I really avoided writing this. For the least two or three days I tried to process my feelings and compose my thoughts. It is not a stretch to say that I am ashamed and embarrassed to even type this. I do feel it is important to share a personal struggle, and it may provide help to someone else who is struggling with the same issue. It is weird to say this, but I feel numb because I realize this has been my struggle for 20 years. I am an addict. To be more specific I have an addiction to food. I know it sounds ridiculous, and I would not blame you if you snickered a little bit. I have a physical addiction to food. In the last week or so my struggle with food culminated. I realized that I am wired in a way that food has become an unhealthy priority in my life.
Allow me to explain…
I grew up competitive, athletic, and I loved endurance running. I never thought weight would be an issue for me. Looking back now even then I knew I had an unhealthy relationship with food. Then this last year I lost 75 pounds with intermittent fasting and juicing one meal a day. I worked at changing my diet, and I focused on fixing the issues that plague my physical health. To me it was always temporary. I knew if I stayed disciplined and lost weight I could go back to eating what I loved.
Recently I listened to a podcast on addiction, and the podcast talked about addiction in a way where it applied to me. It scared me, and I really looked into my relationship with food. It became clear to me that even though I never saw it this way before I was an addict. I am addicted to food.
Below I outlined the excuses and realizations I had made for myself that helped me to stay in this unhealthy lifestyle. These are also the ways I will be changing my thoughts on food to build a more healthy relationship and overcome my addiction. I know this is not a fight I will win on my own, and it will be an ongoing battle. This is a decision I am making for my health, my wife, and my children. We all deserve more.
1. “You Can’t Sometimes”
When you are an addict you can not just partake “sometimes.” For example: An alcoholic can not have a sip of alcohol or they end up relapsing. I decided to look back and apply this to the many diets changes I have tried over the years. I would eat healthy all week just trying to get to my cheat day. Once I got there I would never go back to eating well. This was a routine I did a dozen times. Even recently when we did a 30 day vegetarian challenge as soon as I had my first meat product I went all in on it. Then I blamed yummy food in Texas for my relapse… sorry Texas!
2. “Physically Symptoms/Cravings”
Addict’s have physical manifestations to their addiction. They talked about the concept of craving, and it hit me hard. An addict has a virtual cravings for the drug or alcohol that will not stop until it is satisfied. I have cravings for a certain food daily (sometimes hour to hour), and I talked about food way too often. Now after research, I believe cravings are your body’s way to search out the nutrients it needs at that moment. For a healthy person that is great. The problem is my body only knows how to find nutrients in very unhealthy foods. I crave foods that have very little nutritional value, and I am literally “jonesing” for these foods. I will stay physically uncomfortable until I satisfy the craving. Sometimes when I am not hungry I still eat and search out a way to quench the uncomfortable feelings. Seriously?!
3. “Emotional Addiction”
An addict started their addiction in most cases to numb or pacify uncomfortable emotions. I always said “when I am sad or upset I tend to eat to make myself feel better.” The truth is when something good happened we celebrated with eating out! When life was hard I sought out “comfort food” to get the boost of dopamine and pacify the negative with a jolt of physical gratification. This became a weekly cycle and rewired my body and brain to seek out this dopamine whenever I feel remote happy or sad. Seriously how often do you not feel either happy or sad!
Now some people will say food addiction is not life threatening and in many ways they are right! I can not overdose on double cheeseburgers. If you could I would have already done that. Food addiction does not work that way, but I will tell you it is life altering in the short term and life threatening in the long term. I went from running a marathon and dunking a basketball to barely being able to tie my shoes and walk around the block. I will face a litany of different health issues from heart attack and diabetes to bad knees and an ailing back!
I sat down with my wife the other night, and I shared my heart with her. She knew this already and was waiting for me to come around to it. She apparently even had conversations with her father about my addiction. It was embarrassing, but also a relief that she was seeking out guidance to help me.
SO WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?! That seems to be the million dollar question…
I have to rewire myself from the inside out. I am taking all the triggers and addictive substances out of my diet. I am going to be eating a whole food plant based diet with NO CHEAT days. I am cutting out oil and sugar from my diet and focusing on food being a fuel source, and it will not be a recreational activity. This does not mean the company I have during a meal can’t be enjoyable.
This is where you come in as a reader. If you read this far you are probably a food addict yourself, or a friend or family member you know may struggle with this same thing. The other option is you know me and/or my wife personally. Please do not be offended when I bring my own food to your BBQ. Please do not be offended if I will not go to dinner out with you and your family, and please do what you can to support me in my efforts to break this cycle. I am not pushing my food choices on someone else, and I am not saying that eating a whole food plant based diet is the only way. I am saying that I am tired of being weak in this area. I have a beautiful wife, a God who cares for me, and four kids I need to be a better example for their eating habits. In my life no one else is as important.
If you have more questions, or you struggle in this area and want to chat with someone who understands, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com