Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I know this is a controversial topic, and I am not going to go into a scientific debate about the mechanisms involved. . .
I just want to share my recent experiences.
I have (finally) come to realize that I am a food addict -- and by that I mean that I habitually use food to feel good (or even normal). This, in my mind, is different from "emotional eating," because for most of my life I have been doing it without realizing it, without any "triggers," regardless of my moods.
I believe this began for me in early childhood. I didn't have the best environment, I didn't get the support that I needed, and the only coping mechanism I could come up with was to overeat. It made me feel good. It began so early for me that I didn't realize how dysfunctional it is -- I didn't know any better. And indeed, it has taken me over 20 years to realize I even have this problem.
I believe I have been depressed most of my life, and that I was self-medicating this depression with food.
Luckily, after trying 6 other antidepressants which didn't help (or made my anxiety worse), I have finally found one that helps me feel better -- Lexapro. For the first time in my entire life, I feel OK -- there is not a gaping wound inside of my heart that I need to shove food into. There is no longer a constant shadow in the back of mind telling me how worthless I am or what a failure I am -- or that I will never be able to lose weight. I am finally able to tell myself that I am good enough, that I am beautiful, that I can change my life. I am finally able to believe in myself.
And, for the first time, I realize how I was using food to medicate myself.
I believe I used overeating as a means to increase seratonin in my brain... and, as with any other drug, I became tolerant to this high and required more and more food just to feel normal again. I was in denial, because I truly felt "hungry" even when I had already eaten enough calories to sustain my body. I needed more. How on earth could I be overeating when I felt so "hungry?" Now it finally makes sense.
Not anymore. Now I feel good without food -- I can finally treat it as something with which to nourish my body (and not my mind). I no longer feel the need to consume massive amounts of calories. Simple foods taste better, because I am able to let myself become truly hungry before I eat them. Eating smaller amounts of food feels more satisfying, and the negative feedback loop has finally been broken.
I know that I will definitely have low days in the future when I am tempted to self-medicate again by overeating. I know that I will probably always battle these food addiction demons -- but, right now at least, I am winning.
I wanted to write this blog to remind my future-self that there are things I can do to feel better that don't involve food... that a combination of support, de-stressing, good sleep, medication, and physical activity is the key to my success. I hope I can look back on this blog any time I struggle and remember how I feel right now -- I feel confident and hopeful. Most of all, I feel free.