Confessions of a Food Addict

by Carol Hess on May 8, 2011

I know some of you who read my blog are coaches – really terrific coaches I might add from whom I’ve benefited and continue to benefit greatly.  I also know you coaches are big, big fans of positive self talk. 

So am I.  As a writer, I know the incredible power of words – a power that can be used for good or not-so-good.  (See?  I don’t even like to use the word evil because it has so much power.) 

I also know that many people, coaches included, believe the word “addict” is a very unempowering word – the very antithesis of positive self talk because it implies powerlessness.  And I get that.  I really do. 

But you’re wrong. 

The Only Way Out

Addict is one of the most empowering words there is because it speaks the truth.  And the truth is the only way out of active addiction.  Addicts in recovery cling to the truth of their addiction the way a drowning man clings to a life preserver.  The truth is the addict’s lifepreserver, quite literally. 

I know what I’m talking about.  I’m a card-carrying member of the Addicts Club.  I’ve spent most of my life actively addicted to something – food, booze, cigarettes – and acting out that addiction.  I’ve spent most of the past 13 years addressing and dealing with my addictions to alcohol and tobacco and trying to address and deal with my addiction to food. 

I can attest to the fact that, when you tell the truth and admit you are powerless over a certain substance by claiming the title of addict, something miraculous happens.  You start to have some power over that substance – sometimes for the very first time in your life.  

What I Know For Sure

I don’t know why it works that way.  I just know it does.  It’s worked for me.  I’ve watched it work for literally thousands of other people.  It’s one of those things I know for sure.  To recover from addiction, you need to claim the truth about you. 

So I claim the title of food addict.  How I use food is exactly how I used cigarettes and booze.  How I think about food is exactly how I thought about cigarettes and booze.  The havoc and destruction my eating has caused in my life isn’t the same as the havoc and destruction caused by my smoking and drinking. 

 It’s worse. 

Happy for You

I know this is hard for some of you to believe — that food addiction can be worse than being addicted to cigarettes or alcohol.  And I’m glad it’s hard for you to believe.  It means you aren’t a food addict.  And I am very, very, very happy for you. 

And then there are some of you who are reading this post right now, and you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?  And that makes me sad — very, very, very sad.  Because I know the price you’re paying for your addiction.  It’s the same price I’m paying. 

I’m sick and tired of paying that price.  What about you?  I want this food monkey off my back.  What about you?  With every pound I put on because of my addiction to food, I am becoming a smaller version of who I really am.  Ironic isn’t it? 

I want to step into the larger version of myself.  What about you? 

A Bad Week

I had a bad week with the food last week.  And at some point I’ll probably blog about why it was such a bad week, although I’m not sure the why is terribly important.  What is terribly important – literally life and death important – is what I’m willing to do about my bad week. 

Here’s what I’m willing to do:

First, not beat myself up about it because that just leads to another trip to the fridge.  I did what food addicts do.  I used.  Just a fact—take the emotional charge away.  Leave the guilt and shame and self condemnation out of it.   

(Mission not quite accomplished on this item.  Letting go of guilt and shame is a process, not an event.  But I’m getting there.)

Second, be honest with my wellness coach about it.  I think she saw this coming, because she asked me to stay in daily touch with her this past week, and I didn’t. Normally I love to be in touch with her.  A warning sign I ignored.  

(Mission accomplished.  My coach reads this blog.  Plus I’ll email her, and tell her what’s going on.)

Third, start again.  When I was learning to ride horses, I fell off a lot.  I learned how to brush myself off, get back up on the horse, and keep riding.  And this is exactly what I need to do with the food – get back on the self care horse and keep riding.  

(Mission accomplished.   This morning I had my healthy smoothie for breakfast, and I gave away the cake I had baked to my neighbor and her two boys.  When I went for a ride this afternoon that I knew would end up at McDonald’s, I turned the car around, came home, and wrote this post instead.) 

The Blue Jay’s Message

A blue jay just landed in the tree opposite my window, and he’s looking in at me.  This is what Ted Andrews says in his book, Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small

“…(the blue jay) can reflect lessons in using your own power properly…  The blue jay reflects that a time of greater resourcefulness and adaptability is about to unfold.  You are going to have ample opportunities to develop and use your abilities.” (pp 121-122) 

That sounds pretty good to me.  

I think I’ll go use my power properly by calling some of my favorite mothers and wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day.  And then I’m going to take my neighbor and her kids to dinner.  (And, yes, I already know what healthy item I will be choosing from the menu.  And, no, I will not be partaking in the cake.)

by Carol Hess

6 comments

Categories Personal Empowerment, Self Care, The Mind Game

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ana May 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Very courageous post Carol! I agree with you that it is necessary and empowering for a person to recognize his/her addiction to something so that he/she can begin the healing process. Without this awareness, there can be no healing. Addictions can be subtle as well as blatant such as booze or cigarettes. I actually believe that unfulfilled needs work as addictions and we can get caught up in the same pattern of bad relationships, excessive work, gossip, because they give us an illusion of a fulfilled need. The process to move on from these patterns is the same: We need to recognize that a certain need is on the driver’s seat of our lives, and that our values are way in the background silent and scared to come out. Once we find healthy ways to fulfill our needs, they no longer drive us and our values start to shine. Much like your account in regards to food. Once we recognize that we have an addiction, the next step becomes a lot clearer. Good luck!

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avatar Carol Hess May 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

You are so correct, Ana — that it’s about recognizing the unfulfilled needs and fulfilling them in a healthier way. Or, as my weight loss/self care coach says, it’s about unpacking the meaning attached to the food and giving it a healthier, less emotionally charged meaning.

I think so much of the pain of addiction (besides the obvious reasons why it’s so painful) is indeed because we are thinking and acting in a way that is not congruent with our values. But I think that’s a good pain — a great motivator to do what’s required to think and act in a way that is more in sync with our values.

So great to hear from you, Ana. Thanks for “stopping by” and sharing your wisdom with us. :)

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avatar Rosemary May 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Hi Carol! I am a wellness coach and I am so proud of the choices you made instead of eating
today and yesterday. You have clearly learned a lot about taking the first steps. As you know those little steps taken one at a time gradually lead to big steps and habit change! You just proved it! Instead of slipping into a downward spiral, you just took a few steps backwards during a very stressful time! It sounds like you learned a great deal from a little back-sliding and are on the right path again to establishing great habits and have empowered yourself to stare that addiction down, call it what it is and move forward. Kudos to you!

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avatar Carol Hess May 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Thank you, Rosemary, for your enthusiastic cheering on. I really appreciate it!

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avatar Monica Dennis May 12, 2011 at 10:24 am

You know what I need to know, Carol? How exactly do you define and recognize addiction. I assume I’ve got my own but I’ve got to go figure out how to identify them so I can decide if I want to do anything about them. Hmmm. Something to research. I’ll let you know if I figure anything out!

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avatar Carol Hess May 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm

For me, addiction is when I am powerless over something and that powerlessness is causing significant problems in my life. That’s basically the 12-step program approach to addiction. The first step of all the 12-step programs is “We admitted that we were powerless over [insert substance, behavior, etc.], that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Of course everyone’s perception of what “powerless” and “unmanageable” look like is different.

Hope that helps, Monica.

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