I am a recovering food addict. I understood for a long time that I was addicted to food; that my obsession with it had overtaken my life. In my earliest memories, food was my friend that played with me on my pallet; that lured all my senses. It flooded sensuous pleasure throughout my consciousness.
When you are young, you don’t understand the significance of some of the choices you make. What was one more cookie or candy bar? It would hardly change my dress size overnight. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter at all, yet it could yield such delight with every bite I stole in secret. I learned the secrecy of eating “bad-for-me” foods the same time I learned to read.
It took time to learn all the rules of my food world. The fullness of my belly didn’t matter, only the taste of the foods I loved. I knew I couldn’t get dessert unless I cleaned my plate, so I learned to ignore my body’s “enough” signals. I learned to eat quickly so I could get as much in as possible.
By the time I became an adult, those learned behaviors were engraved inside me, laying down new neural pathways in my brain so that they became my “normal.” The childish delight of food, though, had dulled. My rational brain understood the consequences and would strike back at me with its insidious weapons of guilt and shame. The pleasure of delicious food was abbreviated to a few seconds before it became buried in emotion. Still, though, I believed what I had learned to believe as a child: one more cookie wouldn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, the problem was, one more cookie led to one more cookie. I didn’t understand that there had to be that one first cookie to which I would say “no.” I had to rationally see that nothing would stop until I controlled what at the time was uncontrollable. I had to reset my “normal.” That would be pretty hard for anyone to do, but an addict, a true addict, is so filled with self-blame, even self-hatred, that it is hard for them to believe they are worth the effort. At least it was that way for me.
I have shared before that my doctor prescribed Contrave to help me curb my appetite. It accomplished two things I was unable to do by myself: it turned off my craving for food and it helped me stop eating once I got full. Contrave wasn’t a miracle worker for me, but it gave me space to start the hard work of changing those neural pathways, giving myself a brain reset.
I was on Contrave for two years. Last August, I decided to start tapering my dose down slowly because I was close to my goal weight. I was about three weeks into the taper, at half of my regular dose, when my appetite slammed back into me. Instead of being able to normalize food into the rest of my life, it was clamoring once again to be my best buddy. I slowed down the taper even more as I struggled with being constantly hungry.
You see, I was still that addict. I still wanted one more cookie. My addiction struggled to dominate. The thing was, I had learned new behaviors over those two years. I had dealt with my poor self-image and my shame. I had learned how to balance my intake to make it satisfying and pleasurable. I had altered those neural pathways in my brain—and I wasn’t going to give in.
I had the power of choices and I knew which ones made me happier and healthier. Gradually, my hunger reset itself to my new normal. Gradually I became confident that I would not regain weight because it was more natural for me to live a rational, balanced life. What an incredible gift to know, to know, that I could do this.
What are the choices you are making today? Are they as small as you think they are, or are they connected, one to another, to a path you don’t want to take? Making the choice for the best “you” is being brave and loving of yourself. Isn’t it about time?