healthy |ˈhelθē|adjective ( healthier , healthiest )in good health: : feeling fit and healthy.• (of a part of the body) not diseased : healthy cells.• indicative of, conducive to, or promoting good health : a healthy appetite | a healthy balanced diet.• (of a person's attitude) sensible and well balanced : a healthy contempt for authority.• figurative in a good condition• desirable; beneficial• A conscious choice; A life-long commitment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food Addiction - Does it Ever Go Away?

This morning I received an email from Lysanne (Hi Lysanne!) that reminded me why I love to write in my blog and why I am so thankful people actually take the time to read what I have to say.

That being said... I will provide a quick update and write a meaningful post. Because lets be honest. It is way overdue, and for that, I apologize.

I stepped on the scale this morning and weighed in at 127.5, which is a half pound loss since Monday. I don't really feel like I have a "weight in day" anymore.. I more or less just get the urge every few days and in the morning when I wake up will think "Yeah, I should step on the scale today." I am so grateful it is not an everyday compulsion anymore! That was a stressful time.

My back feels much better after seeing the chiropractor for the last 3 days. It is a very strange science (?), and it is a very physically demanding job, but I am seeing results and it feels nice. Last night was the first night I could sleep on my side without pain and this morning the tightness in my hips was gone in less than 2 minutes (3 days ago I was not feeling any relief at any time).

I haven't run since Sunday the 12th, and I am itching to go, but know that I can't. Instead I have been going on lots of long walks and doing the elliptical trainer daily. This has been working out Okay.... but I would definitely prefer to be running or working out outside or at at class at the gym.

I met Matthias's new girlfriend yesterday! (For new readers - Matthias is my Ex, we were together for 5 years and the relationship ended last August. We remain very good friends and share custody of our 2 year old Rotti, Tuck). She is a very pretty girl, taller than me, but very polite! I was impressed - I think she is a keeper. I told him I approved and I think that made him happy.

Work is going well. I think the Nurses on the Unit really like me. They always give me very positive feedback and I think they appreciate me always trying to help out. I am enjoying my time there very much! I work nights this weekend, which kind of messes up my eating, but that's okay.
Okay, now on to the good stuff.

Food Addiction.

I strongly believe that addiction (or the addictive personality) has a genetic component. My grandmother is an alcoholic. My mother is an alcoholic and benzo addict. I am addicted to food. Or was I addicted to food? That is a question I find that I am asking myself, and I struggle to come up with a concrete example. The semi-answer that I have right now, for myself, is that yes, in fact, I am still a food addict. I think that I always will be. I am addicted to compulsive eating and the feeling of over-satiation that I would feel after a binge. But just because I am aware of this fact, does not mean that I have to act on.

Paul likes McDonald's Coffee. He prefers the taste to Starbucks, and even Tim Horton's. One day when he was at work, I decided to surprise him and bring him a coffee because I knew he was working a long day. This was the first time since November that I had set foot in a McDonald's location. Guess what happened? It is a hard experience to describe, to put in to words exactly what I was feeling, but I will try. My heart rate sped up. My breathing did in fact become slightly more shallow. I looked at the menu and my eyes instantly focused on the Big Mac. I felt hyper aware. I could smell the fry grease. I could smell the burgers being cooked - I could smell it so much that I felt like I could taste it. All of my senses were heightened. It was... strange and discomforting. Did I act on this? Of course not. I have been a vegetarian for long enough to know that I don't want to eat meat in any form, and I have been focusing on a whole foods diet for about a month now (at least) and know that eating the processed crap at McDonald's is not only extremely bad for you, but also not satisfying in any way. I have been back on at least 4 other occasions, and even enjoyed some coffee and iced coffee from their, but that is as far as my purchase will ever go.

On the last stretch of Nights that I was doing I had a patient who's baby was over in the NICU, so she spent the majority of her time either there or alone in her room. I went in at about midnight to do one of her checks and her boyfriend had brought her McDonald's. Fresh McDonald's. And not just any kind.... he brought her a Cheeseburger. The precursor burger to all my binges. Every time I went to McDonald's I would order a cheeseburger to start and finish it by the time I turned out of the drive through. Same thing happened - my senses became hyper aware. I watched her take a bite of the cheeseburger and I felt lust for it. For the way the ketchup was mixed with the onion, and the 2 measly pickles thrown carelessly on to the bun. It was one of the best smells I think I have ever experienced... and I tried to stay in that room for as long as I could so that I could savor it.

