I have to get pretty beaten down before I let something affect me. So it's no surprise to me that "compulsive" is used to describe my overeating. When I set my mind to do something I become totally OBSESSED with it. I go above and beyond in every aspect possible. I will push and shove until I reach my goals. When I get to the point that my efforts become futile and external circumstances hinder me from reaching my perceived end result, it isn't pretty for anyone involved. I will push a barrel of bricks uphill for as long as I can. It will take something major happening for me to let it go. I have to be devastated repeatedly before I will give up. It is exhausting. While I am in said uphill battle, I totally forget that I have obsessive compulsive disorder, which is extremely dangerous. From work, to personal relations, to losing weight... It is nearly impossible for me to function like a normal human being. I want everything to be perfect, no glitches, no mistakes. And when my mental, physical, and emotional efforts prove useless, that barrel of bricks comes crashing down on everything and everyone involved in my efforts. Once I reach this point, it is nearly impossible for me to try again. I have seen it happen too many times. I become complacent and all the passion and energy I invested in it is either gone for good or transferred to my next obsession.
Long time ago my mother told me about the first time she knew I had OCD: I was a toddler. She was in grad school (for a Ph.D. in therapy, by the way) and I was in one of her professor's offices. While no one was looking, I apparently re-organized all of her professor's books by color. I put all the reds together on the bookshelf, the greens, the blues, etc... It only got worse as I got older. I still have to have everything in my house in perfect order. I share a desk at work with multiple people and it absolutely drives me mad!
I keep fighting with my compulsive behaviors with my losing weight efforts. It seems like I am so close, then BOOM! Brick wall. If I was HALF as obsessed with exercising as I was with wondering where my next meal is going to come from, I would be in a much better place.
I found this excerpt in a notepad I had laying around:
"I have just felt so horrible and fat and gross all day. I feel like my throat is gonna get swallowed up by my double chin. Disgusting. I keep wondering how I would feel had I NOT binged last night."
I don't know when I wrote this, or what I binged on the night before. What I DO know is that the after effects of a binge are the same. It doesn't matter if I ate an entire pizza before bed, or got drunk and ate Taco Bell at 3am... I feel horrible and crappy the next day.
"Much as we hate to admit it, an honest review of our behavior as compulsive overeaters shows clearly that in spite of the strongest resolve to stop overeating, we continue. Night after night we go to bed gorged and disgusted; we get up the next morning full of undigested food and fresh determination to maintain control; and before the day is over, we have done it again. No amount of willpower can pull us out of the quicksand." --Elisabeth L., "Twelve Steps for Overeaters."
Step One of "Overeaters Anonymous" explains in detail why willpower is not enough. "We admitted we were powerless over food- that our lives had become unmanageable." What does this step mean for you? For me it means that I am controlled by an obsession with food. I will find myself in the drive through or at the grocery store without a solid memory of making a conscious decision to be there. It means that some piece of food is in my mouth before I even had time to think before I eat.
Eventually this loss of power over food will make you hit rock bottom. My rock bottom has happened several times, but I always manage to get back on my feet again, only to slowly but surely sink back to the lowest of the lows. Remember: fat is a SYMPTOM of our illness. Fat is not the reason we're sick. I know I repeat this in every blog, but food addicts are no different that alcoholics or meth heads. The symptoms of addiction are not the problem. Our illness is the problem. My symptoms? Obesity, bad skin, indigestion, heart problems, PCOS, high blood pressure, depression, unstable emotions, extreme anxiety, sleep apnea, and general bitchiness. I'm like a ticking time bomb for a life-threatening disease.
I love Elisabeth L.'s description on how recovery begins: "Recovery begins when we admit defeat and declare bankruptcy." What a concept: Declare 'bankruptcy' to begin recovering. Wipe everything out and start all over. Never you mind all of the things in your past that haven't worked. This is a new solution to the problem. Let the barrel of bricks go; start a new battle.
I have made remarkable steps in my food addiction recovery. Really my main problem now is binging when I get home from work. That has always been my main problem, but I have learned to manage a lot of my other bad habits. I am so unhappy with my work schedule (the schedule, not the job itself), that I get all in a tizzy at work because some random something leads me to get depressed and angry and anxious every night. I work Mon-Fri until 10:30 at night. The worst schedule known to man. I feel like I am so deprived of so many great things I could be doing with my life. I see my friends out at dinner, at wine club, book club, evening bike rides, at a concert, etc... and I get so down! I have a high stress job, so the first thing I want to do when I get off is... eat! binge! drown my sorrows in something crunchy, cheesy, and salty. I do it so that all of the other emotions of the evening will disappear. Then I move on to new emotions: guilt, regret, and shame. Which makes things worse.
Even though I feel like I have pinpointed an exact reason for one of my compulsive overeating behaviors, that circumstance is impossible to change. My hours will not change unless I get a new job. So since this is not something I am willing to do, I am learning what can be changed inside when external conditions cannot be changed.
Guilt, regret, shame: the 3 emotions I like to call the "maskoteers." They stick together and they're tough as hell. They're basically all the same word, but with slight variations, Shame tends to mean that you know you did something wrong. Guilt means you don't feel great about a decision because someone probably got the shaft. (That person is usually you when it comes to your food addiction). Regret is the worst of them all. Regret takes your past and throws it in front of you every chance it can so that you never move on. These emotions mask what is really going on and they hinder your ability to recover. They are coming straight from that "dealer" inside your head. Your dealer wants to keep you down. Who makes good decisions when they're riddled with negative emotions? I know I don't. If I'm feeling shameful and regretful, I am not going to get off my couch. But if I'm feeling proud and happy, I am motivated to get up and move forward with the next healthy decision that is waiting for me.
My pastor (Pete Wilson) has a great saying: "Your past is not your past if it's still impacting your present. If you don't learn to transform the pain, you'll just transfer it." He also says that our past will determine how we respond to similar situations in the future. I interpret this to mean that if regret, shame, and guilt are still attached to your past, it will be nearly impossible to change how you react in the future. The maskoteers have got to go. Throw them out the window. They are toxic. Replace your memories, trick your dealer... tell yourself that you are truly grateful and pleased that you made mistakes in the past. You've been there done that so that your future can only get better!
When I wake up feeling determined that TODAY will be the day that my journey continues towards the light and not the dark, I make a plan. I get excited about the plan and I feel great. But then the MINUTE by plan gets interrupted, I spiral downwards. My obsessiveness and compulsiveness start doing their thing and I lose all control. Then I start to feel: shameful, guilty, and regretful that I am not following my plan. Which makes my dealer happy, and the next thing I know, I am going to visit him on the corner of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
I honestly don't think that there is a "cure" for compulsive overeating, but I think that setting rules, allowing slips, and reminding myself that it's okay to stray a little will help me stop obsessing over every little thing I do wrong and focus on what I am doing right!