Food Addiction Is …

With apologies to Mark Pilgrim’s original list:

  • Thinking about the food from the moment you wake up—not because you are hungry, but because you need food to cope with the day.
  • Eating at home before you go out to eat with friends. You can still get that full feeling but not stuff your face in front of others.
  • You, at home on a Friday night, with a large pizza, breadsticks, and 2-liter of soda that are gone before you can watch a re-run of Law & Order.
  • Stopping on your way home from a friend’s house for Chicken McNuggets at 11pm. You’re not hungry, really. You just want to binge.
  • Spending $17 on a single meal when you’ve got $56 in the bank and it’s two days until payday.
  • Not one but two Chinese restaurants knowing you by your order: one because you always get the steamed dumplings, the other because you always order the fried wontons.
  • Eating said fried wontons in the time it takes you to drive home from the latter restaurant.
  • Even when traffic is light, you still get it done.
  • Going to the kitchen for a 10pm snack, just because it seems like the thing to do.
  • Then going again at 11pm before you head to bed, because the first snack “wasn’t enough”.
  • Floorboards full of empty fast food bags.
  • Several folks at Hardee’s knowing you by your breakfast order.
  • Going to a different Hardee’s on the weekend just because you don’t want to go to the same one seven days a week.
  • Wondering why you just ate that, because you weren’t even hungry.
  • Shrugging your shoulders and going back to the kitchen after wondering.
  • Thanksgiving not being that big of a meal for you, because you eat more when you binge than you do in front of your family.
  • Taking advantage of the family napping during the post-Thanksgiving food coma to go back for thirds.
  • And fourths.
  • Talking about your food addiction with friends, then bingeing after you get home.
  • Thinking about getting a roommate just because there’d be someone around for you to be ashamed of all the eating you’re doing.
  • Thinking that a roommate would mean more eating-out money.
  • Going to a therapist for over a year, dealing with all your mental and emotional issues, and still being confronted with the fact that you’re an addict—even though she told you that on your second visit.
  • Denying that you have a problem.
  • Having friends tell you that they don’t see why you’re so fat, because “He doesn’t eat that much around me.”
  • Polishing off a can of cashews in an afternoon, when you’d intended to have them around as a snack for a couple of weeks for energy in mid-afternoon when you’re fading a bit.
  • Being afraid to go grocery shopping at all, because you don’t want to have food in the house. You’d just eat it if it were there.
  • Not wanting to practice and refine your culinary skills, because you’d just get fatter.
  • Whatever you can tell yourself to justify the next binge or forgive the previous one.
  • Writing this list and wanting to binge just reading it.

There’s a gulf between liking to eat—overeating from time to time—and a true food addiction. It’s the difference between having a hangover on Saturday morning after a little too much fun on Friday night to having that hangover every day of the week—but nobody notices, because you’re a functioning alcoholic. What I’m slowly learning in recovery is that it’s not really a matter of willpower. I’ve got a lot of willpower: and my self-will is to eat until the cows come home. I have to redirect that self-will with a better will that keeps me from bingeing. I’ve chosen to do that through a dozen steps and reliance on a higher power. You may find other methods that work for you, and more power to you if they work. But man, everything I’ve tried to-date just leaves me worse off.

I dropped about 25 pounds over the course of a couple months late last year. Nowhere near enough, of course, but a good start. I have gained all that back and then some since, even at a time when the worst of my depression issues were behind me. In fact, I’d argue that my eating habits got worse because I was feeling better about myself—things were good, so why did I need to diligently check my weight and see where things were every day? Screw it, I’d dropped the 25lbs and it wasn’t even that hard. I was done eating to soothe the bi-polar, right? Just keep up with the diet and the exercise …

Yeah, right.

As long as I look at it as a process of recovery, of small steps along a larger path, of forgiving myself and others and making amends to myself and others, of recognizing that I could fall back in that hole at any time if I stop working at it, I’ll be okay. I didn’t get fat overnight, and I won’t get to a healthy weight overnight, either.

One day at a time.