Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Does Eating Addictive Foods Interfere With Keeping the Pounds Off?

On Diane's fabulous, newly designed blog, Fit to the Finish, she wrote about the addictive nature of some foods. She wrote:
Disney's Figment of Imagination.
Chocolate. Diet drinks. Sugar. Caffeine.Cheese. Meat. Do these foods and others really hold us in their power, or is it all a figment of our imagination?
I have a great imagination but I do not tend to dream up nightmares. That is exactly what living with active food addiction is: a nightmare. Just yesterday, someone I know personally had a family member take her life rather than try to continue to live with rampant food addiction. Took. Her. Life. Figments of imagination do not kill. Out of respect for the family I will not give her name but I hope my friend knows that I mention her cousin here in the hope that just one person will be spared the pain of thinking they are alone with this illness. 

Diane also wrote: 
I didn’t eat chocolate for about two months when I first started losing weight that last time. The first couple of days were hard. Really hard. Not only was I trying to make healthier choices, but I also gave up a love of mine. I can’t say that I went through withdrawal from chocolate, but I certainly missed it a LOT! After the first week, it started to get better, and I didn’t think about it all the time. After a month it was pretty easy, and the second month was a cinch.
 When I do not have the first bite of something, I am saved from the untold number of bites that will follow the first. With addictive food, it is easier not to have any than it is to try and portion it out. Oh, I may get away with it  the first time and maybe the second a few days later but soon I will be deep in the shit. (Yes, I said shit. Fyi: that is the one word I dislike above all other words in the English language). 

Diane also wrote:
As the months went by I realized that I had finally broken my affair with chocolate. I could enjoy it – yes, but I didn’t have to eat pound after pound of it.
It's the million calorie question
This topic really hit home for me because I know the helplessness of food addiction in my life. The difference between an addict and someone who just overindulges in chocolate is that someone who gives up alcohol, drugs or nicotine does not get to go back and have them two months later without finding themselves back in the throes of addiction pretty quick. Diane is pretty lucky that she has been thus far able to return to an addictive food that she use to overeat by a pound every day. I am sure she cannot be the only one who has had this experience. I think it is amazing but I also think it is a rare phenomenon. There are people who dove back in after YEARS without their addictive food. I cannot imagine an addict being cured of the addictive nature of their food substance at two months to the point that they never again overeat it.

 I have tried to go back to my addictive foods over and over and over and over again. Each and every time I have had to once again remove them from my food plan or watch the scale creep, crawl and then spin upwards to obesity range. As an added evil bonus, the weight came back on quicker with each experiment in returning to those foods. I am not like Diane. I need to remember this and accept it or I will kill myself trying again and again to eat my danger foods.

I can have the lemon
I did not want to live like that anymore. Unlike the non-addict, there is no guarantee - none, that once I try experimenting with a food I have already identified as addictive to me, that I will ever again be physically, emotionally and spiritually willing to put it down and leave it down. In 1992 , I picked up a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup followed by ice cream and pizza during a personal crisis and I did not become willing to put my addictive foods down again for over 14 years. Even knowledge of this does not protect me from repeating the behavior. I am an addict. Self knowledge cannot trump the addict's behavior when the physical or emotional cravings for a food fix are ruling my behavior. 

Let me be perfectly frank: I lost 220 pounds while still occasionally consuming flour, milkfat, sugar, chocolate, etc, etc, etc. I have maintained the weight loss with physical, emotional and spiritual clarity and real peace only by severely limiting first, milkfat, then finally: sugar. During the time I was still having sugar, I did not consume anything made with hfcs or any corn syrup. I only removed sugar from my daily plan in the past year. It was time. The addiction bell has been rung and you know it cannot be un-rung. 

I know men and women who are maintaining 75, 100, 200++ pounds of weight loss for years and decades without gaining back their weight over the years, without surgery, without drugs. These are real people in my life who I can see and touch and hug. Most of them maintain their weight by staying free of sugar and flour. Those who still play a food game and tempt the tiger in her cage do so with great caution and they remain ever mindful of the food. I am tired of the Tiger getting her claws into me. I do not want to play that game anymore. It isn't a fun game. It is a matter of life and death.

