That first bite was a huge release. I could finally relax… well kind of. I’d been craving nachos for days and managed to keep avoiding them. Finally, I caved in. As quickly as I felt a sense of ease after that first bite, I instantly started to feel frustration, shame, and anger. That voice in my head, “You have no self control! You’re disgusting! Why can’t you stop yourself?”
But it was already too late. The autopilot button was on and nothing I could say or do could take me off course. I was going to eat the whole tray of nachos.
With all the work I’ve done on myself, this still happens! Because of that work, I don’t always feel guilty or shameful. I’ve learned that doesn’t help the situation.
Admitting you have a problem is never easy. We live in a society where we feel compelled to be perfect in order to be love and accepted. As a fitness instructor, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to look and eat a certain way. Women’s bodies are objectified and we critique our weight, shape, and size tirelessly. Diets are fashionable and trendy.
Pema Chodron said, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” I’ve heard this described in other ways. “We teach what we need to know.” So there’s a valuable lesson here…….
It’s no coincidence then that I got into this industry and how it’s evolved. I started as Personal Trainer and Zumba instructor who participated in Bikini Fitness Competitions. Although I looked like a fitness model, I still struggled with my eating and body image.
I started to go deeper and became more curious. Perhaps it wasn’t just about counting calories, restricting foods, and looking a certain way? Maybe there was a psychological, physiological, spiritual, and emotional component that was missing? I later got certified in Eating Psychology and Yoga. My journey then became about healing my relationships with my body, food, and spirit. Recovery. Embodiment. Bringing the mind, body, and spirit into alignment.
I was overweight until the age of 15 where I finally lost about 50 pounds. I was motivated to get attention from boys in high school and started running 5 miles a day around the school track. My first diet was eating low fat mostly from processed foods like low-fat burritos, pretzels, cereal, and breadsticks. Prior to that I was a kid who loved McDonalds, Dominos, and bags of chips from the ice cream truck. By the time I was 8, I was eating Big Mac Super Sized meals and whole pizzas. With emotional stress at home, food was my way of escaping the discomfort I felt being in my body. Disembodiment.
What I’ve learned is that junk food, processed food, high fat (cheeses & meats) and sugar are all considered “hyperpalatable foods.” They affect the reward system in the brain by triggering “feel good” chemicals like dopamine. Cocaine has the same effect.
The earlier we start eating hyperpalatable foods, the more likely we are to get hooked on them. This means that good childhood nutrition is very important — and processed foods targeted at children are a major potential health problem. – Precision Nutrition
Since that first diet, it’s been a battle between my self-control and these hyperpalatable foods specifically bread, french fries, chips, nachos, cookies, ice cream, cake, and just about any highly processed food. I’ve struggled to be a “normal” eater for 30 years. Some days I’m “good, ”some days I can’t seem to stop myself, and have to get my fix. In one sitting, I’ll eat a whole loaf of bread, a whole pizza, a whole bag of chips, or a whole tray of nachos.
We can develop a chemical dependence on food because of this dopamine effect. It activates the reward system in our brain making us want more. It’s no different than how an alcoholic becomes dependent on alcohol or drug addict becomes dependent on drugs. It’s the chemical reaction that happens in our bodies from specific substances.
In addition, past trauma can create isolation. We withdraw not only from our friends and family but from ourselves. It’s too painful or difficult to feel emotions. Substance abuse becomes a form “connection” or coping.
Sure, we all overeat occasionally. It doesn’t mean we all have a problem. However, you may notice a trend.
If you have trouble controlling your intake of foods like sweets, starches, salty snacks, fatty foods and sugary drinks, you may be addicted to these “hyperpalatable” foods.
Old habits are hard to change. Especially, when your body is wired for addiction. It runs in my family.
