Declaring it publicly to boost my commitment: I have embarked upon a sugar/processed crap moratorium. I mean, I decided this over the weekend — the old “diet starts on Monday!” Jedi mind-trick that allows you to really go nuts with that final ice cream binge — so today is, by god, the First Official Day of Eating Like a Moderately Sane Person Instead of Someone Trapped Inside a Vending Machine.

During my first days of being sober, I had this mantra: whatever it takes to get through today. Then it was whatever it takes to get through this week. Then month. You can see how a person could keep going, until knocking back a bag or two of Combos first thing in the morning seems like a perfectly acceptable way to get through the decade.

The tantrumy 3-year-old part of my brain feels a great sense of unfairness about my goal of putting the brakes on the junk food. Like, what the fuck, you’re taking away something else? It feels like deprivation, as though being in a constant state of foggy cravings is doing me any good. Yes, nothing like fatigue, crappy skin, an endlessly upset stomach, and crashing mood swings to really promote that inner serenity.

Even if eating the way I have been wasn’t so blatantly bad for me, I recognize the danger in trading one escape for another. As a short-term coping mechanism, no big deal, but the longer this goes on, the longer I’m not doing the real work that will keep me in recovery.

Meaning, it’s time to learn how to sit in my shit. Experience feelings like a big girl, whether that’s anger, loneliness, boredom, depression, fear, social anxiety, self-criticism, whatever the hell, without using something to check out. Swedish Fish aren’t typically recognized as a drug of choice in support meetings, but take it from me, it’s all the same thing. Especially when you find yourself blindly mainlining about seventy at once like some candy-guzzling pelican because death by gummy is preferable to experiencing a normal human emotion.

I have switched up my diet a thousand times, because I keep coming back to this rut of compulsive eating, and I’m usually motivated to make a change because I hate the weight gain. This time, though, the stakes feel higher. It’s not about my waistline, it’s about finding better ways to cope. Because this road runs so closely to the drugs and alcohol one. Eventually, they become indistinguishable from one another.

It would be nice if you could just do something NORMALLY for once, the 3-year-old says. Yeah, me too, but it is what it is: I stopped one substance, I launched directly into another. I gave myself a month, almost to the day, and now I need to right-size myself again. Because being alive and part of the world is a package deal. You can’t throw away part of it without eventually losing sight of the whole thing.


23 Responses to “Same plot, different villain”

  1. Jen on November 28th, 2016 1:31 pm

    I just started the same routine today. I just pouted my way through a snack of raw broccoli. We can do this!

  2. Laura on November 28th, 2016 1:40 pm

    Just started again today too. I’m looking forward to not feeling quite so shitty after the headaches and detox from junk abate. Have you tried any of the Food delivery services? I’ve tried Hello Fresh for a few weeks now and I’m loving the variety and trying new things.

  3. Kim on November 28th, 2016 1:54 pm

    Ooh, ooh – I know this one! I believe I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times how I traded opiates for sugar? Apparently I’m not groundbreaking new territory here; my therapist cheerfully asked me why I thought candy vending machines are so popular at AA and NA meetings. And while it was tough giving up Vicodin/Percocet/Oxy, the peanut butter pills (Reece’s Pieces) and powdery sugar pills (SweetTarts) were a challenge in their own right. The upside is there does come a day when the cravings DO subside and it’s a powerful moment to realize you’ve tamed the beast. It’s always lurking, yes, but to beat its ass on any occasion is nothing short of fantastic.

  4. Allison on November 28th, 2016 4:18 pm

    A friend of mine went through a similar situation with her husband. He was a recovering heroin addict and she noticed that he had addict behavior in other things once he was clean. For a while it was fish. They had something like 13 humongous fish tanks in their living room at one time. He was fanatical about taking care of them and such. Then it went to food, then he stopped that and it went to work and finally he went back to alcohol and she filed for divorce. Very sad. Good for you for recognizing it and attempting to do something about it! Good luck.

