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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Food is a Drug of Choice for Many

It's almost laughable to me how far a divide there seems to be between the medical community and real people like me.  They go on and on about BMI and exercise and food choices so very matter of factly.

It's really quite simple, no?  Expend more energy (calories) than you consume and you will lose weight.  Voila. Problem solved.

And of course, those of us who don't follow that very simple guideline are [insert negative adjective here.]  Weak?  No will power?  Lazy?  Unwilling?  Those are probably the kind words right there.  They certainly get worse.

But that's not all there is to it.  Not at all.  Not for some of us.  For those of us who have used food as a drug for years there becomes a strong physiological bond made within us.  In order for our bodies and minds to function "normally" (in a way we have become used to), and the neurotransmitters do what we expect (make us feel better), there is a certain necessary critical mass of certain food types at certain times which are as predictable, in my opinion, as the smoker's need for nicotine or an alcoholic's need for that next drink.

Rip that medicine away from us without replacing it with something else and you leave us with gaping holes that we do not know how to fill and we find we cannot cope with daily life.  Of course, I'm talking about myself here.  Your mileage may vary.

I started overeating very young.  (I also started smoking regularly at age 11.)  Coincidentally, this was not long after being molested by an adult I had regular contact with.  I can see now that I did not have the tools or the resources to deal with the emotions around those events, but that I gravitated to two substances that numbed me and gave me a sensation of "wellness."  Food and nicotine.  I used both my entire life for that same purpose.

And the reality is that food really did work as a powerful drug for me.  After consuming certain foods I would feel a calmness wash over me followed by a numbness and a desire to just sleep or veg out a little.  It calmed my racing mind.  It calmed my body noticeably.

The problem is that this mechanism started out serving an important purpose that was helpful and has become incredibly unhelpful.  I am unhappy about my weight, about my use of food as a drug, about hiding behind this "Wall Of Me" that hangs out there.  And I do that, you know.  I always have.  I hide right out there in full view and draw very little attention to myself unless I want the attention.  When you are overweight men for sure don't notice you and most people in general don't have much to say to you.  It's true.  Having lost great amounts of weight and gained it back I have experienced life both ways.  When you are fat, you are invisible to a great portion of society.


On November 1, 2009, I ripped off one of life's big bandaids and quit smoking.  I faced some hard times, a deep clinical depression, and came out on the other side stronger and better able to deal with life.  Well, now I am beginning to rip off another big bandaid, one day at a time.

 I need to learn how to self soothe rather than run to food to do it.  I was terribly sad yesterday and, twice that I am aware of went into the kitchen to find something to eat, not out of hunger, but out of wanting to not feel those feelings.  I think just being aware of this is a HUGE step in the right direction.

I had a passing thought to reach out and call someone, but decided not to do that.  I had a passing thought of getting on the treadmill and didn't do that either. Nope, I went for a colossal bowl of Rice Chex. So it seems like healthier options are starting to come into my consciousness, which is great.  Acting on them isn't coming so naturally yet, but I'm working on it.

I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this topic often.  It's pretty big and needs a lot of sorting, kind of like peeling an onion...there are many layers under there.

But for today I'll accept:

  • I am aware that I don't want to feel the feelings that are hiding under all this fat and food, that they may be fairly powerful since some have been buried for decades.
  • I will turn to counseling to go ahead and face the stuff.  The only way to the other side is through.
  • I need to do things differently because what I've been doing no longer works for me and I really REALLY want to get on that other side.
  • I will work on forgiving myself for what feels sometimes like an entire wasted life.  Of course, it's not been...but it feels like that.  I feel that way about smoking, too, now that I quit.  Like, wow, why did I do that?  I want to feel that way about the food.

For today, I will just try to make some good next right choices.


  1. I think everyone should be in therapy always. It's wonderful to be able to talk to someone impartial who can help you break patterns that are no longer serving you.
    P.S. Here's a sign that your blog is "going somewhere...." There is a Google adsense ad on your page now! That means you have caught the attention on the search engine indexes. Hitting the big time :)!

  2. I've never been big on therapy but since my brother died, i've been going to someone through the employee assistance program at work. It is a spectacular experience being with an awesome therapist. I had been to a few duds and gave up...and now, the perfect one is even a job benefit and no cost to me. Downside, i only get 8 sessions per year. Upside, the 8 start over with the new year so i got 4 in before the new year and now have 8.

  3. I am big on therapy. I have been at various points in my life and now, looking back, feel like those were all pretty good growth periods, too.

    I'm glad you get to can really be a great resource for pulling it back together.


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