I used to abuse drugs and alcohol big time. It is absolutely astonishing to me that first, I am alive, and second, I didn’t go through any kind of rehab to quit. Instead I went through “Robhab”☺. When my husband Rob first came into my life and I found out he didn’t party, I was somehow able to quit cold turkey because I didn’t want to lose him. It’s a whole other story and a total miracle that I quit that lifestyle just like that and never went back. But because I didn’t go through true recovery (where I would have addressed feelings of WHY I used) I ended up transferring my addictive behaviors to food. I am specifically talking about Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
There was no defining moment as to when I became addicted to numbing my feelings with food, but somewhere along the line it got way out of hand. With drugs and alcohol the consequences of addiction can be harsh and they will always end up slapping you in the face; jail, blackouts, divorce, family dysfunction, loss of employment, etc. With food addiction, however, there is a certain ignorance and even acceptance of the behavior. And although BED leads to obesity and all kinds of health issues, its somehow not enough of a warning to make the person realize they need help. Its amazing how many people have never heard of it; even I hadn’t until recently . As a matter of fact, BED has only just been classified as a mental disorder this year by the American Psychiatric Association, so at least it’s starting to get attention. Here are the symptoms:
All of the following must be present to classify as Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
- Each binge consists of eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances, and is accompanied by a feeling of loss of control (i.e. they feel that they cannot stop eating and cannot control what they are eating and how much they are eating).
- The binge eating occurs, on average, at least twice a week for 6 months.
- The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior and does not occur exclusively during the course Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa.
- The person is seriously worried about the binge eating.
Also, an individual must have 3 or more of the following symptoms:
- Eats an unusually large amount of food at one time, far more than a regular person would eat.
- Eats much more quickly during binge episodes than during normal eating episodes.
- Eats until physically uncomfortable and nauseated due to the amount of food consumed.
- Eats when bored or depressed
- Eats large amounts of food even when not really hungry.
- Often eats alone during periods of normal eating, owing to feelings of embarrassment about food.
- Feels disgusted, depressed, or guilty after binge eating
What is SO important to mention, especially to those of you who are searching for answers to your own food addiction, is that from MY OWN experience and as well as those that I have sponsored or mentored with this issue, the type of food eaten during a binge is a major factor with this disorder. I went off the deep end when it came to sweets. Cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, ice cream and chocolate; it seemed impossible for me to consume them in normal servings. One cookie would turn into 10; and when there was leftover cake at a birthday party I couldn’t wait until all the guests were gone so I could grab a fork and dig in until I felt sick. These were “trigger foods” for me.
And to the vast majority of binge eaters this carb/sugar/fat mix is usually the culprit. The food industry actually engineers that stuff to stimulate our brains to keep wanting it in large quantities. And its even harder for some of us because our reward pathways are activated similar to a drug addict’s. But I have never binged on broccoli, green beans, carrots, apples, bananas, spinach, etc. You get the picture. God’s food. Real food. Healthy food that was not designed for us to want more, but rather to give us fuel for our body.
When you’re trying to break an addition to chemicals – alcohol, drugs, nicotine – the line (while not at all easy) is very clear; at some point you need to completely stop putting that stuff in your body and quit 100%. You obviously can’t do that with food and therefore the line is a lot fuzzier and harder to define. However, you can quit some foods. So one of the first things I did in my recovery process was give up desserts.
At first there was a feeling of loss when I would see or smell my trigger foods. But there is something so simple about not having a choice. You tell yourself, “Just for today I am not going eat this”. You know you won’t have it and your brain just moves on to something else. Now I have almost 4 years of sobriety from these foods (with one relapse on Thanksgiving a couple of years ago when I was alone in the kitchen with some fudge). Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to handle desserts again. But I know that today is not that day so I am choosing not to.
For most of us, it’s not our decision to become addicted to food. Often its just the way we were wired. But it IS our fault if we don’t do something about it! The alternative is to continue to be depressed, guilt-laden and miserable – just existing, fumbling through what could be a beautiful life God gave us. All this while our health (both physical and mental) deteriorates. But guess what? WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THAT WAY! It is our choice to make.
We can become “unstuck”. There IS hope for freedom. So if you’re ready to take that first step toward healing (or even if you’re NOT ready-just do it!), find what works for you. I strongly recommend the Celebrate Recovery program! But maybe for you its private counseling, or another program like Overeaters Anonymous or Food Addicts Anonymous. The important thing is to decide to get out of the cycle- get some momentum going so you can pull yourself out!
Like I say with every blog, I STILL struggle. But I struggle way, WAY less than used to because of Celebrate Recovery. It’s no coincidence the more time I spend with God (the benefits of the CR program as opposed to a secular program) the stronger my recovery is. Plus I get a front-row seat to see the healing He has done in my life and so many other lives, too!