managed to shed two of those pounds so far, and my goal before the next weigh in is 10 lbs. I want to be in the 2-teens by the end of the month. I can do it….but for right now, I gotta get in that dress!

It’s a cute little number…I was going to post pics this time, but the dress wasn’t fitting as smoothly as I would have liked. But no problem!! I came up with a solution tonite as I was retrying the dress on.

Now, ladies, Moi is a firm believer in foundations – ya know, girdles! Put one on, drop a size and smooth out the love handles, plus they help your posture. You won’t be able to exhale, and you are probably crushing some major organs, but who really needs a liver and a pancreas anyway? You are looking good, that’s all that matters!

The dress is a little snug around my problem area – the middle! I swear, I look like an apple on two sticks. I am doing 50 crunches a night and it is helping some, but I gotta look good by Saturday, so I needed a quick fix. Now, the girdles that I have are pretty much for support, so if you have a belly and no waist line, they kind of meld into one round like shape. For this dress, I needed some hips and a waistline, so I went to the tried and true method for fakin‘ the funk…..

That’s right, I reached for the Saran Wrap! Laff if you want to, that stuff is better than Spanx! And cheaper too! Five or six go rounds around my middle and WALA! – instant waistline! And as an added bonus, once you are wrapped like a mummy, you don’t want to eat as much because you are scared of the whole thing rolling into a big tourniquet and cutting you in half!

HAHAHA! Don’t ya love being a girl? I’m not even going to mention the purple suede matching shoes that deform my feet as I walk! By Sunday morning, I’m going to have hoofs (hooves?) but Saturday nite, I’m gonna look great!

Well, I think the lesson we all can learn from this is :

a. When you are dieting, try not to have relatives die. If they can’t help it, don’t go to any funerals til after you have reached your goal.

b. When you fall, get right back up, forgive yourself, and carry on. No one is perfect, and the road to success is paved with little slip ups.

c. French Toast sticks RULE!!

d. Saran Wrap is a girl’s best friend.

Til next time, keep up the good fight ladies! YOU CAN DO IT!

I’m A Compulsive Eater And Sugar Addict | Food Addiction Series Part One

Compulsive Eater

Compulsive Eater And Sugar Addict

A long time ago I came to the realisation that I was a sugar addict and compulsive overeater. This realisation did not come overnight. It took years to understand myself and my relationship with food.

I was a pretty normal eater and average sized kid up until the age of 8, but around 8 I developed an abnormal and unconscious relationship with food. Abnormal because I used food particularly sugary foods not just to fuel my body’s functions but to comfort, nurture and protect myself. Unconscious because for a long time I didn’t understand that that was what I was doing.

I have lived in Barbados, France, the USA and Britain and though these are very different societies in many ways, two of the things they have in common regarding obesity is their lack of understanding of many of the psycho-social issues that create obesity and their assumption that overweight or obese people are simply greedy, lack willpower, don’t care about ourselves, have not pride, are lazy, stupid etc. and therefore can be ridiculed subtly or overtly and generally discriminated against.

I’m not a doctor, dietician, psychiatrist or psychologist and I don’t pretend to know everything about obesity. What I do know from my own experience however, is that obesity is a symptom and the most successful way to treat it is to identify and address its root cause(s).

Thanks to Sweet Potato Pie for affording me a space for this weekly post sharing my history as a compulsive eater and sugar addict, and my journey to living a healthier life.