Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Columnist Katie: Living With Food Addiction

Losing 125 Pounds, By Katie

I'm constantly bombarded with images and messages that tell me I'm not thin enough. And I'm inundated with cheap, oversized, carb-filled food choices as the default offerings at most restaurants and drive thrus readily available to me. Some part of me knew that all these messages were ridiculous! So I often chose to rebel against them by eating whatever I wanted.

That was one of my most popular rationalizations for overeating. The other one, buried deep, was a constant need to cover over and hide the emotions I was feeling. The physiological response I get from sugary food like desserts and even foods that are "healthy" by many people's standards, such as breads, rice, and potatoes, gave me a certain kind of "high" that temporarily helped me cope with my constant stream of troubling emotions and also made me want to eat more.

The first time I noticed anything wrong was when I went to a nutritionist. She suggested I keep a food diary. Week after week, I would show up for my appointment, once again without anything written in my food diary. I couldn't bring myself to look at what I was eating.

By the end of 2010, at age 33, I weighed over 330 pounds.  It became apparent that if I continued gaining weight, I was going to have to give up many of my dreams about hiking beautiful places. And that I would very likely continue to have bone and joint problems.  I knew the "change one small thing" approach -- which seemed to work so well for other people -- wasn't going to solve my problem. 

Every meal, I told myself I would start eating healthy the next meal and that one single indulgent meal wasn't going to kill me.

Somehow, I began to look for people like me -- who had a lot of weight to lose -- and who had lost weight and kept it off a long time.  
After searching in vain for 6 months, I met a person who fit my criteria and who was also in a 12-step program for food addiction. I decided I would take a leap of faith and simply do what worked for them, even if it seemed quite drastic to me.

12-step groups are, by design, free to anyone who wants to overcome their addiction. I eat real, fresh food that I weigh and measure. I completely avoid foods like cakes, pies, rice, and potatoes. I don't make food decisions without my sponsor. This, and the wonderful people in my local 12-step food addiction recovery group, have helped me lose 125 pounds since February 1, 2011. And more importantly, they've helped me learn how to cope with the societal messages and emotions that made me want to eat in the first place.

Whatever your problem with food, I hope you seek out others like you who have found peace and recovery with food.  
Here are several groups that use the principles and tools of Alcoholics Anonymous to overcome compulsive overeating and food addiction:
GreySheeters Anonymous      Overeaters Anonymous      Food Addicts Anonymous
If you know of other groups, please leave them in the comments and I'll add them to my list.

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