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So…Are You a Food Addict?

Often the holidays come with some awful setbacks.

After the dust (or glitter) settles you’re left with credit card bills, returns, hangovers, and the prospect of another year of work. Not to mention the worst setback of them all: weight gain.That dreaded feeling of excess usually kicks in right after New Years.

During the holidays it’s way too easy to indulge with desserts and baking, huge dinners, a few too many cocktails, and plenty of fatty/salty/sugary hors d’oeuvres. Not to mention all those gifts you got that include chocolate, candy, baked goods, and wine that are so easy to gobble up in the blink of an eye.

I know how it starts. Believe me, I’ve been there. You have a bite, and then another, and the next thing you know, the entire box is gone and you feel like shit. And this isn’t the first time this has happened.

You’re disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, and – even through the fog of a sugar high – you know you’re SO much smarter than this. So why can’t you stop eating?

Here’s your answer:

It’s not actually about the food!

It’s about numbing and distracting yourself so you can avoid something unpleasant. It could be anything that’s bothering you or that you don’t want to deal with. The boss from Hell, the distant spouse, trying to forget something from the past, avoiding the future…

My own food addiction in college stemmed from a deeply internalized fear of entering “the real world” with no job, no money, and $40,000 in student loans. Rather than face these fears head-on, I’d hit up three different drive-thrus, eat my weight in greasy sandwiches, hate myself for a few hours, go to bed, wake up, hit the gym, and let the cycle begin again.

Sure there was some greedy appeal in the deviously, chemically-addictive food itself, but the added appeal was that the more time I spent focusing on how out of control I was in this area of my life, the less I had to worry about the other parts. So the distraction was subconsciously intentional.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d write about this topic again. I’ve already been there, done that and I recovered a long time ago. Long enough ago that the Backstreet Boys were still together.

While I didn’t use this word at the time, I know without question that I got my life back through mindfulness.

In fact, the day I started to heal was the day I (finally) admitted I couldn’t change what I couldn’t acknowledge. Once I opened myself up to observe what was making me use food to escape my life, I began to learn that the root cause of my binge eating was actually stress.

Here’s the disclaimer: You don’t have to be a food addict to recognize the pattern of emotional eating. We’ve all reached for the ice cream at some point to soothe the pain of a broken heart or a broken dream. The difference is that addicts can’t stop. While mending a broken heart with ice cream happens on occasion, and then you move on, a food addict can’t move on and remains stuck in the same patterns.

I was definitely an addict.

Being mindful created a space for me to “kill the monster when it’s little.”  In other words, I was able to catch myself being triggered LONG BEFORE I showed up at 7-11 like a junkie – and by catching myself I was able to choose a different response.

Waking up to that choice saved me. Do I still have moments where the monster returns? I’d be lying if I said no. The Holidays in particular is rough, with the candy and snacks being unavoidable and constantly in your face.
Still, just being aware of my triggers means I can be smart about avoiding old habits. I don’t keep junk food in my home, I don’t go to certain restaurants, and I have lots of handy excuses for those cute little Girl Scouts who sit outside my grocery store. Removing temptation has been my first choice, but it’s not foolproof. There are occasional times when the ugly monster rears his ugly head, and in those times turning towards the feeling has become my second.

Mindfulness means asking yourself, “what is this really about?”

An addiction is not something that anyone would wish on anyone else and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously, but a very important lesson came out of this particular addiction. You need to start to respect yourself, and the more you do it, the easier it will become to do so.

  • Respecting yourself is the first key to being happy and in control of your life.

  • Choose yourself because you are the only person who can control it, and no one else is going to choose you if you don’t give them a reason to.

With the above tips you can truly tackle your weight loss goals for the New Year and conquer it for the rest of your life.

*Repurposed by Lesley Cornelius, a staff writer for Women Who Run It.

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Emily Bennington

Emily Bennington is the author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination and the founder of Awake Exec ™ mindful leadership training. You can find her online at www.emilybennington.com