My name is Randee and I am a foodaholic.
That sounds funny at first because: food! We all love food! Food is delicious and we have to eat it at least once a day and we focus our social experiences around it and it nourishes us and makes us grow and besides which, did I mention it’s delicious?
And that is all true, and true for me. Food is delicious. Food is also bad for me. At least, the way I use it, it is.
Here is how I have learned to watch my weight (which needs watching even in a body-positive way; if I don’t watch it you’d be startled how effortlessly I can pack on pounds): I eat healthy, I count calories. I exercise. Currently, my regimen involves soups for breakfast and snacks (that’s switching to smoothies now that the weather is getting warmer) because they are filling and nutritious if you purchase the fresh-made ones (shout out to Splendid Spoon, which is wonderful if a bit pricey). For lunch I have a ready-made salad (Ready-Pac is my consistent favorite), and for dinner we do something relatively basic with meat and seasoning and vegetables as a side. When I snack, I have cashews or an orange.
If/when I deviate from that beyond a glass of wine or a random piece of chocolate, I’ll start gaining.
But the fact is that being healthy and watching things gets a) exhausting and b) boring after a while, and I’m just on the verge of soup burnout, which is another reason for switching to smoothies. It’s so easy – at least for me – to start yearning again for the things that sound so good in my head: cakes, ice cream. Chocolate-flavored things. Cheese-infused things. Pastry-wrapped things. Bacon in all shapes and forms.
What has tended to work is this: I watch things six days a week like a hawk. On the seventh, I eat whatever I want – but only on that day. This has worked in the past, and works in the present. This is the equivalent of an alcoholic who abstains all week, then gets blotto on Saturday and considers themselves not addicted.
That is a lie; it’s an addiction.
I started listening to my body more closely in the past year or so. Maybe that’s a consequence of living with someone who has food allergies: my husband can’t have cheese or rice or soy. He talks a lot about his stomach being angry with him, and how he has to be careful. I’ve been hearing this for about seven years now, and it seems to have gotten through. I am listening.
My body is not happy with me when I get blotto.
For one thing, as I’ve gotten older, I value my time more: Things I don’t want to do are irritating to me more because they take up time than that they are drudgery. Eating like an alcoholic once a week basically eats up my day – because it makes me sluggish and tired and inactive and frankly a little depressed. It is fun for the 20 minutes or so while I do it – I will always have fond memories of having chocolate cream pie while watching the first season of Broadchurch – but frankly, I get full much faster these days and afterward the sheer discomfort of having eaten too much is gross, and uncomfortable.
Yet I yearn anyway. My brain wants, my heart wants, my stomach wants. And only a small part of my rational brain says: You dummy.
I recently returned from a week in Madison, Wisconsin where I was attending a convention. And while I anticipated the whole experience of seeing friends, reading my work aloud to audiences, going to parties and dressing up – I was equally as excited about the city itself. For one thing, there are great bike trails. For another, as I probably stated incessantly, there are fried cheese curds. And cheese everything. And amazing hamburgers. And ice cream. I think perhaps 60 percent of my excitement about going there was the food. Which I then consumed throughout the week – no soups, barely any salads – and which made me both happy and put a damper on the trip, because I was tired and cranky a lot.
You can say, “This was a vacation!” but the truth is that at least for me, being a foodaholic means that food becomes the vacation. I didn’t miss the world around me — hell, I biked 40 miles one day — but I think I would have enjoyed the entirety of the trip more if this didn’t have the kind of grip on me it does.
That said, I do get hungry again. And when I do, it’s like all the lessons I learned in the past are mere distractions – this will make you too full, this will make you sleepy and steal your afternoon, this will make you uncomfortable – and eventually I start thinking about cake again. What I’m trying to do now, to fix that way of thinking, is remember what it was like to feel crappy. To remember that it drags me down and doesn’t really fill me up. To think of food more as fuel and sustenance than delight and indulgence. To long for crisp greens and juicy fruits. It’s a kind of brainwashing, but at least it’s healthy.
This, I think, is what addiction feels like. To know when something isn’t right for you and to want it anyway. To be exhausted by the not having, then exhausted by the having. I don’t smoke and don’t do drugs or drink to excess – I really have no other exact parallels here, except eating. So perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps this is another thing entirely (and of course it is; we do have to consume food, unlike most anything else we get addicted to).
But I wanted to put this out here because saying it might help remind me as the week comes to a close that yes, I am an addict.
I will always be 0 days sober.
And that is the truth of being a foodaholic.
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