A recent UCLA College of Medicine study of obese people who binged out of control on simple carbohydrates and were not alcoholic showed that they had at least one gene marker that was exactly the same as that found in diagnosed alcoholics and other drug addicts. This evidence helped corroborate the long-standing suspicion that the problem of addiction—and food addiction in particular—has a genetic basis. – ACORN
That’s a little glimpse of what I’m working with here. My history. My story. Brene Brown says, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”
My fork is now my sword. It’s time to be a warrior against the stigma of food addiction and body image.
My battle with food addiction has led to yo-yo dieting, over-exercising, laxatives, binging, and weight fluctuations. Little did I know that these were all efforts to control the addiction. I never addressed it as a dis-ease and so I didn’t treat it. I only tried to Band-Aid the problem.
Awareness means shining light on the reality. When I eat these foods, I’m playing with fire. Is it worth?
It’s not even about my weight anymore. It’s about living with integrity. Being true to myself and to my values. Conserving my precious energy. So much of it gets wasted trying to control my diet. Subconsciously, I continue to self-sabotage myself through food.
“Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.” – Jackson Kiddard
As a yogi, I’ve learned that attachment is the root of suffering. We have to let go in order to experience true freedom.
It’s time to admit that I have a chemical dependence to these foods and I have had it all my life. I’ve used these foods emotionally as well as mindlessly to escape uncomfortable feelings. I’ve used them like a drug.
I’m tired of it. I’m worth more. I’m doing something about it.
Treatment is the path of RECOVERY. It’s structure that provides a foundation for living a fully embodied, present, and free. Some of the components include self-care, emotional/mental/spiritual/physical health, connection, and mindfulness. For more resources you can visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
Here are some common and effective forms of treatment:
- Abstinence – When it comes to food addiction, we can’t give up all food like an alcoholic can abstain from drinking. However, we can remove the trigger foods or the hyperpalatable foods that trigger the abuse. For myself, that would mean refined sugar, junk food, and processed foods (breads, fried foods, etc). There may also be an experimentation period. Certain foods I may not realize are problems could potentially be triggers as well. The thought of never being able to eat bread again can make me want to binge on it today! However, what we’ve learned from successful programs like AA is to take the process one day at a time. This is similar to the Yogis who promote staying in the present moment.
- Cleansing – Hyperpalatable foods can be toxic to the body. They have large amounts of sugar, salt, flavor enhancers, and other additives. Overtime it can inhibit the performance of our digestive tract. The gut is powerful and research has recently identified it as our 2nd brain that actually influences our mood, immunity, and overall energy. I’m facilitating a 21 Day Reset starting March 20th that is based on whole foods and herbs to cleanse the body and reboot your digestion. Email me at email@example.com to learn more.
- Yoga & Meditation – Mindfulness practices are effective forms of complementary therapy for recovery. How can Yoga help with recovery? The characteristics and effects of addiction could easily be described as separation. Addictive behaviors disconnect us from ourselves, our loved ones, our environment and so much more. Conversely, yoga itself means union, integration, balance. Yoga and its practices teach the fine art of balancing our multidimensional lives while living in a complex world. – Nikki Meyers founder of Y12SR (Yoga and 12 Step Recovery) Y12SR classes are now available in Los Angeles. The format includes a short meeting followed by a yoga practice. I’m a recently certified Y12SR space holder. If you’re interested in attending a meeting, contact me at Deirdra.firstname.lastname@example.org. This class is open to all. Interested in regular Yoga without the meeting? Visit http://deirdramartinez.com/calendar-events/
- Support – Withdrawal is challenging, as there will definitely be cravings and food is everywhere. So utilizing the help of a support group and professional (doctor, therapist or RD) are extremely important. There are plenty of free support groups available such as Overeaters Anonymous or Food Addicts Anonymous. There are also treatment centers that offer outpatient care.
These options are opportunities for recovery. In addition, I always encourage clients to seek professional/medical advise if they do feel they have a problem and are ready to get help.
This journey is embraced one day at a time. If you resonate at all with my story, I’d love to hear from you. Together we can lift each other up. #theupliftmovement