Food has played a significant role in my life, it has served to be my greatest source of pleasure, purpose and pain. It has given me my highest highs and taken me to my lowest lows. It has provided me with a means of connection and it has lured me into total isolation. It’s been complicated to say the least.
My birthday is coming up and every year as it approaches, I look back, mentally flipping through the “book” of my life. With each day that I’m alive, another page is written. There are countless characters and countless plot lines but in almost every chapter, Food is a main character, secondary to me.
In this moment, I open the book to “1977”, the year that I went from a “normal” child to a chubby child. I’m at the part where the doctor suggests that I see a nutritionist….
The nutritionist was a kind lady, she taught me all about weighing and measuring my food and introduced me to the concept of “portion control”. She explained that adhering to this practice would result in me “returning to a normal weight”. Sometimes, it felt rather clinical when she came to greet me, dressed in her long white lab coat. In her office were lifelike, rubber replicas of every food imaginable and while I wondered why I never saw another kid there, I didn’t mind having those all to myself to play with. At some point, I can’t say exactly when, I was no longer an innocent 6 year old playing with rubber strips of bacon and sunny side up eggs. I was a 6 year old striving to manage my food and weight so that I could be “normal” like all the other kids at school, “normal” like my brother, “normal”.. like I used to be.
There began a 40 year cycle of binging, restricting, dieting and over exercising. There began a relentless obsession with food, body image and weight. There began a tormented love-hate relationship with food. There began my life in active food addiction.
It wasn’t just about what I ate, it was about my state of mind. What I weighed and what I ate determined my mood. If I was adhering to a diet or losing weight, I felt powerful and proud. If I ate “off plan”, missed a workout or gained weight, I felt guilty and weak. But no matter what I ate and no matter what I weighed, one thing never changed. I lacked peace of mind. Not a day went by that I didn’t feel at least one of the following emotions; defeated, disgusted, deprived..sad, self conscious, guilty… angry, punished, less than….rebellious, determined, depressed…shameful, helpless, hopeless. All because I couldn’t consistently control my food and weight.
Now I flip forward by thousands of pages and open the book near the end of “2017”. I’m at the part where I discover what “food addiction” is and my heart
aches at the painful scene that details what it feels like to discover that I am an addict. I turn the page and the story takes a hopeful turn, there’s great relief in finally knowing what is wrong, even greater relief when the promise of a solution is revealed.
With each page I turn, Food shows up less, making room for the development of three new characters, Recovery, Community and Higher Power. Gradually, these characters are woven into the story, until they are so prominent that the story begins to read like a whole new book.
Now I’m at the part where I’ve made peace with food and my body. I’m at the part where cravings and feelings of deprivation no longer exist. I’m at the part where I no longer binge eat, restrict or exercise my body beyond a reasonable edge. I’m at the part where the story keeps getting better.
I encourage everyone to believe that a hopeful turn is possible, no matter what your story is. If you’re reading this, you’ve made your way to SHiFT and that means Recovery can be a part of your story too.
I don’t know what’s left to be written in my book of life but I do know there’s always hope in turning the page.