I’ve been pretty 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 when it comes to food in general, but there are some things I just can’t seem to keep myself away from, no matter how hard I try. I’ve been through that cycle of determination (“I can do better next time! I will do better next time!”), failure (“I didn’t do better this time.)”, and shame (“I’ve failed again—I’m a terrible person.”). I’ve dealt with trying to negate the guilt whenever it wasn’t constructive guilt, but the guilt and the shame aren’t what I wanted to talk about today. What I wanted to talk about today is the actual failure that happens before the guilt. I don’t know that this will turn into anything more worthwhile than some navel gazing, but being a creative type, I do know that navel gazing can often be pretty integral to many processes. So here we go.
I try very hard to stay away from foods that I know will cause me problems if I’m around them. I haven’t been that great about it through the month of December, but I blame the holidays on that one (which, really, is mostly an excuse, but I’m getting to that). I will however, do things like something I did the other day.
A friend of mine is getting married in April, and had a wedding prep party of a sort, at which there were expectedly a bunch of snacks and so forth. Once the party ended, our hostess, another friend, and I were divvying up the leftover snacks. I took home some cookies to share with my husband, but I did not take home a sweet spread containing peanut butter and chocolate chips, because I recognized that, while at the party, I had trouble keeping myself out of it. So I did feel pretty good about that…especially since I’m still battling a craving for more of the stuff, two days later. It is a dangerous substance for me, one that I hope to see at other parties in the future, but one that I don’t intend to ever make myself or have in my own house.
But barring occurrences like that, my willpower concerning certain foods is next to nonexistent. And like I said, it’s been pretty bad lately. Some days/weeks/months are better than others. And it isn’t always due to lack of awareness, either. I am very aware of the problem. I am very aware of how I will feel, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, practically each and every time I’m battling an urge to eat something I know I shouldn’t, and cave in anyway. The guilt has, by now, become second nature (sometimes to the point that I don’t always notice that cautionary voice, as I’ve gotten really good at ignoring it—and that’s definitely part of the problem), and that guilt stems from knowing that I will be unhappy, in some way or another, at a later time, after I’ve caved into my addiction yet again. But still, I keep putting my hand back in the cookie jar.
There is always an excuse. Always. If you’re reading this and you’re an addict—whatever your vice may be—you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re reading this and are not an addict, then I’ll explain.
Let’s say that I want a donut. It just so happens that on this day, I am at a social function at which there are many donuts present, and they are free for the taking for all attendees of this social event. Even though I know in my heart of hearts that I should either not have any donuts at all, or, if I am going to partake, should only have one donut, I am, about 80 to 90% of the time, almost guaranteed to over-indulge. Here is a list of possible reasons why:
- I’ve been good about my diet lately, so I deserve a treat
- I am not often at social functions that have free donuts, so indulging just this once won’t hurt (This excuse never takes into account the fact that there may be many other areas in my life in which I do have access to indulgent foods, so “once in a while” often turns into “all the goddamn time”)
- I have difficulty passing up free food
- I have difficulty passing up an excuse to eat junk, because hey, it’s an excuse to eat junk! It’s justified, right?
- I’m right about to start, already on, or have just finished my period
- It is almost, is, or just was my birthday/Halloween/Christmas/any other holiday
- I have any reason whatsoever to celebrate anything
- I just want a goddamn donut, ok?
- I’ve been under a lot of stress/feeling depressed lately, and a treat would really help me feel better (Actually, no it won’t, at least not in any meaningful or lasting way, but that doesn’t matter)
- I’m bored
- I know I won’t have time for dessert later, so I should take advantage of the opportunity to have a sweet now while I can
- I don’t know when next I’ll have access to something sweet, so I should take advantage of the opportunity to have one while I can (This is a big holdover from my childhood)
- I’ve just had lunch or dinner, and so my brain is in the mood for dessert (Tell me again why it is that we reward our children with more food once they finished their initial food? I feel like Pavlov’s freakin’ dog a lot of the time, and I haven’t lived with a parental figure in years
- (When at home) Well, I’m almost out of X, anyway, might as well finish it
- Tomorrow is another day—I’ll try again then, the day’s already half over, no sense in being so strict about it now
- It’s a day that ends in Y
Like I said, there is always an excuse. There is always a way to justify giving in to the addiction, because, well, it’s an addiction. That’s how they work.
And yes, I am fucking sick of it. I hate that cycle (determination – failure – shame). I want to be rid of it—the fact that I had bariatric surgery is actually a bit helpful, in a lot of ways. But to get further—well, I’ve been intending for a while now to go talk to a professional about it, and haven’t quite gotten that far because of insurance reasons.
In the meantime…
Lately I’ve been pondering why I have such a strong emotional attachment to some foods (an emotional attachment that is part of the reason I have such horrible willpower), and I’ve actually come up with a possible explanation.
There are many people in my family who are, shall we say, rather concerned with their own affairs. Some of them have gotten better over the years…some of them haven’t. It was difficult being a child and growing up in that atmosphere. So I had to find a way to cope with it. So what’s a great way for a child to feel special? Why, give her a treat. Treats are, by definition, special—if they become common, everyday things, then they aren’t really treats.
So basically, I used food as a form of self-comfort to fill a human being-shaped void, to soothe that childish ego that always wants to be the center of attention, but always feels ignored instead. Food is how I deal with my abandonment issues.
I shall have to see if I can find any constructive ways to deal with those issues on my own, until I can speak with a professional. In the meantime, I do feel a certain amount of empowerment with that idea in mind. I have long wondered why I feel such a strong emotional attachment to food. …especially as an adult, now that I have much more control over my own life (agency, free will), and have built for myself a much more stable environment.
Though I do, even as an adult, still feel, in certain situations, and on a pretty consistent basis, as though the carpet is about to be yanked out from under me at any moment. I know that nothing lasts forever…but still I have difficulty dealing with an adapting to change, under a lot of circumstances. Really I usually just try not to think about the possibility of it too much, lest I freak myself out.
Anyway. I will continue to ponder the whys and wherefores. But tonight, it is currently -12°F in Indianapolis, which, with the wind chill, feels more like -32°F, and I’m bound for bed soon. If you’re in or around the Midwest, I hope you’re weathering the aftermath of Winter Storm Hercules well. Either way, here’s looking forward to all of the potential that tomorrow holds.
*If you define the word “disorder” as, “a disturbance in physical or mental health or functions”, then yes, by technical definitions, I have an eating disorder. The ways in which I eat are harmful to my health, and are not what might be defined as “normal” eating habits. I’m not sure why I feel the need to keep justifying my calling it that—perhaps I feel I’m being melodramatic, or perhaps because it’s really self-diagnosed—but really, no, I am not. I have an eating disorder.