My Life WAS a Box of Chocolates (Food Diary, Part Two)
It’s only been a few hours since I published “Does this coffin make me look fat?” but let’s see where we left off.
Oh, right, at the bottom of a bag of Oreos. Got it.
I had a subscription to SHAPE magazine on my e-reader, and I would skim through the pages while eating my latest confection. And I thought I was being ironic. Turns out, I was a very, very sick girl.
We last left off with my marriage in shambles and my soul somewhere in the center aisle of the grocery store. For those of you who have never looked much into diets or healthy eating, let me explain: the center aisles of grocery stores is where all the chemicals get together and masquerade as food. I don’t think anything in those aisles would be found in nature—unless it was after a nuclear blast, because then they’d be the only surviving things.
Anyway, I digress.
A lot happened in 2013. So, it’s time for another set of Cliff’s-notes:
*Moved from Saranac Lake, NY back to my home state of Massachusetts
*Lived with my parents for 6 months
*Separated from my husband
*Started dating my soul mate
*Lived happily ever after.
One of these things is not like the other. Yep, just one. Most of you know that I started dating Charles in the middle-ish of last year. We’d been friends for quite some time and it blossomed from there. I’m sure I’ll post lots on that at some point but, for now, trust me. Soul. Mate. The ultimate checkmate. J
Charles and I did a lot of traveling last summer for book signings up and down the East Coast. We ate out constantly and I was happy and put on that “happy weight.” It was roughly 6 pounds of thank God I’m not miserable anymore weight.
Once November of last year hit, I realized I needed to “do something.” I was happy, but my wardrobe wasn’t. Loose pants were no longer loose, and some no longer fit. Yoga Pants were mainstay. I was embarrassed. I joined Weight Watchers for the however-many-eth time in my life and vowed that THIS would be it. Charles assured me he loved me however I was, and he just wanted me to be happy and healthy, and as long as I was and stayed both of those things, he’d support me.
The first week was a solid 3-pound loss, but then it started. The back-and-forth of one pound down, half a pound up, two down, two up, a few ounces down, etc. A month later I’d barely broken even.
I didn’t understand it. I was out of a bad marriage, reconnecting with God again and going to a wonderful new church, I was out on my own and had a job that I absolutely loved working side-by-side with the man that I loved.
And I was eating my face off.
Sure, most of the time I would stay within my allotted Points Plus per day, but the food choices were rarely anything to applaud, and I’d have at least one day a week where I’d “take a break” from food journaling and just eat whatever the hell I wanted. Like I’d always done.
What was wrong with me?
What was wrong with me that on the morning of my son’s ear-tube surgery, I was fussing in my mirror before waking him up because I couldn’t find any clothes that fit, and I was afraid I looked too fat to leave the house. My first thought was on the frumpy yellow sweater that I settled on to hide in and not my son who was about to be in surgery.
What. Was. Wrong. With. Me?
You see, despite my assertions about my newfound happiness because “everything was just sparkling and wonderful”, weight gain is rarely the sign of a happy person. Unless said person started out underweight and is now receiving treatment, or someone has a certain condition, medication, etc. (none of which applied to me), weight gain is a dark barometer. In a person who is of normal weight, or overweight, with no medical “reason” to the contrary, weight gain is the sign of a major emotional and spiritual problem.
Mostly, giving up. Maybe on a dream, on a relationship, or on a job, but mostly it’s the sign that someone has given up on themselves. That something deep down is yearning for something their brain leads them to believe they’ll never get. That “something,” I believe, is true love.
Wait? What? Andrea, didn’t you just say that you started dating your soul mate?
That I did. I was being loved like I’d never even dreamed I could ever in a million years be loved and, yet, there was this weird void that encased my heart in some sort of invisibility cloak.
Two years before I’d surrendered any hope of ever being at a normal weight, and I think that’s when that cloak started taking over. That’s when my addiction began its pillage through my brain and spirit.
Hold up. Addiction?
Through nearly two decades of white-knuckling, over restricting, binge eating, fad diets, over-exercise, under-exercise, I’d bread one hell of a food addiction. Yes, I believe addiction is a disease. I spent a couple of years as a substance abuse counselor and know the gory details. And, yes, I believe food is something people can be addicted to. I believe I inherited addiction through a long line of proud alcoholics, cigarette smokers, food addicts, and who knows what else.
