I am an addict. You read the title right. An addict. But my addiction isn’t to the usual suspects like drugs or alcohol or even gambling for that matter.
I am a food addict. And by food addict, I don’t mean that I have an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, I simply mean I am addicted to food.
The idea that someone can actually be addicted to food has gained increasing support over the last few years. I have done a fair share of research on the idea of food addiction because it is something I have been saying about myself for nearly 10 years.
One thing I found out is that experiments in animals and humans have shown that for some people, like me, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially high palatable foods that are rich in sugar, fat and salt.
Let me tell you a story that might help explain it a little better.
I will never forget when I first started dating my husband, Al. We were at the grocery store and I “secretly” put a can of sugary, sickenly sweet vanilla frosting in our cart. I felt the shakes coming on as we were meandering our way around the store and knew that a “sugar fix” is all I needed to calm down and get rid of the shakiness.
When we got out to the car, I grabbed that can and with shaky hands and fingers, I ripped off the red plastic top and grabbed the protective silvery aluminum that was standing in the way of me and that sweet, sweet frosting.
All the while, my heart was pounding, my head was dizzy and all I could think about was shoveling spoonfuls of that thick, ooey-gooey frosting as fast as I could into my mouth. I quickly asked Al if he had a spoon on him.
Keep in mind, we were in the car. But he replied with a somewhat horrified and puzzling look on his face, “I think I have a spork in the glove box.”
He was right and just as fast as I opened that frosting, I tore the plastic spork out of is plastic wrapper and before Al could even pull out of the parking spot, I was on my way to sugary heaven.
At one point, Al did ask what I was doing and all I remember replying is, “I need sugar.”
Need? Really? Looking back, it was most definitely not a need. But it was a “fix.”
Unfortunately, I have been in way more of those types of situations than I probably should admit.
I am about to lay it all out there. For those who have been following me, you know I am real. And once again, I am about to get real. And honest. Not only with all of you, but with myself.
So in doing my research, one website I always turn to is WebMD. Yes, I trust them. In an article about food addiction, it said, “Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain’s reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.”
Yes, I believe that. And I know some of you are probably thinking it is just a sugar addiction and are probably cringing reading this. And, you have your quick fix methods for taking sugar out of my system. But, it is not just sugar. I have been gone to the grocery store, bought a bag of Doritos and a can of Frito Lay cheddar cheese, sat in my car, in an empty parking lot mind you, and scarfed/shoveled the whole bag into my mouth. And I have done it with ripple potato chips and French onion dip. And yes, there may be sugar in those items, but not like the sugary goodness of frosting.
So here is another interesting thing I read on WebMD. The article stated, “Scientists believe that food addiction may play an important role in obesity. But normal-weight people may also struggle with food addiction. Their bodies may simply be genetically programmed to better handle the extra calories they take in. Or they may increase their physical activity to compensate for overeating.”
Ummmm, YES! At one time, I was obese. But, even though I am not at my goal weight currently, I do believe I am a somewhat normal-weight person. And if I did not go to the gym four to five days a week, I know I would quickly not be so normal anymore. Trust me. I know. I have been in that predicament. For me, it is easier to just go to the gym to compensate for all those overeating moments.
The article also said that like people who are addicted to drugs or even gambling, people who are addicted to food will have trouble stopping their behavior – even if they want to or have tried many times to cut back. This is an extremely true statement.
When I was losing my weight through Weight Watchers, I still had those moments. I thought I had everything under control. BUT I DID NOT. I said I did. But, I NEVER have had it under control.
Grocery stores and convenience stores. HATE THEM. Let me share why.
As I walk into a grocery store, I can start to feel the jitters coming on. I imagine, although I have no idea how exactly it feels, but I imagine it is like a drug addict who is trying to score his next hit. There are times I get the shakes, the sweats and my heart rate starts rising. I wish I was kidding. I am not. In a grocery store, I have to say “no” to myself a hundred times. No the chips, the candy, the donuts, the cakes, the ice cream, the crackers, the cookies, the everything. It is so frigging hard for me.
It is the same when I walk into a convenience store. Both stores cause so much anxiety for me. It may not happen every time, but dang near. And that is why I love that my husband does about 99 percent of the grocery shopping and there is pay-at-the-pump when I need gas in car.
I am sure there are many of you who are thinking I am nuts or that maybe even I am normal. I assure you I am neither. I am simply an addict who probably needs help. And has probably needed help for a number of years.
Here’s another little story for you. At my work, we have monthly lunch groups. Each month, the group provides lunch for the whole company. It’s pretty cool, really. But I don’t participate. Why? Because it cause me anxiety. Not because I might have to cook for my co-workers, but because I CANNOT CONTROL myself when there is food in our break room. And so, by not participating, that means I cannot eat when the lunches are being served. Easy fix for me. Although I feel embarrassed about it and I feel bad. I am truly a team player at work. I love being part of the newspaper family. But when it comes to the lunches, I can’t. I truly have no self control. It’s ridiculous really. And I hate that about myself.
Restaurant buffets are the same way, which is why I don’t ever want to go to them anymore. It is a real struggle. And they, too, cause so much anxiety. It sucks. It really does.
I know there are people who think I can just stop and that I am probably being foolish. But there are times, I can’t stop. People would probably be appalled if they knew all the times I have sat in my car and eaten and then find somewhere to throw away the evidence, as in the wrappers or container or whatever. It might be the remains from a stop at Taco Johns or Wendy’s or some pizza joint. Or it could be the empty box of Little Debbie Snack Cakes. Yes, I have eaten an entire box of Zebra Cakes. And I wish I was kidding. I am not. Eating in secret is something I, unfortunately, do on a frequent basis. And is something I have talked about before.
So, what do I do? That is honestly a very good question. I am not sure. I have been thinking about counseling. But of course, I haven’t made the call. I have also thought about journaling – not what I eat, but the what and when and feelings I am feeling when I do it. Maybe there is some correlation to something – that time of the month or something going on in my life or who knows.
I know that by writing about it, it makes me feel better. Although it may make be sound like a lunatic. But at this point, I actually don’t really care. All along in my journey, I have tried my hardest to be as truthful as possible. And this is the truth. The hard, ugly, disgusting truth.
So what about you? Are you a food addict?
End up eating more than planned when you start eating certain foods?
Keep eating certain foods even if you’re no longer hungry?
Eat to the point of feeling ill?
Worry about not eating certain types of foods or worry about cutting down on certain types of foods?
When certain foods aren’t available, go out of your way to obtain them?
Please feel free to share your thoughts. But please don’t tell me about the “quick fixes” and the “diet programs” out there. I know about them. I have tried them. I am done with them. I want to learn to manage food, not avoid it.