Some people are addicts. Some are just eat too much. These are two different types of people. If you have experienced the helpless feeling of addiction you know what I am talking about. If you have not, you cannot know. It is one of those 'you had to be there' things.

Can you eat what you want without crossing over into that place where you cannot stop? 



Karen said...

Jane I'm in the same boat. I cannot eat my trigger foods ( solid chocolate, wheat, processed sugar) without intense cravings. I've been this way since age 5 .

It is a matter of life and death. I'm so sorry to hear about your friends cousin. It is so sad to loose someone by a disease that is not always diagnosed and/or treated correctly ( in my opinion ) in mainstream medicine.

Thank you for your honest posts about what I consider to be a chronic , life long disease that can only be in remission via abstinence. There is no moderation for me. But with abstinence there is life.

Once I considered my trigger foods as an allergy, it helped me deal with it. My other food sensitivities are strawberries and watermelon. As an adult I get huge migraines when I eat them ( I miss them so,but who wants to have a crushing headache?). Eating my trigger foods is like body & emotional migraine. Who wants that? Also, allergies are not my fault, so thinking of it that way helps me day to day.

Thanks again and I'm sorry for your friends loss.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
downsizers said...

I don't really think it's an addiction for me. For me, it's an emotion and then I choose foods that are bad for me. I don't crave carbs if I limit them. It's kind of a "chicken or the egg" thing for me. Many people testify as you have that the addiction is a demon- out to destroy. I am so sorry about your friend's cousin. I also know that I am in control better at some times than at others. It's better just to stay away from that toxic poison sugar.

Anonymous said...

It's so difficult dealing with food and it makes me sad. I've had to watch what I eat for over 30 years (I'm 60), and I wish I didn't have to. After reading Dr. Gott's book "No Flour, No Sugar" I've come to realize I too have an addiction to those two items. Getting rid of them hasn't been easy, and I'm still working on it, but I think it's the answer to my struggles.

Thank you for your posts and my heart goes out to your friend.

Wishful Shrinking said...

You know I think that once I understood that addiction is an allergy of the body that creates an obsession of the mind everything got so much clearer for me. I think I could have cut off my disease at the pass if I had not played with my food so much. But I didn't and once a cucumber is a pickle it cannot ever be a cucumber again. I am a pickle. I am a sugar addict.

Lisa said...

It took a LONG time for me to finally have a good relationship with food. There are still certain foods that pop up here and there that I feel that pull to binge on but I try to resist it the best I can.

Jane Cartelli said...

Karen - Thank you so much. I think like an allergy, too. But I have to be careful because just as there are desensitizing shots for allergies, I get it into my head that I can be de-sensitized to sugar! LOL - not going to happen today!

Downsizer - I think there are recreational users, users, and addicts. Ever the overachiever, I went for addict! I am glad I can laugh at it now.

Anonymous - Staying away from that sugar and flour is the answer for many, from what I have witnessed.

Wishful - from one pickle to another: At least we are DILLicious!

Lisa - Constant vigilance is the answer for some people because it DOES work for them and they don't binge. When the binges became too hard to ignore, I had to move into the next category.

THANK YOU everyone for Commenting!

Marjorie said...

I've had infuriating chocolate cravings since grade school. A few years ago I realized they although they vary a lot, they never last past 700 calories worth of chocolate intake. So I started eating 700 calories more of other foods, thinking maybe my body just wasn't registering energy-hunger correctly. It didn't put a dent in the cravings but it was an interesting experiment.

Limiting my exposure to chocolate does not affect the cravings. Cutting out flour and dairy didn't either. I am almost positive they are caused by some wacky carbohydrate metabolism problem. Why I need carbs in the form of chocolate as opposed to, say, cupcakes, I don't know. Perhaps that is where the addictive quality of chocolate comes in.

BTW: One of the things I've tried over the years to fight the cravings was 5HTP, a form of tryptophan, which Julia Ross mentions in either The Diet Cure or The Mood Cure. In 24 hours the craving was gone. I had a pile of Trader Joe's milk chocolate in plain sight on my kitchen counter that I didn't even think about.

Unfortunately, after a week I reacted the way I do to a lot of supplements: splitting headaches, complete insomnia, zombie brain, and bloating, which sort of defeated the purpose. (The symptoms were not due to sugar detox.) But it was very exciting for a few days there.