Fix

I start making excuses mid-week when the kids are sick and when the long weekend rolls into view I announce my intentions to slide off the rails for the next few days. I have all the deliberate conviction of someone careening down a ski slope, braking mechanisms forgotten.

Two days later I’m headachy, short-tempered, and tired. I drink Red Bulls all day long, yawning. I stop exercising. I know exactly what my problem is but it doesn’t keep me from going back to the exact same stuff that’s making me feel bad. In fact, the worse I feel, the more damage I do to myself hoping to briefly feel better.

My jeans start feeling tight and I pick at my shirts, pulling and arranging their fabric so it doesn’t cling. My eyes look puffy, my skin breaks out. All the old habits are back, ingrained all over again: the rewards, the comforts, the Pavlovian response to the television being turned on in the evening.

In the morning I think how I should get things under control, at night I tell myself I’ll get back on track tomorrow. I start feeling bad about myself, which sends me right back to the source.

I want to stop, and at the same time the idea of stopping makes me sad and . . . scared, somehow. I’m overwhelmed by the idea of having to give up the instant gratification in favor of long term happiness.

It doesn’t come in a bottle any more, it comes in bags and boxes and wrappers, but the similarities go on and on. I recognize every familiar sign and symptom, everything I’ve already described and some I’m too embarrassed to. At my best of times I am incapable of practicing moderation when it comes to certain foods and so I avoid them altogether. Other times, I tell myself it’s only for a (weekend) (holiday) (while JB’s out of town) (while the kids are sick) (post-race celebration) short period, and who doesn’t deserve a treat now and then, assuming that pizza, cookie dough and cookies, crackers, ice cream, and pile of M&Ms is a treat.

I sound ridiculous, I guess. People say to shut up and eat a brownie, it’s not like you don’t exercise. And it’s hard to describe how sometimes a brownie really is just a brownie—a delicious square of chocolate and flour and sugar that you eat and enjoy and move on from—and sometimes it’s something else, it’s not food anymore. It’s the start of a yowling hateful hole in my body that I can’t fill no matter how hard I try. It’s a tangle of messy habits that have nothing to do with sustenance and everything to do with chasing a temporary pleasure. It’s about losing control.

The good news is I know how to quit. After all, I’ve done it about a hundred times now.

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Ali
Ali
12 years ago

This was just the kick-in-the-a that I needed. Peace to you – and thanks for the motivation.

Melissa
12 years ago

*hugs*
/me passes the carrot stick bag.

Heather B.
12 years ago

Were you in my house this weekend? Did you watch me eat that pizza and drink that vodka because ‘it’s a HOLIDAY!’. And even better; were you there this morning when I awoke at 5 to go for that long put off run only to roll over and fall back to sleep for three hours?

Argh. Gym clothes are with me for my evening run.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
12 years ago

Oh god, I needed this post. Now I don’t feel so alone.

I am by no means a healthy eater but I don’t eat that bad. When I do have a “few” cookies it turns into half the bag. Then I say, what the heck I’ll have some ice cream too! Then I feel like shit the rest of the day. Like I failed big time. I tell myself tomorrow I’ll do better, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. This isn’t just with food either.

DeenutsDana
12 years ago

Oh man, I hear ya. I can’t even breath in my jeans today. I am sitting at my desk at work leaning back because it hurts too much to sit up. One three day weekend of glut and I’m ruined.

Josey
12 years ago

I totally get this…sometimes a brownie really isn’t just a brownie anymore. I can’t even have Cheezits in my house. “moderation in all things” is a good mantra…when you know how to quit.

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

I had a friend who used to refer to my “interesting relationship with food.” Meaning how I couldn’t just eat a brownie, if I ate the brownie, that meant a whole host of other issues relating to the weakness of my mind and body and omg the list goes on and on and sometimes, you know, it’s just too much and so I just need to stay away.

I’m better about this, now. Mostly. But it’s a still a thing. And I feel, every hour that I need to eat, my choice can change my entire day.

Anne
12 years ago

I nodded at my computer the whole time I was reading this entry. I get it. Sometimes a brownie (french fry)(bowl of popcorn)(bag of chips) is so much more than just a brownie.

Not fifteen minutes ago I was plotting (another) slide into a dinner consisting of eight pounds of tator tots despite knowing FULL WELL that that was not the answer. I still don’t really know what comfort I’m seaking, or what I’m running from, or what is making me so uncomfortable in my skin that I’m trying to run face-first into a plate of deep fried binging, and all the self-awareness in the world isn’t giving me the nice, simple fix I want. But I keep trying, I guess. Over and over and over.

God, it’s hard.

Francie
12 years ago

God, you read my mind. It’s a never ending cycle of self-loathing and exercise with me.