I believe I could have become addicted to almost anything under the right circumstances, but I picked up food first.
I’d heard of food addiction during my time as an addiction counselor, but pushed it aside. Not me, I said to myself at the time. I’m of a normal weight. Well, I knew better. There are high-functioning alcoholics all over the damn place. They can function for quite a while, but eventually it all unravels. And, despite years of maintaining a decent weight, and holding all this knowledge about nutrition and exercise, I, too was unraveling.
**Side note: I never got the nutrition degree. Sociology won over, and I’m so grateful for that**
I needed to get on my knees, literally, and ask God for help on this one. Yes, help with my food. It was going to kill me and rob my family and the love of my life of any joy if I didn’t do something. Sure, I could have sat around a bemoaned about the weight issues of the women in my family, or pointed to my mom’s glass cookie jar with red hearts on it (I don’t even have time to get into our country’s love affair with food … later …), or even blamed being a mom with little kids and “recovering from a crappy marriage” and can’t I just have some goddamn ice cream?!
I could have done all that. I did do all of that for years. But, on my knees in December 2013, I was a 30-year-old adult. One who needed to make a decision for herself . One to live or die. Because, I truly believe this food addiction can kill me—and will if I give it a chance. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and obesity ties into almost every risk factor of heart disease.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been heart disease. Maybe I would have developed diabetes. Or some other ungodly weight-related condition.
Either way, I was lucky, my doctor said, to make the decision to lose weight when I did. He said, “you’re still in the prevention state.” My blood pressure has always been good, and so has my cholesterol. But, my doctor in no uncertain terms told me this luck wouldn’t necessarily last if my weight didn’t change. He was kind about it, but I heard what he was saying: “You’re killing yourself.”
So, I stayed with Weight Watchers but also began meeting with other people who have become my dear friends. Friends that help me tackle this food addiction and repair my relationship with God. Every single day I have to ask God to help me make good food choices.
My brain is sick. The parts of your brain that light up when you walk by a bakery and see something glistening under the light of coated sugar send off air horns in my brain and turn the whole visual experience into a circus.
You see, it’s the brain that sees, not the eyes. The eyes pass information onto your brain and that’s what you see—what your brain processes.
Again, my brain is sick. I don’t see a cookie; I see a need and an answer to my problems. I can’t “eyeball” serving sizes, because I either over or underestimate (usually over) and one cup of rice looks like a half cup to me.
Not because my eyes are broken—I have 20/20 vision—but because my brain is sick.
And once it hits my lips, forget it. I have an abnormal reaction to certain foods—mainly sugar. When it gets in my body, the only request is “more.” It makes me itchy, leaves my stomach feeling car sick, and makes the joints in my hands and feet swollen.
I’ve heard from friends of mine who used to use cocaine in college that the only thing they thought of while snorting it was, “I want more.” That’s it. That’s what the drug did for them. Got them high and made them use more. Despite the consequences.
Sugar is a legal, acceptable form of cocaine. And it’s everywhere.
But, it’s more than the sugar. I can have some “sweet things” like honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar in certain (measured) amounts. It’s about my relationship with God and what it is I’m searching for when I pick up food when I’m not hungry, when it’s not time to eat, or when I eat food that I know will cause a harmful physical or emotional reaction in my body and mind.
And, the people I talk to several times a week get that, because they have this too. This in ability to “control” food. It controls me. Unless I surrender it and let God control me. When I tried to run my life, I ended up separated, overweight, and depressed.
Guess I did not get that God-job I applied for.
For the first couple of months I chose to eat three meals a day, and sometimes a planned snack in the afternoon. That was it. Seems simple, right?
And, I guess we’re going to do a part 3. I promise part 3 will be the last in this particular story (though the story continues daily) because I do want to get back to “Why Jesus Freaks”. Hint: You’ll find some overlap in these posts. But, for now, I just ask you to take a look inward.
What’s going on in there? If you can’t bear to look, then you really better.
Photo Credit: Marta