There's a prayer in the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonomous that really resonates with me. Here's the part I repeat over and over to myself when I need strength and courage, "Relieve me of the bondage of self. ..... Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help... of [the] power... of [this] way of life." I've changed and/or left a few words out to make it more applicable to this particular struggle, my struggle with food.
Long before I picked up my first drink or smoked my first cigarette I was battling an obsession with food. My mother tried very hard to feed my brother and me a healthy diet. She read about granola and tofu and carob and she rarely made regular cookies or treats for us. If we came home and a plate full of chocolate chip cookies or an apple pie was on the table we knew it was for a church function or one of the clubs my mom attended. We would have fruit or granola bars or carob chip cookies with whole wheat flour. I liked the first two (NB: carob chips do NOT taste just like chocolate). One day I went to a friend's house after school and her mother had just bought a package of Oreos (aka My Arch Nemesis). I ate nearly the entire package. I just couldn't stop. After that I would eat sweet or fatty snacks any time I could get my hands on them. I also felt a lot of shame around it. I remember buying a book of Little Debbie Snack Cakes at a convenience store in town and when I was paying for it I was sure the clerk knew I intended to eat the entire package myself. So, I said, "I sure hope the gang likes these!"
Did I think I was in an episode of the Little Raskals? Jeez.
Fast forward 30 years.....I'm still battling the Oreo only now it's the Double Stuf Oreo. I'm also a recovering alcoholic (sober 7 years and 4 months) and an ex-smoker (smoke free 9 years). I feel really fortunate to have learned how to address these other issues the way I did. Without it I don't think I would have found Dr. McDougall and this website. There's much agreement about the treatment of smoking and drinking problems. Most experts will tell you to abstain from them completely. Eventually the physical craving with subside and [with the help of some decent coping mechanisms, a strong social support system and considerable effort and willingness to change] the mental obsession will go away too. This is not, however, the standard approach to food obsession.
First, I think food obsessions are confusing because of the term. It's too general. When people hear things like food obsession or food addiction they think, "well, we have to eat!" Therefore, abstinence is not an option. Perhaps it would be clearer if we named exactly what it is we crave: sugar, fat and salt. Specifically, there are foods (like the dreaded Double Stuf Oreo) that most of us already know we can't control. It's pretty easy to make of list of these items and eliminate them entirely. Fortunately, the foods I struggle with the most have no redeeming nutritional value and my health is harmed in no way by eliminating them.
Second, the diet, medical, pharmaceutical, and junk food industries benefit from keeping us obsessed with unhealthy food. It's a cash cow bigger than alcohol and tobacco and heroin and cocaine combined! It effects 2/3rds of the US population. Nothing spells long term investment like keeping a junkie hooked. I'm tired of being some fat cat's tool. I'm embarassed I let it continue this long.
Third, there's so much confusion and misinformation over what is healthy. I cannot stand getting into arguments with nurses and nutritionists over healthy oils, lean meats and low-fat dairy! I can't even go on. It's not relevant here anyway.
My point is that once I felt the change inside myself (both in my physical cravings and mental obsessions) when I finally quit drinking and smoking I was able to recognize the same mechanism in my struggle with food. I recently spoke with a friend who said she couldn't cut out Mt. Dew because if she tried she would just end up over-doing it after a couple days. She said moderation was the only way to deal with it. Actually, the conversation was more like a couple months ago. I responded by telling her that the cravings go away if you give it enough time. She pretty much ignored me. I was also in the middle of my latest off the McD wagon bender and had very little credibility. Twelve days ago I got back on and I am following the program as it is written. My cravings are already better. I have more energy. My mood is improved and I've lost over 6 pounds. My friend texted me the other day and said she's going to cut out Mt. Dew completely. Here's hoping we both accomplish our goals.
There are a number of other (usually emotional) reasons I over-eat and/or seek out non-McD food. I know how the food will make me feel in that moment. It feels like a drug that will make whatever uncomfortable situation I'm enduring seem easier. I want to walk through life taking the easier, softer way. For this I need to learn better coping skills and how to face my fears responsibly. I have a 12-step program and a wonderful sponsor for that. So combine the best food for my body and the best support for my mind and I may rid myself of this nemesis for good.
I was reading Kirstykay's journal yesterday and saw her very amibitious goal of weighing 135 pounds by June 5th. I have a 20K race (12.4 miles) on June 2nd and would love to weigh 135. Now, I usually don't like to set weight goals because I can only control my behavior not my body but I'm going to try. It's not really important that I weigh 135 on race day but that I follow the plan AS IT IS SUGGESTED.
I believe if I follow the McDougall program, without exception, I will be relieved of my obsession with food. This would be the greatest gift. The improved health, the better fitness, and the trim body would be wonderful added bonuses. I am so tired of fighting this battle in my head. I'm tired of the shame I feel surrounding my behavior and I'm tired of the physical and emotional pain I suffer daily when I eat SAD. I read recently that 28 days is about the amount of time it takes to form new habits. My initial goal is to go 28 days on McDougall 100% compliant. Hopefully, after that, it will get easier. Hopefully, the well-worn path to the Double Stuf Oreo will fade until I no longer seek it.
Day 12. So far so good!