BB
BB
12 years ago

Dude, this popped into my Google reader as I crammed the last Oreo into my mouth. *knocks on monitor* Are you in there? The good new? Every bite is a chance to start over fresh!

Nichole
12 years ago

I understand entirely what you mean. Thanks for helping me fight the urge to grab another ball of frozen cookie dough!

TStewart
TStewart
12 years ago

I have never NEVER commented on a blog before even though I follow about 50 of them (I guess that officially qualifies me as a stalker). However, I read this post of yours and started shaking. Like you were in my brain somehow. My question is, how DO you stop? How? Because I can wear a rut in my kitchen floor pacing around, shaking like a junkie looking for something to fill the hole. And it doesn’t stop at just the brownie. Or the cookie. Or any one thing. I’ll eat till I’m sick, then feel bad about it, and then want to start all over because I feel so bad. I’m drowning. ANY advice would be appreciated.

Janet in Miami
Janet in Miami
12 years ago

Some of us have addictive personalities. It will sporadically (or sometimes nearly always) be a struggle of some type with some kind thing: unhealthy eating, drinking, gambling, overspending, hoarding, the list goes on.

Its like Josey said: “moderation in all things” is a good mantra…when you know how to quit.

You have disciplined yourself out of an addiction before. You just have to watch this smaller one so that it doesn’t get control of you and become a major problem.

Now – give yourself a big, HUGE hug for how far you have come, and how much you have inspired us. Put down the Red Bull – go outside and breathe in life.

MRW
MRW
12 years ago

I am trying to get back into my pregnancy clothes and this post hit home. My god it’s hard to eat right and make myself exercise sometimes and then when I don’t, I sleep like crap, am tired all day, and feel like ass, so I eat more crap. Sometimes it is so hard to get back into the right mental space.

Last night while my husband was putting my son to bed though I exercised and it was because I thought of a post you wrote awhile ago talking about how there are times when you pull on the work out gear and exercise at night because that is the only time to do it. Because of your inspiration, I did not sit down in front of the computer. I put on my work out crap and cursed out Jillian Michaels (sp?) for half and hour. I know you are feeling crappy now, but I want to thank you for helping me to get my ass out of that cycle last night.

Kerstin
Kerstin
12 years ago

I don’t know if this will be appreciated, because I know she’s been mentioned here before, but reading Kate Harding’s blog really helped me. I know the feeling, I’ve definitely been there.

I also know that self-awareness and all the Kate Harding-esque type blogs in the world don’t cut it sometimes, but it’s a start.

I can honestly say I love myself a lot more, and the days where I hate myself (and food, and my body, et cetera, et cetera) are fewer now.

Anyway. It’s kateharding.net if you’re interested. She blogs about lots of different stuff, so you have to dig a little to find the good stuff about women’s relationships with food, but it’s worth looking for. Good luck.

MichelleH
MichelleH
12 years ago

Did everyone have this kind weekend?? :) Thanks for sharing or I would’ve thought it was just me. Today is definitely a ‘reboot’ kind of day.

It does not sound ridiculous at all. For me the brownie is Mac n cheese. So gooey and comforting. It is truly amazing how obvious it is, even at the moment we are eating the brownie or whatever other form the sabotage takes, that it won’t help. Yet, we still do it. I wish I could bottle up “snap out of it” and sell it, I would make a fortune. I never know exactly what it is that brings the motivation back but do sometimes wish it would kick in sooner!

Sounds like you are starting off the week reinvigorated. Good luck :)

Jessica
Jessica
12 years ago

I too am a recovering alcoholic with food issues, but I don’t think you can deal with the two problems the same way. After all, you can’t just…stop eating. I’ve felt a lot of torment over food, almost as much as I did over alcohol.

Something that has brought me a great deal of relief is Geneen Roth’s work. I’ve also found the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole very helpful.

Kristen
12 years ago

This is really well said. Those who haven’t gone through depression or addiction have, I think, a hard time understanding that KNOWING what fixes what’s wrong actually adds to the stress, you know?

heather
heather
12 years ago

thank you,linda, for articulating how i’ve been feeling recently. i mean, i’ve felt like this MANY times in my life, but only now, in my 30’s, do i recognize the patterns and how to change them. now if i could only put that knowledge into action…

SJ
SJ
12 years ago

Hi. My name is SJ and I’m addicted to food.

:: :: ::

I torment myself all the time over the very same stuff, it feels nice to know that I’m not alone. I have a problem with food – period. I find myself in this vicious cycle day after day, week after week, and I know what I need to do to fix it – I just can’t. Well for any length of time that is.

Thanks for posting this, I’ve already had the pep talk with myself to climb back on the wagon, maybe this time I’ll stay on for the long ride.

Best wishes.

Chantel
12 years ago

This sentence,”I start feeling bad about myself, which sends me right back to the source.” is me a million times over. I can’t get out of the cycle.

