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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12 years ago

[…] and physicality – and I don’t have qualms with wanting that. Anyway – today Linda posted a reflection on her own battle with eating and how comparable it seems to her previous struggle with alcohol. It […]

Sharon
Sharon
12 years ago

Wow… I could have written that today (if I could write as well as you and I can’t) So thanks for putting into words what I’m feeling and I feel better knowing someone else is going through it too. Hopefully we can both fix it…

H
H
12 years ago

YES! Food is rarely about sustenance for me and I deal with those issues daily – sometimes hourly.

Victoria
12 years ago

Please talk more about this, I struggle with it too, but have never found a way to kick it and it’s getting worse.

Colleen
12 years ago

That hole exists in me too and I hate it. If you figure out how to shrink it, please let me know.

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

Wow, what an articulate description of addictive behavior. Here’s hoping you find the strength to kick the Brownie Habit quickly, and it comes back infrequently and stays only a short time.

Laura M
Laura M
12 years ago

From one sugar addict to another…Potatoes Not Prozac. Check it out, yo. :)
http://www.radiantrecoverystore.com/stbooks.html

Katie
Katie
12 years ago

Hi.
I’m just going to through this out there:

“Women, Food, and God” by Geneen Roth has changed my life.

I didn’t really *want* to read it. But one day my sister-in-law shoved it into my hands and said, READ THIS NOW. Before I left her house that day she said, “I can’t wait to hear what you think!” about 800 times. So I read it. And now I will forever be grateful to my sister-in-law.

I’m not “fixed”, but I feel like I have a much clearer view of what’s going on and what to do. I feel great. I feel like ending certain damaging cycles is actually within my power.

In one word? HOPE.

Women, Food and God – Geneen Roth. I’ll send you my copy even! ;)

Nicole
12 years ago

This is exactly what I needed to hear tonight. I’ve actually spent much of the evening feeling bad for myself and composing a long mental list of “shoulds” for myself.

yaya
yaya
12 years ago

Ditto
Thanks so much for this post!
sometimes it scares me that if I had to choose between embracing my husband or a big warm loaf of bread slathered in butter after a long day…I would take a few seconds to choose!
Oh the jeans are tight this June…gotta start that first step in the right direction tomorrow…

Sara
12 years ago

Can I get and AMEN!? Stupid brownies and their tasty, tasty destruction…

MEP
MEP
12 years ago

I TOTALLY understand this, and you’ve written it with such clarity. I finally stopped smoking in January, and what used to be a cigarette is now a handfull of chocolate chips, or a scoop of ice cream, or a really nice dinner out. It was amazing how many positive changes came to my life when I eliminated the constant negative feedback loop in my head that kicked on when I lit up. Food is the final frontier, I guess.

Jenny
Jenny
12 years ago

I can’t count how many times I’ve thought I was done with that kind of crap. I’ve recently lost about 35 pounds (lots more to go) and when our cat died I put 5 back on because I just gave myself “permission” to eat because I was sad. For, like, three weeks. Um. Maybe I could stop now. Again.

Thanks for writing about it.

Crouching Cougar
Crouching Cougar
12 years ago

I so know what you are talking about and exactly where you are- my term for my journeys to this ugly place is down a sloth mineshaft. I keep going there but less and less often thanks to a few things I learned in Weight Watchers. Something that helps me out is just like how it took a series of decisions to get me down the mineshaft, I need to be gentle but firm with myself and start taking a few small steps back out. Cold turkey and self loathing results in digging in further. So I might just make sure I start back drinking my 8 glasses of water today (helps flush out all those baddies), and just go for a walk if i can’t force myself into a workout, literally destroying and throwing away the food/s that I am/may keep binging on (i have to crunch up chips, cookies etc or pour ketchup on them AND THEN throw them in the trash otherwise I seriously may dumpster dive for them later). These steps and others along that line will start momentum back to the other direction for me without laying tons of guilt on top of an already negative situation or trying to do too much too soon to get out of it. anyway it works for me. Good luck- you are an inspiration!

Kate
12 years ago

I really appreciate your honesty. It would be so easy for you to dupe us all into thinking that you are some kind of robot who never falters, is always perfectly toned and filed with only organic, home cooked food. You are a wonderfully normal human and you’ll get your motivation back but in the meantime, you just motivated all of the rest of us M&M eaters with your own truth.

julia
julia
12 years ago

Wow, can I ever relate to this post. Having cut out every other ‘vice’ (drinking, smoking, sloth) I feel like junk food is all I have left, and sometimes I just get so *hungry*! What I try to ask myself is whether I am eating to nourish or to punish, and sometimes that helps me stick to my healthy eating plan.

I love the comments on this entry, and will take everyone’s recommendations to the library. Thanks, Linda, for being brave enough to tell us that you, a *marathon runner*, feel this way too.

amy a.
amy a.
12 years ago

Have you ever tried OA? Goes hand in hand with AA! :)

Debbie
12 years ago

I totally could have written this.

I’m having such a hard time right now, and I just can’t find my way out. Yesterday, I decided to have Thai food for lunch. After a very good meal, feeling satisfied and happy, I walked out to my car and caught a whiff from the burger joint down the street. Instantly, I CRAVED a burger so bad, even though I was full, I gave a minute or two of credence to the idea of buying a burger.

Sick. Just sick.

