At this time of the year, many people have the chance to eat “free” food. Parties, work-related events, school-sponsored programs or even a trip to a bank that puts out dishes of candy, can all be opportunities to eat food without paying for it.
For food addicts, however, it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as “free” food. Even if there is no monetary price associated with the food, the costs of eating it are far too high.
In order to maintain long-term recovery, most food addicts need to follow a non-addictive food plan with specific amounts and types of foods clearly outlined. Deviating from this plan even a little most times results in full-blown relapse, which can turn into years of bingeing and massive amounts of weight gain.
It’s important to point out that some food addicts who eat this “free” food are never able to get back into recovery. Think about all of the diseases associated with obesity – diabetes, strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, to name a few – and you have a pretty good idea of the physical costs of “free” food.
Some of the emotional costs of eating “free” food and relapsing are depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. The financial costs of “free” food are also high when thinking about the price of binge foods, clothes that fit, or any of the other things that come with weight gain.
It’s important to remember the costs of “free” food before you take that first bite.
For many food addicts, the month of December can be quite a challenge. Not only is it filled with several holidays but it also marks the end of another year. For those still deep in their addiction, this can be a painful reminder of promises made and broken about losing weight or developing healthy eating habits.
For those in recovery, the holidays themselves may bring up feelings of loneliness or sadness. Some may mourn the loss of their “best friend” food while others the loss of family members or friends who don’t quite understand the idea of not being able to eat just one of something.
For others, it may be a time of great sorrow as past holidays are remembered even idealized then compared to today.
Yet, for many it can be a time of great joy and gratitude for a life of recovery from food addiction. It can be a time to develop non-food-related celebrations and self-care practices that nurture the healthy recovering person they’ve turned into.
Whatever it is that you’re feeling this month, know that feelings are PERIOD. Feelings are is a full sentence, meaning that we don’t need to put judgments on our feelings but simply accept them as being true for us at this time and in this space.
Feelings can change from one second to the next, from one hour to the next and from one day to the next. And while we sometimes might not like what we’re feeling, it’s important to remember that feelings only have as much power as we give to them.
Quite acceptance of what we’re feeling results in serenity and the knowledge that all feelings pass while trying to force ourselves to change our feelings brings frustration and even anger. Take a few minutes to consider which way works better for you to manage your feelings – accepting that feelings are or fighting to change them. The choice is yours.
When I weighed over 300 pounds, I thought everyone in the world was looking at me, watching to see what I was doing, who I was with, and most of all what I was eating. I truly believed that everyone was talking about me behind my back. Many times, I was too overwhelmed to even leave the house because I couldn’t handle all of the negative things I was sure people were saying about me.
I wasn’t alone in thinking these things. Many food addicts struggle with grandiosity – the idea that they are at the same time unique and superior to others yet not as good as everyone else. In Twelve-Step programs, this is known as “an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.” It’s an odd mix of feeling not good enough but yet important enough for everyone to care what they’re doing.
And, it’s a one-way trip to relapse if this continues in recovery.
The way to prevent this behavior from causing a full-blown relapse is to stay “right sized,” meaning to understand that you’re no different from any other food addict.
Before recovery, I was convinced that my life and my food addiction was worse than anyone else’s; that no one would ever be able to understand me or my problems and certain that I would never be able to find the help I needed.
I was wrong.
From almost the second I entered the Acorn Intensive, my entire world changed. I found people who not only talked the talk but had been where I was and found a way out. I heard many stories about binges, some were worse than any I’d ever had and some were not as bad. The one thing we all had in common was and continues to be that we have a physical disease which needs to be treated on that level first.
An important part of long-term recovery is to remember that no one is better or worse than anyone else. We are all human beings, and in this case, food addicts trying to do the best that we can. At SHiFT, that means remembering to be “right sized” and working a recovery program one day at a time.
If you need help, please contact us.
This past month, I’m grateful for the time I’ve spent with our alumni. I consider each and every one of them to be part of the SHiFT family, a family in which we are creating healthy, nurturing relationships.
Many food addicts struggle with family issues that can sometimes result in relapse. It’s important to understand family dynamics in order to create safe conditions for recovery. The disease of addiction runs through families and for many food addicts being surrounded by relatives with addictive behaviors is dangerous.
Of course, not every family has addiction in it though many, even without meaning to, may have habits that can be dangerous to recovering food addicts. Some of these things can seem harmless yet to a recovering food addict, they are not. Family meals may be filled with addictive foods while outings may include trips to holiday fairs bursting with sugary foods. Even a trip to the coffee shop can be a slippery place for a food addict.
This being so, food addicts need to create families that work for them. This can be with other recovering food addicts in Twelve-Step meetings or professionally-led groups or with like-minded people at work, neighbors who are supportive, or it can even be with pets. It’s important to find what works for you and to remember that family is what you make it.
As many people rush out to get the best deals possible today on Black Friday, there are some who are unable to get out of bed this morning. There are some who feel sicker than they’ve ever felt either from eating too much or from the resulting depression and shame of not being able to stop eating no matter how hard they tried.
These are the people who promised themselves that they would only have one cookie or piece of cake, that they absolutely, swear to God, wouldn’t eat everything in sight no matter what. These people are the ones who hate themselves more than they ever felt possible, the ones who wonder why they want to go on living.
They are the ones whose family members tried to subtly, or even not so subtly, monitor every bite that went into their mouths. These are the people who struggled to climb a flight of stairs or who looked carefully around for the largest chair in the room to be sure they won’t break it.
These people are food addicts and this is what it feels like the morning after a binge.
After our 3 Days with SHiFT program in New Jersey, I spent this past weekend in New York City. While the City is always beautiful, for me, this time being there was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As I walked through Central Park (that’s where these photos were taken), I felt so alive with excitement and so connected to my surroundings.
The last time I visited New York City in 2012, my trip was all about food and eating. I weighed over 300 pounds and every part of my life was out of control because of my food addiction. I was in financial bankruptcy. I couldn’t afford where I was living so I was madly trying to find a new home. My career was in shambles and all I could think about was what I was going to eat next, how fat I was, what people thought of me and how could I sneak away to be in “peace with my food.” Even though I was surrounded by beautiful scenery and visited historic locations, I didn’t see or experience any of it.
This time not only has my life completely changed for the better, but I was able to enjoy walking through Central Park where I actually saw the beautiful changing leaves and the historic landmarks. In addition to being able to walk comfortably and move freely around, I truly enjoyed the Broadway shows, the museums, and observing the sights and sounds of the biggest U.S. City.
All of this reminded me of the miracle of my recovery and I am grateful for that. Even more, I am blessed to have a life I could never have imagined. All the other times when I went to New York City, I didn’t even know that the life I have today existed. All I knew was that I was desperately miserable and deeply depressed.
Today, my life is a miracle. I invite you to IMAGINE the miracles in your life!