A few months ago, I was chatting with some friends from church and we got on the topic of anti-smoking ads. There were a lot of comments about how someone can keep smoking when they know how bad it is for them. The general sentiment was, the guilt they feel when seeing these anti-smoking commercials should be enough to get them to stop. I was a little shocked that they had so little understanding of what being addicted to something feels like. I must admit, I was also a little jealous too!
I cannot speak for those addicted to cigarettes, as I have never tried one, but I know enough about what addiction to feel great sympathy for those who want to quit but cant. Addicts don’t need a commercial to make them feel guilt. They feel enough from themselves, and this guilt usually drives them right back into the addiction to help them cope.
My addiction is food. I obsess over one treat or meal and the cravings torments me. If I try to resist, I can’t concentrate on anything or feel peace until I give in. If I am able to hold off for a while before I give in, I loose all control and eat myself sick, getting little to no actual enjoyment of the food, just the satisfaction of momentary relief from the constant nagging of temptation. Then I feel shame.
I have tried cutting unhealthy foods out of my diet and on the other side of the spectrum, I have tried eating anything and everything that sounds good to me. In my experience, both extremes yield the same results, binging. I love good food. Now, I know myself well enough to understand that I can’t forbid myself from eating certain foods. I need to find the right balance.
The last few months, my goal has been to eat balanced meals. I try to make sure that my meals, dinner especially, have protein and vegetables along with my beloved carbs. I have avoided counting calories, because I have found for me, I obsess too much over staying below a certain number and if I mess up then I use that as an excuse to go crazy. Instead, I don’t eat unhealthy foods unless I really enjoy them. For instance, I am not going to eat a store bought cookie, just because it’s there. I don’t like them and then I just feel guilty about the wasted calories later. I indulge in foods I love, but I try to enjoy each bite–quality over quantity.
I try and eat until I feel full, and then stop. I have had a tendency to overeat, to the point of being sick. Being sick was almost comforting. Now, when I don’t listen to my body and I get to the point of feeling sick, it feels bad and I don’t like that feeling anymore. I try to remember that feeling and use it to help myself stop. I want to get to a place where I can enjoy good food but not let it control me. I want to get rid of all the guilt and shame I associate with food.
Exercise helps. Feeling happy and getting enough sleep helps. I turn to food to self-medicate, so when I am taking care of my body I don’t crave unhealthy food as much. The endorphins I feel after a good, sweaty, CrossFit workout make me feel satisfied in a way food cannot. Eating healthy foods makes my body feel better and when combined with exercise I find myself actually craving more nutritious foods.
No amount of exercise will “cure” me of my food addictions but for now, it seems to be a step in the right direction.