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!
It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. next week, that means it’s back to basics time! If you’re a food addict who’s in recovery, take a few minutes to remember how confused you were in the beginning. Think about how many diets and weight loss methods you tried. Remember the humiliation you felt each time something didn’t work.
And, most importantly, remember how incredibly relieved you felt once your ideas about overeating SHiFTed to include the concept of food addiction.
What is a food addict?
How do I know if I am a food addict?
If I am a food addict, how do I get help?
All of these questions were answered within a few hours of your first Acorn Intensive and even though you didn’t know it at the time, your life would change forever.
If you haven’t yet found recovery and don’t know exactly what a food addict is, I invite you to sign up for our newsletter. When you do, you’ll be given three links to videos that describe the differences between a normal eater who is overweight, an emotional eater, and a food addict.
If you’re already a subscriber to our newsletter and are interested in seeing the videos, like us on Facebook. We’ll be posting the video there at the end of the month.
Wherever you are in your recovery journey, I wish you the peace of knowing how to SHiFT your ideas about overeating to include food addiction.
For food addicts in recovery, remembering where they came from is an important relapse prevention technique. Thinking about how demoralizing it felt to run to the refrigerator every few minutes to eat is sometimes all the motivation a recovering food addict needs to continue in recovery.
During emotionally-challenging times, it may take a little more remembering to prevent a relapse. This can almost always be done by reviewing a first step writing or taking a few minutes to journal about the food addict’s last binge, specifically what it felt like before, during and after bingeing.
Many recovering food addicts find that thinking about the negative feelings around bingeing reminds them of exactly the reasons why they never want to experience overeating again. For others, it can be remembering the physical consequences associated with being overweight that puts them back on track.
To begin, it’s helpful to make a list of the physical consequences of food addiction. Questions such as: How did it feel to walk up a flight of stairs when I was overweight? How was my health affected from being overweight? What was it like to wear clothes that were too tight? Did my energy level allow me to do the things I wanted to? If not, how did that feel?
Preventing a relapse is far easier than working to find recovery again. At SHiFT, we witness each day how much more difficult it is to come back from a relapse than it is to prevent one.
Take a few minutes to think about these questions as a way to help you maintain a strong recovery and prevent a relapse.