Strange how the body remembers these things and how they trigger us to feel a certain thing. A memory. A ritual.

Cheeseburger. Big Mac. Fries & McChicken Sauce.

Am I still addicted? Yeah. I think so. But my mind has been cleared of all the processed toxins found in these foods for so long now that relapse is only a very small concern for me. I can honestly say that I would rather starve than eat McDonald's food.

So what does this mean for me long term, and better yet, how can this knowledge help other binge eaters, compulsive eaters, and fellow food addicts?

I have developed strategies that work for me, to help control my food cravings, the amount of food that I eat, and how I listen to my body.
  • Drink lots of Water; This first thing I do when I get up in the morning is have 2 full glasses of water at least 5 minutes before I start eating breakfast. This helps to jump start my sedentary tummy and I feel fuller before I begin eating, therefore leading to me eating less.
  • Incorporate your favorite foods in to breakfast; I think this one is very important because it helps to tame my cravings for the rest of the day. That means that I incorporate the following foods into my breakfast every. single. day. Bananas, Peanut Butter, Chocolate. Yes. All very sweet foods. Some might consider them to be "bad foods" but I know that for me, my life is not as enjoyable if I cannot eat these foods every day, so why would I want to deprive myself? I incorporate them in healthy and acceptable portions, and I still manage to lose weight/maintain. This is a lifestyle and I never plan on giving up the foods that I love!
  • Start with a schedule; When I was a compulsive eater, I could literally be munching ALL day. Not healthy at all, unless of course you are munching on Veg all day (which I certainly wasn't). I started eating on a schedule to ensure that I never got too hungry or too full, this worked, it helped to control cravings, and it reassured me that I would never face the ever dreaded hypoglycemia, it also gave me something to look forward to.
  • After you have the schedule mastered, start listening to your body; This takes LOTS of practice and is something I am far from mastering and still learning lots about - everyday. I track everything I eat, every day, and have for the last 95ish days. (Check out my food diary here). Within the last month I have started to listen for my true hunger signals (something that is hard for an eater who used to never feel hungry because she ate ALL the time). Now I try to ask myself before I eat "Am I hungry right now, or can this wait half an hour?" "Am I eating only because it is part of the schedule?" "Am I bored/tired/sad/happy?" "Are these emotions affecting my hunger?" "Am I thirsty?" "Out of 10, 10 being starving, 1 being stuffed, how hungry am I?" (I try to eat when I get to about a 6-7). Again, this takes lots of practice, so don't be hard on yourself if it takes a while for you to learn.
  • Enjoy life... In moderation; Something that comes with going on trips is eating out at restaurants, something I do not like to do. Yes, the food is amazing, but Yes, I tend to over do it, even now, when I go out to eat. I try to plan before what I will have, but I now am a lot more lenient on myself because I recognize that these things are not every day occurrences. Last night for example, I went to Original Joes. I enjoyed 3 pieces of pita with hummus, I could have eaten the entire plate if I had wanted to, but I recognized that I had ordered an entree, and would prefer to enjoy a bit more of that than the hummus and pita. I ordered a greek pizza for my entree which came LOADED with cheese. I enjoyed 3 slices. I could have eaten the entire pizza, and I wanted to, but I knew that I could feel like crap if I did, so I stopped myself. I drank a pint of Blueberry Beer, and boy was it amazing. Beer is something I wish I could enjoy every day, so when I go out to eat I make sure to savor it. Normally, I wouldn't have wanted an appy... because I find they take away from the entree, but we have a 50$ gift certificate and the entire $50 had to be used all at once, so we went all out. It was delicious, and by the end of the meal, I was 9/10 on the fullness scale (same idea as the hunger scale, but with 10 being the fullest, and 1 being starving, I usually like to eat to about 7). Could I have eaten less? Yes. Could I have done worse? Yes. Does this happen every day, should I be worried that this will make me gain back all the weight I lost? No.
I hope those tips can offer some strategies as to things you can try to help fight a food addiction. I do believe it is something that will follow me forever, but awareness is what will prevent relapse.

I will write about Forks over Knives, Food INC, and In Defense of Food next... get ready for some whole food, plant based diet talk!