It’s so frustrating when you know what to do and how to do it but the “doing” is so hard.

I don’t have any supportive to add. I’ve been there. I am there. *sigh*

Nikki
Nikki
12 years ago

I don’t have anything supportive to add either. But this is how I feel a lot, also, I have no self control, which is exactly why I don’t keep junk food in my house. I keep myself from buying it by not putting it on the list. (Strict rule in my house: If it’s not on the list, it’s not being purchased.)

Maria
12 years ago

It’s always been like that for me. In recent years it’s been mostly centered on smoking. I’ve quit and gone back to it more times than I like to admit. The problem is, take away the smoking and I need something else to fill that void. I always need a vice. Right now I’m trying to make that vice be exercise instead of food (5 months and counting off the sticks and I keep telling myself this time for good) but everytime I quit I gain weight. There’s not enough food or exercise to satiate and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Debbie
Debbie
12 years ago

I completely, completely relate. I don’t know how you stopped drinking, but I’ve found the 12-step approach VERY helpful for compulsive eating (down 35 lbs and SANE). The down side is that I’m forced to actually deal with my problems instead of drowning them in a sea of flour and sugar, but it’s a welcome trade for losing the voices of guilt and shame in my head and the ever expanding sizes in my closet. My success has been with the Overeaters Anonymous 90 Day program.

shygirl
shygirl
12 years ago

Wow. You nailed it– the “yowling, hateful hole”. This revelation feels like a shaft of light finding its way through the thick tangle of struggling self-esteem and negative self-talk into the deepest recesses of my brain. Sometimes a brownie ISN’T just a brownie.

I hope someday I can get to the point where I can just let a brownie be a brownie, without attaching all this other mental and emotional muck to it. I’m not there yet. But thanks to you, and to all these other commenters, I don’t feel quite so alone any more.

6512 and growing
12 years ago

I read this with a spoon of chocolate ice cream in my mouth.
Sugar is addictive. Add butter and it’s practically mainlining (for some of us anyway..seems to be a female issue).
Hugs and Understanding,
Rachel

Lo
Lo
12 years ago

Thank you for posting this, it was very well-timed for me :)

After about six years, I’m finally understanding why long-timers in the room say “it never gets any easier.”

Katherine
12 years ago

I was bulimic for a better part of ten years of my life, and still am bulimic in the sense that something like that just doesn’t go away.

I am healthy now in that I don’t behave that way, thanks to lifestyle of exercise, healthy eating, and support. Now, I can eat allow myself a brownie, or a cookie, or a piece of cake without eating fifteen of them and throwing them up later in an attempt to erase that entire part of my day.

Still, the addict part of the bulimia will remain with me forever. I work, as my profession, with addicts. They often scoff at me, heroin addicts and crack addicts, that my addiction isn’t REAL.

I can assure you, mine is. I am addicted to food; the way it feels, and smells, thinking about it, finally making the decision to take the bite, and the remorse that I feel only a few minutes later. The cycle of it all. The way I think I can control it, when in reality – even now in my recovery – it still controls me.

I love your posts, because, sometimes it’s like you are writing down the dialogue in my head, only much more eloquently.

Margaret
Margaret
12 years ago

I think we’re sharing brainwaves or something, as I had all the thoughts in your post all weekend long. Actually, for the last 4 years since my divorce. Gee, I wonder what my “yowling hateful hole” is?

Thanks for putting this out there into the world.

Deb
Deb
12 years ago

Get out of my head dude.

Now where did I leave that bag of chips…

justmouse
justmouse
12 years ago

oh, i totally hear you! i have exactly 2 coping mechanisms: eating & drinking. after i had my son, the drinking settled a lot, but now that he’s an adult, and doesn’t need me there all the time, if i’m not careful, the drinking gets way out of control. so, mostly over the last 18 years, i’ve just eaten myself into obese misery. in the last couple years i’ve made some drastic diet changes, which help a lot, but it doesn’t cure the NEED to feed my pain. the first thing i want to do when i’m upset (or happy, or sad, or angry, or anything) is to EAT. so ya…saying a brownie is just a brownie, is the same as telling an alcoholic a beer is just a beer. i wish every day i could replace my current addictions/coping mechanisms with USEFUL ones…like cleaning, or working, or exercising. so far though, i still just want another effing brownie.

octmama
octmama
12 years ago

I could have written this same post. So tired of being tough on myself but can feel myself slip down that slippery ice cream laden path every week…

I really enjoy reading your blog!

beach
beach
12 years ago

As someone who is an ” all or nothing” type person, someone who stopped drinking 7 months ago, someone who also takes comfort(or self sabotage in food)someone who can’t really wrap my brain around moderation, someone who is a bit obsessive with my exercise regimen…..I SO related to this post!!!