  5. Amy on November 28th, 2016 6:55 pm

    So I guess I’m not original in my idea of STOP EATING SHIT TODAY. Man, I made myself so bloated and sick from eating over the weekend that I was so disgusted with myself. Hang in there, Linda! I’m happy you’re posting again.

  6. Jeannie on November 28th, 2016 7:49 pm

    I love sugar. And chocolate. And would happily eat pounds of it every day if it wouldn’t add pounds on me. Every time I stop eating it, the cravings for it are worst the first few days, maybe up to a week, and then some how they are gone.

    Of course. As you say, the emotional reasons for eating are still there and it’s still hard. I have anxiety issues, and sugar is the way I deal. And dealing with those issues on their own sucks.

    All this to say: you can do this. I’m pulling for you!! Emotional crap amd feelings and all.

  7. Jennifer on November 28th, 2016 10:54 pm

    Oh man, you are spot on! When I got sober, 28 months ago, my addictions just switched to sugar, mostly in the form of salty, crunchy carbs. Especially if I was feeling something uncomfortable or unpleasant — you know, like a grown ass adult person of 42 might feel — it would sent me right to the pantry to forage.
    And it wasn’t until this past summer when my jeans and I had a “come to Jesus” moment that I realized that there are some things I cannot moderate — alcohol and simple carbs are among them. I gave up sugar and simple carbs on July 26 and haven’t felt better. Except for when those unpleasant/uncomfortable feelings happen. Then I wanna shop, eat, drink, have sex — whatever. But I’m slowly learning to do just what you said — sit in my own shit. Feel it all. Be very uncomfortable. Be in pain. Be bored. Be angry. And….do nothing but feel it.
    It is sooo god damned hard sometimes.
    But I believe I’m getting better and I believe, like you, that this is a package deal! And I want the whole damn deal.
    We can do this. We can do hard things.

  8. Grace on November 29th, 2016 12:07 am

    3yo here: I hate the Feels. Gah.

    I hate that it’s always something. If I’m not obsessing about food, it’s something else. Can’t I just not be obsessive? Yeah, probably not.

    Glad I’m in good company with the “diet starts Monday!” We’ll all be craving and crabby together. ;)

  9. Matt on November 29th, 2016 7:35 am

    I love you Linda. No, not in the stalker kind of way. I too have inner demons and have/am struggling with addiction. I have not kicked my addiction, rather I have masked the urges and feelings with food. I am down to one pair of work pants that fit, I am perpetually sleepy, and the thought of anything deep in fat always sounds appealing. Your posts are encouragement, I have been reading you for years. We can get there!

  10. Amy on November 29th, 2016 9:20 am

    Food is my drug. I pulled on a pair of pants I bought this summer and the button/zipper wouldn’t meet around my middle, ugh. That feeling of flopping on the couch at night, watching Westworld and just popping things that are supposed to taste good and make me feel good and give my my “me time” but not really tasting anything at all, so I keep eating more. It ends now! We’ve all got this.

  11. Caitlin on November 29th, 2016 10:02 am

    Something that has helped me with food cravings and the ‘deprivation isn’t fair so I’ll binge THAT’LL SHOW ME’ cycle is reframing my approach. It is so simple, but it has helped change things for me. Shifting the power, taking it back.

    Here is what I tell myself: I can have anything I want. What do I really want?

    I can have whatever I want. What do I really want?

    Repeat as often needed.

    It’s incredible how it shifts the power for me. So often it turns out I really don’t want the M&Ms after all.

  12. Katherine on November 29th, 2016 10:33 am

    A suggestion that I hope is helpful: The Untethered Soul. Get it on Amazon. It’s a little hard to get into at the beginning, but about a third of the way in it begins to make so much sense. I found it so helpful.

