I once had a good friend say to me "I don't know how someone can be addicted to food. It just doesn't make sense to me because it's not a real addiction. It's not like heroin." After losing 75 pounds over a period of three years in high school and being obese for most of my life, I agreed with her. But inside, I was dying. Although she wasn't aware of my past, I knew that I was one of those people she was talking about.
Food addiction is real. It's a recognized eating disorder, and no, it's not heroin. You may not be able to overdose on food, but the long-term effects of abusing food and abusing drugs are the same. Like being addicted to a drug, being addicted to food can cause mental and physical harm to the abuser and in some cases, results in death. Had I not gotten a handle on my addiction, I could have been one of those cases before I even turned 40. It probably sounds insane to most of you, but much like a heroin addict, you wouldn't fully understand unless you have experienced it yourself.
A study done at UCLA in 1994 concluded that "some obese adults who were 'bingeing on dense
carbohydrates' and who were neither alcoholic nor drug addicted had the
same D2 dopamine gene marker that distinguished alcoholism and other
drug addictions.' For those of us who have experienced food addiction, food satisfies our brains unlike any human or activity can.
Not only is having a food addiction disabling to the addict, it harms those who are close to them. In my experience, the result of me being addicted to food was obesity and depression. I hated looking in the mirror, I was depressed when I couldn't eat, and I became depressed even after I had eaten. I wanted to stay home all the time. It was hard for me to be happy for any of my friends or family when they had exciting news because I was constantly left wondering why something so amazing couldn't happen to me. I am so proud of myself for finally coming to the realization that nothing good was ever going to happen while I was sitting on my ass all day wondering when it would be acceptable for me to eat my next fifteen hundred calorie meal.
If you ask a food addict or drug addict why they continue to indulge in what's harming them, they would say they do it for the high. They spend the time before they are satisfied looking for it and scrambling for money to buy it, only to become depressed and wondering if they will ever be able to stop once the high is over.
After losing 80 pounds, people ask me how I've done it. I can tell you I've done it by exercising and watching what I eat, but everyone already knows that. The answer people are looking for is how I even got started. Even after being successful for six months, I couldn't tell you. Yes, as a woman at almost 350 pounds, I felt as if I had hit rock bottom, the place many addicts of any kind have to reach before they decide to get help, but I had felt that way for many years. I had wanted to change for so long and I had tried many times with small successes only to be erased by huge failures. The only answer I can give people is that a switch in my brain finally turned on. I started on the road to success, and I know I will never look back.
I can say I will never look back with confidence now. I have said that many times after losing a few pounds a handful of times over the past several years, but now it's different. Now, I am addicted to success. Nothing is more exciting than working and fighting for something you desperately want and seeing results. It's great to see success in the number on the scale and comments from others, but nothing is greater than seeing your own body change and finally realizing your confidence and happiness are in the hands of no one other than yourself.
While I feel proud and have experienced success, other studies I have come across explain that food addiction is not fully curable, and in the back of my mind, that terrifies me. I still love food, and I always will, but or me, knowing where I was then and where I'm at now is enough to never go back. I've finally come to the point in this lifelong journey where I realize that being happy for five minutes while eating cheese fries is nowhere near as satisfying as having the ability to say "no" to a delicious, glorious mound of fat and carbohydrates.
Just say no!