"Words are, of course,
the most powerful drug used by mankind."
— Rudyard Kipling
I chose to write an article to dovetail Amy's, because our situations are similar enough to identify certain patterns, but different enough to warrant seeing the other side.
While Amy has reached goal (and a size 4), I have spent the last 4 years getting ALMOST to goal. I went from 281 pounds to 132 pounds... a loss of 149 pounds. I've lost more weight than I currently AM. It's an accomplishment I am proud of, and while I am not yet to goal (120 lbs), and am not yet to my target size (I am a size 8 and want to be at least a size 6; size 4 would be great), I am close. I am feeling really good about myself; my strengths, my appearance, and my health.
So why then, do I still fall victim to emotional eating? Why do my moods so influence my food choices?
As Amy pointed out... it's all about addiction. Unlike the alcoholic who can avoid all alcohol and its inescapable ability to drive you to drink more and more; we cannot simply avoid all food. Nor can we (certainly for any long term period) avoid all carbs. And there are times in our lives when the old demons haunt us once again. When we are no match for their seductive power.
There's a reason the term "comfort foods" was coined. Consider how emotions and food go hand-in-hand. When we find ourselves bored, nervous, anxious, or out of our element, we reach for something to eat. There's something familiar, satisfying, and calming about it. And when we're upset, we reach for our favorite comfort foods.
Think about it... celebrations. Milestones. Even funerals. All center around food. Food to express our joy; food to show our gratitude; food to comfort our losses.
We should not expect that simply because we've found a healthy way to eat, and embraced it both intellectually and emotionally, that old and familiar habits will not revisit from time to time.
Understand, I am not talking about "cheating." It's not about sneaking off and eating a banana creme pie. It's not about becoming a Snickers Bar junkie. It's about emotional eating. Even if you eat low carb foods... If you eat for emotional reasons, rather than hunger and meeting your nutritional needs, you might want to consider that food is still controlling you.
And once we're at or near goal, we no longer see the visual reminders of our need to control food. We begin to feel "normal." We begin to believe — at least on some level — that if indeed we have achieved "normalcy," we can eat much like those around us... those we see as "other normal people." In short, we rationalize our choices of the moment.
I find that I have been doing just that. As I write this, I have lost no weight for more than 5 weeks. And why should I expect anything different?
No, I haven't gone wildly off plan — if I had, I'd surely be up a size or two by now. But I have ceased to lose because I have ceased to plan my diet. I have become haphazzard, grabbing things on the run; and eating at times when I know I am not hungry. I have become an emotional eater again. The more stressed my life, the more food I reach for.
If you looked at the situation as though drugs were the issue, it would somehow seem more clear. A person has kicked a drug habit, but sometime later down the road, stresses become overwhelming, and the person again reaches for the old familiar "pain killer." Why? Addictions are forever. It's not a stretch to see a
scenario like that.
But with food, we somehow expect that once we've learned the "magical secrets to weight loss" (eating in a healthy, low carb fashion), we have the tools for lifetime success. Yet the addiction remains. It may be under control, but it hasn't gone anywhere. In fact, unlike drugs, it's EVERYWHERE. The drug addict does
not need to worry that they'll encounter codeine in the checkout lane at the corner Safeway store. They don't need to worry that they'll be pressured to "try just a little" heroin at the company picnic. But for the food/carb addict, these are very real, always present situations. If you think of food as a drug, you'll
see that the patterns are the same.
But is food a drug?
Well, we take drugs to achieve a desired effect in the body. Long term effects, or short term. We are conditioned to rely on medication when we are sad, lonely, or in pain. As a society, we reach for cigarettes or alcohol for the same reasons. To make us feel better. To blunt pain, to lessen stress. To numb feelings. To comfort us.
Aren't those the same reasons we lean on food? Have you ever reached for a chocolate bar, or a bag of fries because you needed to meet a nutritional quota? No... these foods and thousands of others have become our national, legal drug of choice.
I was making a joke the other day about needing a 12-Step program for Carb and Food Addiction. But in retrospect, I'm not so sure it's a joking matter.
Like any 12-Step program, you have to begin by admitting you have the problem and don't have
control — that your efforts have become unmanageable.
The classic Step Four, where one must
make a fearless inventory of ourselves, is completely on target here. So long as we cheat... so long
as we lie to
ourselves, success remains outside our grasp.
And as the last classic step dictates, helping
others is a powerful tool. As you teach your friends, family, and loved ones about your own
nutritional options, pitfalls, and successes, you further cement your own resolve.
Each time I am forced to take a hard look at my own habits, my own behavior and my own patterns
in order to write an article, help a friend, or answer an email or forum post, I gain experience
and strength for my own victories.
If you haven't already become a part of our supportive
community at Talking Low Carb,
consider this an invitation. Come succeed with us!