Christine
Christine
12 years ago

I have read article after article about how sugar (and processed flour, which the body essentially treats as sugar) is just as habit-forming as any other vice. Kicking it takes just as much discipline and determination as kicking any other addiction, I’m guessing.

And hell, if you’re having trouble–I’m screwed.

Melissa
12 years ago

I don’t think a brownie is ever just a brownie. I hear every word, and you spur me to keep going with my new morning workout routine. I feel great all day, and it’s a teeny tiny bit easier to avoid the brownies. Or at least to say ‘hey, i worked out’ and eat it. :)

Felicia
Felicia
12 years ago

So give the rest of us advice! I know how to live without alcohol, because it’s something I don’t NEED to live, but food is another story… even “healthy” food I can eat too much of when I am emotional (and you’re exactly right – it’s not just food at that point). But I can’t live without food, so it’s not like I can remove it from my life…

maggie
maggie
12 years ago

You have put into words what I think all the time. It is so very difficult!

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

Oh, sweetie. You are so hard on yourself.

Leigh
12 years ago

Exactly.

My experience exactly. I had gotten over my food addicition when I was in the throes of my alcohol addiction.

Now it’s back.

What I hate is its absolute power to frame how I feel about myself. If I’ve been “good” I feel good, if I’ve been bad, everything about me is bad.

Ugh.

Tammy
Tammy
12 years ago

If you have never read ‘Women, God and Food’, you need to run out and buy it now. The title is unfortunate because it makes it sound like yet another selfhelp ‘if I just pray about it’ religious cheesy manual and it so isn’t.

It isn’t really about Women, God or food but rather our relationships with ourselves and how that relates to food. How we use food to soothe and punish ourselves at the same time and how it inevitably all comes from an inner pain we’re trying to smother with food. It’s very deep and not exactly light reading but I couldn’t put it down.

Lane
Lane
12 years ago

Just what I needed today. Last night I promised myself I would get back to eating better/practicing portion control after a break I justified because I was “on vacation.” Vacation was in March. So, yeah. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Must Be Motherhood
12 years ago

Ok. She was on Oprah recently and her book is on the bestseller list right now. But Geneen Roth’s “Women, Food and God” is a must read for those of us for whom a brownie is a helluva lot more than its ingredients.

Can’t say it’s “fixed” me, but I can say it’s given me a new lens through which to examine the situation.

Must Be Motherhood
12 years ago

(Or I could read the comments and say DITTO, Tammy!)

KB
KB
12 years ago

I’ll fourth Women Food and God by Geneen Roth that had nothing to do with God but everything to do with why a brownie isn’t just a brownie. I just started counseling for my food addiction and she recommended I read this at our first session. It was life changing for me. I haven’t dealt with any issues in my life before (because I just smothered them in hot fudge and that made them go away) so her words have been a huge shift for me.

Kim
Kim
12 years ago

Oh my. Nail on the head. About a week ago, I finished a month with no grains, no sugar in an effort to get my sweet tooth to calm the heck down. I made it through that month, but in the past week, I’ve consumed a pint of ice cream more days than not. My meals are still really healthy, but add 1400 cals of ice cream on top of it and hot damn. No good. Before I buy that pint of ice cream, I convince myself that it’s ok because I’m skinny (now, not always) or that I’ll repent after this one. It’s just stupid. I hate the damn siren song of Ben & Jerry’s.

jolie
12 years ago

I’ve never read something that was so entirely descriptive of the emotions I have. incredible.

Erica
Erica
12 years ago

Just the post I needed to read today. You, and everyone else, has already said what I’m feeling. Pat on the back to everyone for whom this is an issue. In all honesty, this is my “One day at a time”… sometimes one hour at a time. I wish it were easier…

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
12 years ago

I also found Geneen Roth (I read “When Food is Love”) revelatory and extremely helpful in breaking (or at least moderating) my cycles of binging and self-loathing.

Em
Em
12 years ago

I’m right there with you. I feel sort of guilty or fake when I say that I have issues with food, because I am an average-sized female who has never been perceived as overweight. But I would say that I’m an overeater because eating is my compulsion, something I like to do alone so no one judges what I eat or how much. I don’t buy junk food but inevitably things end up in our pantry because my husband buys it or his friend brings it over. I eat until I feel sick, and then I swear I’m back on the wagon. This happens several times a week. I exercise almost every day to counter the eating, but the internal struggle is constantly on. I fantasize about stopping at the gas station to get the new Ben & Jerry’s flavor or some Double Stuf Oreos.

It’s a tough place to be. Thanks for the post.

K.B.
12 years ago

I can so relate. I saw the bottom of a huge bag of Maltesers the other night because “My son is at the in-laws!” and hated myself the next day. I find myself self-sabotaging all the time, as you said, trying to fill that hole. *Big hugs* to you. As another reader said: Sometimes we all have to take it one day – or hour – at a time.

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