The Monster Inside

When a patient comes to my surgeon for bariatric surgery, my surgeon requires them to meet with several different doctors that he keeps on staff. Of course the surgeon himself meets with the new patient, and then he sends the patient to a dietitian, an exercise physiologist, and a psychiatrist.

During my meeting with the psychiatrist, I asked him if it was common for him to hear that the bariatric patients were abused as children. He said it was.

My childhood was, shall we say, interesting for a wide variety of reasons. No, I was not physically abused in any way—but both of my primary households were quite narcissistic in nature, for one thing. There are more details I could share, but I’m going to hold those back for now. But there was very little that I, as a child, had any control over, which is normal for children—but when your formative years are as tempestuous as mine were, you tend to find something to latch onto to give yourself at least the illusion of having control over something. In my case, it was food.

I have become especially aware of this as an adult now that I have all the free agency that comes with being wholly responsible for myself. I have control over when and how much I eat. I have control over what I eat. But somewhere along the way, in my efforts to gain some sort of footing in this crazy world, I lost control all together.

For me, eating certain things is actually a nearly uncontrollable impulse. I believe the technical term for the foods I can’t stop myself from eating is “trigger foods”. And like the trigger on a gun, once I’m set off, it’s hard to stop myself.

On Friday I bought a 7.06 ounce bag of Ghirardelli peppermint bark. I only get it during one portion of the year because it’s a seasonal item, and that makes me want to eat even more of it while I’m able to. As I’m writing this, it’s just after four PM on Sunday. I’m eating the last piece of the peppermint bark now.

I imagine this behavior is very similar to that of smokers. It still strikes me as odd that someone can be addicted to food, but the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as:

“… a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

They further add that:

“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

I daresay that’s me to a T, although I am thankfully self-aware enough to recognize that I have a problem and fed up enough with myself to want to do something about it. Wanting and acting are not the same thing, however, and so we shall see how this goes. Regardless, I have a feeling that I’m in for some dark times ahead.

But then I’ve heard it’s always darkest just before dawn.


7 thoughts on “The Monster Inside

  1. coemaria says:

    I’ve realized that about a lot of food. I have what are called “trigger foods”, but I’ve discovered that sugar is one of the biggies for me. My sponsor told me once that food isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s meant to be for nourishment. I’ve always used it as a drug, something fun to easy the pain of life. That is not what food should be. Learning to eat on a regular plan and making my accountable for that is my beginning.

    In addition to being accountable to my sponsors, I also need to write about when I do want to eat when it isn’t a scheduled meal time. I need to see what emotions I am trying to cover up with the food. I can also call people who know exactly what I am feeling,who have been where I am now.


    It’s not easy, but once you get through this, I think it will be worth it.

  2. Astrid says:

    I think that journalling when you feel the urge to eat is an excellent idea. If you sit and focus on why you’re wanting to eat–what emotions you’re feeling, what might be causing those emotions, et cetera–maybe you can deal with them in more constructive ways. I know that for me, food is a bandage. It just covers up the problems and emotions, allowing me to ignore them in the short term, but not really giving me the ability to deal with them in the long term. It definitely sounds like you’re the same way, so it could be helpful to replace those in-between-meals indulgences with thought and introspection and attempts at answering that ever-present question, “WHY?”. Try it and see. If it doesn’t work, well, you still tried, and that counts for something.

  3. […] to write posts that are all doom and gloom. Even when I’m talking about things as serious as addiction, I do at least try to end on a hopeful or positive note. But this journey has its share of low […]

  4. […] and psychological side of things. I think it’s time to change that. As I mentioned in “The Monster Inside”, food has long been a way for me to feel like I had control over at least some aspect of my life. […]

  5. […] on my last post, but I thought it should be highlighted in its own post as well. I’ve talked about addiction before, but even despite my own personal experiences with food addiction, there’s always a part of […]

  6. […] it’s the holiday season again, which means that it’s time for this insidious stuff again. I was sort of dreading it, actually, except…except I have some, and it’s in my cupboard, […]

  7. […] candid on this blog about how I have an eating disorder*, and how that disorder is caused by an addiction to various foods, most specifically sugar and pastry. I have a lot of difficulty with self-control […]

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