My recovery from food addiction is supported by three pillars: abstinence, gratitude, and honesty. If one of those pillars starts to crumble, then my recovery is in jeopardy.
If my portion sizes increase and stay that way over time, I run the risk of compromising my recovery.
If I forget to be thankful for all of the wonderful things about my life, I run the risk of compromising my recovery.
If I start lying to myself about what and how much I am eating, then I run the risk of compromising my recovery.
Over time, abstinence and gratitude have become the strongest and simplest parts of my recovery to maintain. I never crave junk foods. I wake up in the morning with gratitude on my lips and go to bed the very same way every single night.
It’s that third pillar that has proven to be in need of constant inspection and repair.
Although dishonesty and denial go hand in hand, they are not always the same thing, especially when it comes to food addiction. For the more than 28 years I suffered with food addiction (and even during the last two years that I have been in recovery), I have gone through bouts of denial and knowing dishonesty all to have an excuse to stay in the food.
Compulsive eating is often described as a cunning and baffling disease, and the deeper I go into recovery the more apparent that becomes. Although I no longer tell myself (and others) “Whoppers,” so to speak, I do catch myself being persuaded by this disease to not see my behaviors clearly.
About a year ago, I stopped recording my daily food intake. I had promised myself when I entered recovery that I would keep a food journal for the first year of my recovery. Then, I would learn to live without it. I figured that after a year my eating would be more “normal,” and I would no longer need daily surveillance.
A few months later, I started gaining a little weight. My therapist and I both agreed that this small increase was a normal part of the recovery process and focusing on it would only lead to a return to dieting (read: bingeing) behavior, which kept me in the disease for nearly three decades.
But then I had a setback when emotional traumas of my past were triggered. Although I was not bingeing nor was I eating trigger foods, my portion sizes had increased and I found myself having compulsive thoughts about food again from time to time. A little weight gain I can handle, but the reemergence of compulsive eating thinking and behavior scared me. I could see just a wink of the dark abyss that is full blown relapse… and I sat there staring at it.
That’s right. Instead of running like hell right back into recovery mode (meetings, more therapy, and so on), I kept on engaging in destructive behavior and just staring at the edges of food addiction blackness. It was like I couldn’t look away.
I was powerless. I AM powerless.
Food addiction/compulsive eating/binge eating disorder–whatever you want to call it–is a disease. A powerful, cunning, baffling, dogged disease. I turn my back and allow myself to ignore my thoughts and behaviors, and it is ready to move right back in.
Food addiction is the devil I know.
As the edges of blackness creeped toward me with every extra helping I ate, I continued to lie to myself.
I am just hungry today because I walked all over the park.
I didn’t eat much for breakfast. I am just getting my required daily calories.
If I don’t eat enough now, I will be hungry and overeat later.
Yeah, I know, you know the drill.
In any case, the lightbulb moment came, as I hoped it would. I decreased my portion sizes for just ONE day, and the compulsive thoughts were gone. I decreased my portion sizes for a SECOND day, and I no longer felt hungry until meal time. This relief continues, and I am more grateful than I can possibly say.
I learned for the millionth time that if I eat less, I eat less.
I faced the truth.
Now I know that a KEY part of my recovery from food addiction is to revise my definition of abstinence to include not just avoidance of trigger foods (which is easy for me at this point) but to carefully monitor portion sizes.
Does this mean I will measure everything I eat? No. What it does me is that I will be mindful of how much I am eating. No more going back for seconds. No more piling on extra food “just in case” a normal portion is not enough.
It also means moving more. Eating excess food makes me tired and drags me down. There were days when I just didn’t feel like getting out of my chair. After I reduced the amount of food I was eating, my energy levels started to return.
I marvel at this change. I eat only clean, whole foods. No sugars. No flours. Even still, eating extra portions made me so very tired. Imagine how terrible I felt when I was eating junk foods in excessive amounts? No wonder I was so physically and psychologically ill!
Like all struggles I have faced in recovery, this one has taught me so much about myself and this disease. The biggest lesson I have learned: recovery is only as strong as ALL three pillars. If one falls, the disease will creep in like a thief and steal my serenity.
Serenity is my ultimate goal.
I find that only by being abstinent, grateful, and honest. Without all of them strong and resilient, I risk falling into that black abyss of binge eating, and there is no way of knowing how long it would take to see the light again.
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