A good SParkling friend, and member of my BLC Panther team, Anne, posted a blog this weekend that gave me much food for thought. She has been in maintenance for four years now -- several months longer than I -- yet she still struggles with the regular temptations that come from good food. She calls it her "slippery slope of mindless eating." She pondered whether she is a "food-a-holic."
I related to her concern, but in a different way. I don't do a lot of "mindless eating," and even when I was at my heaviest, I didn't. I know I'm not an emotional eater. If anything, I'm the opposite and forget to eat, or don't feel like eating when I'm under stress or depressed. My problem is sugar, and I learned over the Thanksgiving to New Years weeks of 2012 that just because I've kept my weight successfully in a 5-pound target range for almost 40 months, that the sugar "problem" has only been held at bay.
Am I addicted to sugar?
Psychology Today adds insight to this question...
"Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, even health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.
The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect; this is known as tolerance. Because of tolerance, there is a biological reaction when the drug is withdrawn. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs). An alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these cues."
A little background into my situation... I have stayed in the 118 - 123 range since I leveled out three years ago and this feels like a good "home weight" (Spark Friend, WalkingAnnie's term.) Without an enormous amount of effort, I've stayed here. Granted, there has been effort. I exercise regularly and am faithful with Pilates or other strength training to maintain my metabolism. I also track calories every day. Though I rarely use the Spark tracker anymore, I always have a running total of calories in my head and generally stay in range. My exception to this came this past fall when life became stressful. I was working full-time and also trying to oversee a major renovation in our home. Apparently, eating on the very low end of the calorie range for several weeks was all it took to cause me to drop below range, and being below means that all of my clothes are baggy -- a condition that I don't like. What's worse is that my face becomes baggy, too!
My response to having loose clothes was, "I'll quit mentally tracking for a while and enjoy the 'month of festive eating.'" BIG MISTAKE! With the six weeks of celebration between Thanksgiving and the New Year, I proceeded to gain a pound a week. As I reflect back on it, I didn't overeat regular food. Though I enjoyed a few extra servings of potatoes and green bean casserole, my culprit was sweets. LOTS of sweets. Cheesecake. Pecan Pie. Chocolate Pie. and Pralines, pralines, pralines. Oh MY!
When the BLC started back, I had to face reality. I had lost control. I was embarrassed to return to the Wednesday Weigh-ins ABOVE my target range with clothes that would soon be too tight, but the accountability was my maintenance saver.
These past couple of weeks that I've been accountable to my BLC team, I've mentally tracked calories again and have struggled with this very strong urge to nibble a couple of DH's cookies or eat a small bowl of ice cream. There is no temptation to munch on chips, but the urge for sweets has been tough. I am not beyond it, but I am definitely managing much better these days.
I do not believe in a deprivation eating plan because I believe that they set you up for failure, but I do know that my urge for sugar is something that I cannot give into daily, else I slide down that slippery slope again and the next time, I may not be able to grab that root and break the fall before getting all the way to the bottom.
Getting back to the Psychology Today article... I'm not sure if my sugar problem is the type of addiction where my body adapts to its presence and I feel that I always need it, or if it is based on habit -- I know that the intensely delicious Bear Track Ice Cream is only steps away in the freezer, or that the sweet crunchy chocolate chunk cookies are only a few steps further in the pantry. I may not ever know, but I do know that self-control and taking one step at a time is the only way to reign the addiction or habit back in.
Though this is the end of my thoughts, you may be interested in reading the rest of the Psychology Today article. It makes a connection between "addiction" and stress. Go to: www.psychologytoday.com/
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[Ferne, I stole your invitation idea and words. Thank you. Great Idea!]