Food Addiction: Breaking Up With Food

breaking up with food

When Breaking Up With Food Is Life Or Death

I have to break up with food before it kills me.

I clearly remember some 2 1/2 years ago when I wrote that on my weight loss blog. At 359 lbs, I weighed more than Shaquille O’Neal. I was wearing a 26/28, the very last size in Lane Bryant. I was suffering from borderline diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea, mild asthma, joint pain, and high blood pressure. I was only 28, but at the rate I was going, it wasn’t certain I would see 38.

I had to break up with food before it killed me.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t overweight. I was a chubby kid and have some memories of my mother sometimes having a hard time finding clothes for me for special occasions. She tried to help me – there were doctor’s visits, specialized weight loss programs, gym memberships and dance classes. I would have initial success and then return to my same old habits. It got to the point that I was taking money from my her purse to buy extra food. I was am an addict.

By the time I got to high school, I tipped the scales at 250lbs. I don’t ever remember weighing anything less. I joke that I went from diapers to size 3x overnight. Looking back, I can clearly identify the reasons I started gaining weight. My overdeveloped frame drew unwanted attention and thus began a sense of unease around men that still persists today. Essentially, I put on a fat suit to shield me. The fatter I got, the less attention I would draw. By the time I went off to college, I was well over 300lbs.

Even at 359lbs, I still embraced life. I started traveling internationally right after I graduated. I had romantic relationships. I dressed better than most people I knew, overweight or normal. I was always aware that I was often the largest thing in the room, but it wasn’t something that constantly bothered me. I wasn’t miserable. My personality and style was such that people didn’t treat me differently because of my weight – at least not to my face. I just went about my life as a morbidly obese woman, assuming that’s how it would always be. I didn’t even own a scale and often didn’t know my weight until my yearly physical. Like so many things in my life, if I ignored it, it wasn’t an issue.

As I entered my late twenties, I started noticing more joint pain, particularly in my knees. I was getting more winded. I was tired of carrying around the weight of two people. I discovered that I was borderline diabetic, something I had always feared. I was tired of taking up more than my share of the train seat ; tired of dreading the whispered request for a seat belt extension. I didn’t want to end up a statistic – losing my life to something preventable. I had too much to live for.

I had to do something.

I had to break up with food before I killed me.

I am Vivrant Thang, a new guest blogger here at Sweet Potato Pie. I feel I have an important story to tell -how I lost 140lbs and seven dress sizes and added years to my life. It’s not a conventional story, but one I hope that some of you will relate to and learn from.

SAD and Overeating | Food Addiction Series Part Five

Food Addiction & SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) & Overeating

Since I got back from vacation I’ve been depressed and have felt completely incapable of dealing with my weight loss goals … as a matter of fact before I went on vacation I was depressed.

Winter doesn’t work for me. I love Autumn and Spring, but I HATE winter. It isn’t just the cold that I hate, but the lack of light that I absolutely detest. In truth even though I love Autumn, from the moment the first chill in the air signals its arrival, I start to feel a creeping melancholy.

The British isles are cold, grey and damp and in the winter the days are super short. Sometimes you don’t see the sun for weeks and if you do it is fleeting – a you’ll miss it if you blink experience. For a long time I have suspected that the lack of sunlight affects my mood. Now I am sure of it.

According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association:

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated half a million people every Winter between September and April, in particular during December, January and February.

It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter.

For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. For others, it is a mild but debilitating condition causing discomfort but not severe suffering. We call this sub-syndromal SAD or ‘winter blues.’


Sleep problems: Usually desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake
but, in some cases, disturbed sleep and early morning
Lethargy: Feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
Overeating: Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, usually
resulting in weight gain
Depression: Feelings of misery, guilt and loss of self-esteem,
sometimes hopelessness and despair, sometimes
apathy and loss of feelings
Social problems: Irritability and desire to avoid social contact
Anxiety: Tension and inability to tolerate stress
Loss of libido Decreased interest in sex and physical contact
Mood changes In some sufferers, extremes of mood and short periods
hypomania (overactivity) in spring and autumn.

I definitely have a number of these symptoms. I have been depressed, lethargic, suffering from insomnia, anxious, unsociable and definitely overeating sweets.


Light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases. That is, exposure, for up to four hours per day (average 1-2 hours) to very bright light, at least ten times the intensity of ordinary domestic lighting.
Antidepressant Drugs like Prozac are effective in alleviating the depressive symptoms and combing well with light therapy.
, counselling or any complementary therapy which helps the sufferer to relax, accept their illness and cope with its limitations are extremely useful.
Vigorous exercise, especially outdoor activities.

My partner bought me a light therapy box for my birthday a few weeks ago and I have been using it religiously. It has completely alleviated my symptoms and I have been able to turn my attention once again to addressing my food/weight issues. As mentioned in my last post, I have returned to Greysheeter Anonymous program and so far it has been as wonderful as it was the first time around. I feel well on my way to successfully addressing my obesity. In GSA we weigh in once a month so I will now be providing monthly updates of my progress.


What Is The Hunger About? | Food Addiction Series Part Four

Food Addiction Hunger

Food Addiction: What Is The Hunger About?

By the time I finished reading Listen to the Hunger by Elisabeth L., I understood clearly for the first time that I was using food, mostly sweet foods, to mask various issues in my life.

I was desperate as the author said to get “unstuck” from this behaviour. I was ready to learn the answer to the question “What is the hunger really about?” I called the woman who’d recommended the book and we had a good chat at the end of which she invited me to accompany her to my first “Greysheet Overeaters Anonymous” meeting.

Greysheet Overeaters Anonymous is a 12 step program and like all 12 step programs it is based on the principles and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous and believes that the first step to recovery is to first admit that there is a problem. I knew I had a problem and I was desperate to find a solution, so I had absolutely no reservation about getting up during that first meeting and saying: “Hi I am Nona, I am a compulsive overeater and sugar addict.” That evening I got a sponsor (someone to support and guide me) who gave me a low-carb food plan known as the Greysheet food plan and the next day I began the most amazing journey of my life.

When I started the program, I had reached an all time high of about 86kgs/190lbs. Over one year at a consistent rate of about 5-6 pounds per month I lost 31kgs/70lbs to achieve 55kgs/120lbs. for the first time in my adult life. I maintained that weight for 5 years.

In order to lose the weight and maintain it I ate 3 meals from the Greysheet food plan which consisted of fruit, vegetables, and protein. I weighed and measured everything I ate without exception even when I ate out. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life but it was also the most freeing. I also ran for ½ an hour five days a week and lifted 5-10lb free weights in my apartment. I stayed in Greysheet for 5 years and then switched to regular Overeaters Anonymous because I wanted a less rigid food plan.

OA did not recommend a specific food plan and my weight fluctuated a little as I tried to figure out what food plan would work best for me. Finally I decided to use the Greysheet food plan and continue to weigh and measure but with exception. I returned to my optimal weight of 55kgs/120lbs.

Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight changed my life in several ways. for the first time I felt comfortable in my own body. I was amazed at it … at what it could do. I loved to run, jump, skip move. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to move. Having been overweight my entire life, movement didn’t always come easily to me. I loved the way my clothes fitted and I loved the confidence looking great gave me.

As great as the impact on my body was, the impact on my psyche of doing the 12 steps program and seeking therapy was more profound. Slowly over 10 years I was able to excavate, examine and resolve in the minutest of detail the debris of my life. Finally I understand what the hunger is about for me.

After 10 years of “recovery”, I thought, “okay this is it. I’ve got this thing all wrapped up.” Well, I was to discover that when it comes to addiction you never have things all wrapped up.

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!



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.