I keep staring at this title then moving on to something else. “Making Peace with Food” is one of the topics I have to blog about this month for Frank (my client). I even gave him the idea. But I’ve been reluctant to tackle it. I keep writing about everything else. My avoidance seems a little silly, the posts I write for him aren’t even personal, but …
Can someone with a food addiction even make permanent peace with food? (It’s hard not to read permanent into the title). Is this really the right way to even think about it? My relationship with food is better. It is not what it was but…if I’m honest with you and myself, I haven’t overcome my addiction. Can anyone completely rid their system of an addiction? Habits change, cravings become more muted but do they disappear forever?
I keep thinking about Sherlock, from the contemporary BBC series, hunting for a smoke desperately at the beginning of “The Hounds of Baskerville,” even though he paid off all the local vendors to not sell to him. And Ani Di Franco singing:
Today I came across an article that’s thesis is “to make peace with food, you must make peace with your life.” That strikes me as overly simplistic. Now I’ll grant that the article wasn’t written for me. It was written for dieters that haven’t confronted the emotional reasons that they overeat. For those people, maybe it isn’t entirely un-instructive. Still, it grated against me.
That statement was the author’s solution for permanent peace. It implies that “life” is some static, homogenous thing (which it is not) that, if you face it head on, you’ll never struggle to again. That’s entirely absurd. Life is ever changing and layered. It’s much too inclusive and heterogeneous to be one’s enemy. It’s not the source of our struggle for those of us with an addiction to food that is.
We struggle with specific aspects of life, with certain environments and emotional triggers. We struggle with a sensuous obsession. Her claim that “peace with food” isn’t even about food is entirely wrong. Food is definitely an important part of the equation. It isn’t our band-aid, as she calls it, it’s our fix. We love its taste and texture as much as how it can make us feel.
Even getting sober doesn’t erase the addiction.
Though, I’ll be honest, I’m not quite there. Not quite sober. These days when I overeat/fidget eat it’s mostly fruits or vegetables or 90 calorie snacks (unless I’m at Christa’s), plus I drink a lot of water and, since it’s getting cooler, tea. Eating isn’t how I cope with stress, anxiety or sadness now. It’s never been my balm for low self-esteem (over-confidence has always been more of my problem and it really nags on me that so many websites assume being/having been overweight means you have low self-esteem). Like Sherlock, my biggest trigger is still boredom.
Not mild boredom. Overwhelming boredom. The frustration of being without a gratifying challenge. Of not having enough stimulating conversations to savor. Of being without a purpose that absorbs all of my energy and attention and intellect. Of doing work that’s drainingly dull to me. This is still when the urge to eat becomes utterly insatiable, when I can never seem to get full. There are days I resist. That I go for a walk or pick up a book or call a friend. There are days I don’t. Even when I choose an alternative, that hunger remains until I’m intellectually satiated and that isn’t always easy (remember how picky I am even about novels).
Then there are the simple cravings for richer, more satisfying options. For a nice, plump pumpkin muffin or crisp, soft sweet potato fries or a large, salty slice of broccoli pizza (sadly, so hard to find out here in Michigan). Not just to have a little but to have a lot. When I’m out with friends or family, I still struggle not to indulge but I’m getting better and better and better.
I think in the end, the phrasing of that title is all wrong. What I need, what others like me need, is not peace with food. Food isn’t our enemy. Addiction is.
When Watson helped Sherlock to overcome his drug addiction, in the stories, the doctor observes that his habit was merely sleeping, not dead. Weight loss blogger Andie Mitchell, who has faced her food addiction and recovered from emotional eating, includes a section on her blog titled “What I miss from 135lbs pounds ago.” She shares that she still misses how she used to eat. She misses the reckless abandon. She misses the comfort and escape. She’s developed new habits, she’s learned how to fight against her impulse to flee from her emotional triggers through food but the struggle remains even if it takes other forms. She continues to love food intensely (more than I even do).
Sometimes I’d like to just knock my addiction out cold. But I guess I’m not quite that powerful. Instead, with each passing month I get closer and closer to being sober, to overcoming using food as my drug. I think it would be self-defeating to believe that being “clean” will be easy. That I won’t still be tempted. Rather, I believe what will help is knowing that I’ve developed the strength and self-control to not give into those cravings. Knowing that I can survive even the worst case of boredom without munching on something just as Sherlock survived without his drugs.