I want to eat all the friggin time. And I don’t want to exercise…I just want to sit around and think about how much I wish I’d just stayed in bed. I’d gotten halfway to my goal weight…twenty down, twenty to go.

I’ve regained fifteen. And the more I dwell on that, the more I want to eat and mope.

Sometimes it really isn’t “just a brownie.”

Mandy
Mandy
12 years ago

Thank you. A crazy cycle that too many of us are familiar with. Someone mentioned the “women, food and god” book to me the other day and I quickly dismissed the idea that I would read such a thing. I’m rethinking, and am headed to the library to get it (insert husbandly bitching about ‘what the hell is that’ here).

You put into words what many of us go through daily – it’s powerful to see the responses here, to know we each have our own tiny wars going on. And the pavlovian response to TV – truer words were never spoken (written).

wordygirl
12 years ago

Oh, hai. I can SO relate! I just read a short story that you might enjoy – “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted” by Elizabeth Berg. (It’s the first story in a book with the same name … or it might be online somewhere?)
Anyway, just another voice from the internet, letting you know you are loved, you are worthy, you are good enough, and you are not alone.

Jessie
Jessie
12 years ago

I’ve thought about this post all day and returned to it many times.

Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for articulating so beautifully something that is a struggle for so many of us.

Irene
Irene
12 years ago

I search everyday for the will to quit :(
I want to, with all my heart. I come from a family of runners. I would LOVE to be a runner. It’s 6:30pm, dinner has been eaten, daughter is outside playing, this is when I should go, walk out the door in my Nike+, and finally get started. But the glow of my computer screen is safer, it loves me & I love it. Maybe tomorrow…

Trish
Trish
12 years ago

This is me. Wow. I have never heard it put into words so perfectly.

Sean
12 years ago

It looks like it’s mostly ladies who’ve commented on this entry, but I wanted to make sure someone was representing the dudes too. I’m in the process of a post-Memorial Day reboot as well, after having gorged myself over the entire holiday weekend. This entry is especially poignant to me right now, and thank you for sharing it.

Sloth and gluttony are my major bugaboos right now, and they are fearsome monsters indeed. It’s so much easier to play video games and stuff pork rinds into my food-hole than to exercise and work on my novel and all that other edifying stuff.

What you said about moderation really struck home with me. “No food should be off-limits,” the diet gurus say. “Reward yourself sometimes,” they say. But no, there’s no such thing as one brownie, and there’s no such thing as a single slice of pizza. There’s only licking the bowl so it’s clean of batter, and denying the dog even a single scrap of stale crust.

I’m right there with you. Quitting is easy. I musta done it a hundred times by now.

Courtney
12 years ago

Yes. Just… yes. Exactly how I feel.

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

“I want to stop, and at the same time the idea of stopping makes me sad and . . . scared, somehow.”

Ditto.

Kami
12 years ago

ok! ok! I’m hitting the gym tonight! It’s week 3 day 1 of C25k around here. I will get up off my lazy ass even though I just ate an entire box of black licorice…

cara
12 years ago

“I’m overwhelmed by the idea of having to give up the instant gratification in favor of long term happiness.”
–Oh, SING IT SISTER, because between this statement and the whole paragraph after, OH, I know these things all too well.

Zephyr
12 years ago

Ugh… there’s something about Memorial Day, BBQs, being outside and drinking entirely too many beers that really makes a person rethink their decisions and want to jump right back on the wagon. It’s just a shame how easy it is to fall off again. I have tons of bumps and bruises to prove it.

Lori
Lori
12 years ago

I would really like to hear more about your strategies for getting control. Please.

Amy
Amy
12 years ago

Ditto. So Ditto.

Dani C.
Dani C.
12 years ago

I am always thinking about my next fix. I am addicted to food. It’s an evil never ending cycle. I think about food constantly and wonder what I can feed myself next and how long I should wait before I dig into the next snack/meal/bite. I always have to be tasting something. I work out to undo the calorie damage, but the mental part, that’s the part I can’t make go away. EVER.

meg
meg
12 years ago

I adore you to pieces for your “here’s my soul, ya’ll” kind of writing. I struggled with this for a long time before untangling my messy food relationship, and it’s how I ended up becoming a coach for people who emotionally eat. There’s days that I ask myself “is this a REAL job? is this a REAL need?” Reading those 82 comments above took me back to my starting point, and reaffirmed another “day in the office” for me. Every post you write opens the door for such awesome dialect. Kudos.

(Not the chocolate M+M snack bar kind. The praise kind. Mmm, chocolate…)

Clare
Clare
12 years ago

Wow. Your post resonated with so many people…how many of us are there? I am totally addicted to food, especially sugar and flour. I’ve been in therapy for 3 years for depression, and have confronted several issues fairly successfully, but this one….I don’t even know how to talk about it or describe it! Thank you for finding the words. I recently read a book called “Eating by the Light of the Moon”, the cover of which had me curling my lip ironically, thinking it was going to be ushy-gushy love yourself nonsense, but it actually gave me some ideas that would never have entered my head otherwise. I can’t remember the author, but I recommend it.
Also, keep being awesome! You motivate so many people on a regular basis!

Steph
Steph
12 years ago

“I’m overwhelmed by the idea of having to give up the instant gratification in favor of long term happiness.”
I know im kinda late to the party but that sentence has been rolling around in my head scince you posted this Linda and quite seriously it had been the first ever thing thats made me admit to myself that giving up smoking may just be a good idea.
THANK YOU!!!!

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