  13. Katherine on November 29th, 2016 10:34 am

    Also, you need a new thing for your 3 year old to obsess over. Just pick a healthier one. That focused part of you is a gift if you can point it to something healthy AND comforting. Something artistic, maybe?

  14. maggie on November 29th, 2016 8:23 pm

    Well, shit on a shingle! So happy to see you back in action! I had kept you bookmarked and have not had a look in so long, but on a whim I checked it out. Yea!!!!! Love your writing!

    And on the food note….the older I get the worse I feel when I binge. And it’s hit me in such bad way that I truly cannot function the next day if I eat poorly. So, I try and try to stay the course and allow myself some cheat days:)

    I’m so happy to see you back!!!!!!!

  15. Niki on November 30th, 2016 4:38 am

    Doing the same here. Sugar is my drug of choice- totally addicted. Day 4 is the worst then I wake up day 5 and it’s a miracle!! Boom!

  16. Amy on November 30th, 2016 7:30 am

    Wellbutrin. It’s why I’m alive. It’s not anything like any other antidepressants. Those serotonin tweaking pills turn me insane quick like. I’m sure you puke a little every time you see yet another suggestion- but it’s worth a try. I don’t know if ill ever want to sit with my feelings for any amount of time. I should. But now, I’m just trying to stay alive and out of bed. I’m on my way to get my face lasered. It’s the brilliant way I’ve forced myself to quit smoking. Cause what idiot would spend tons of money to fix smoker wrinkles and sun damage and go back to smoking. Don’t answer that. Fingers crossed. Xoxoxoxo

  17. Debi on November 30th, 2016 9:09 am

    Good for you! I have a suggestion; the book Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig. She gets you.

  18. Shawna on November 30th, 2016 11:13 am

    This worked for me when I was single: I only needed willpower while I was at the store. If I didn’t have junk in my house, I couldn’t break down and eat it all in a moment of weakness.

    Now that I have a husband (who brings home junk food), and two kids (for whom I buy treats because I don’t want to deprive them while I’m trying to deprive myself), this doesn’t work as well as it used to.

  19. Anonymous on December 1st, 2016 12:18 am

    The first week transitioning from junk to healthier foods is the worst for me so I have a rule that in that first week (or two), I allow myself to splurge on gourmet healthy foods. For example, I’ll buy a free range already roasted chicken at a local deli and maybe some lox, or smoked salmon, the nicest cheese, and organic veg and fruits. I make a rule that it doesn’t matter if the healthy food is on the rich side – avocado, nuts, seeds, trail mix etc…as long as everything I’m eating is clean – no refined carbs, no sugar, etc. It makes the transition to cleaner eating easier. By the time I’m into my second week, I’m feeling sated (in a good way), my mood’s better and I’m motivated to keep going.

  20. sooboo on December 3rd, 2016 9:46 pm

    My husband has similar issues with sugar and one thing that has helped him tremendously with cravings is to fast for 13 hours every night. So, if he’s done eating at 8pm no coffee or food until 9am. Sounds crazy but it makes him feel more even all day. I’ve noticed he’s way less moody. I used to love sugar too but nowadays it makes my anxiety so bad, I feel like my heart is going to come out of my chest. Not so easy this being a human being thing.

  21. Mary Clare on December 6th, 2016 6:49 am

    ‘Eating Like a Moderately Sane Person Instead of Someone Trapped Inside a Vending Machine’ – ha ha ha – that phrase made me smile! Since 40 hit me like a truck and my metabolism is changing, I need to clean up my diet too. I always love the crunchy, salty carbs and they are not loving me back. You’re inspiring me to give up that crap! We can do it!

  22. Amber on February 3rd, 2017 12:51 am

    I’m sorry for another suggestion but please read The Diet Cure by Julia Ross. Because it’s about Chemistry in the body & she gets it & she works with addicts of all kinds.
    I have a copy as an ebook & happy to send to you?
    Also take care of yourself. Hope you are still finding the joy in books.
    You are freaking awesome

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