Welcome to My Dark Side: Food Addiction

I rarely see blogs or posts about people struggling with food addiction. In my 20s I saw a lot of articles and posts about eating disorders and young women struggling to find a healthy relationship with food; however, now that I'm in my 30s I don't see those articles much anymore. I mean, what happens to the young ladies struggling with eating disorders as they age? That shit just doesn't go away.

Speaking for myself, it hasn't gone away and I have come to realize that this will be a life long battle for me. I'm assuming I'm not the only mid-30s (or older) woman that still struggles with food. My struggle today may be very different that in my 20s, but the struggle is real ya'll. So here I am, sharing my experiences so maybe someone reading this doesn't feel as alone with their battle to have a healthy relationship with food.

My Young Days

In my 20s I wanted to be skinny. I didn't care how strong I was or how healthy I was, I straight up just wanted to be skinny. I wanted to look like the airbrushed women I saw in magazines (sounds cliché but it's true). I resorted to not eating, paired with a few hours at the gym, ending with a run in the evening. I'm not sure how I fueled myself other than it was just my "young" strength and endurance. I tried to make myself throw up, but just never could do it; so I resorted to diet pills that I'm pretty sure I became addicted to. I'd have to have a pill every time I ate anything. This was 10+ years ago, so who knows what terrible ingredients were in those things.

As time passed, I got tired of starving myself and took a swing to binge eating. I mean we're talking craziness. I'd buy cookies, bagels, pizza, candy bars and anything I could get my hands on. But the trick here was I ate all of it behind closed doors. Everyone thought I was really healthy; I put on a good front but they had no idea what I was really eating.

Fast forward a few years, things kind of settled down and my food challenges weren't as extreme as before but still very prevalent. I'd still over eat, I'd still try and skip meals, but I no longer abused diet pills and eating behind closed doors was limited.

Me Today

I've tried really hard to get a grasp on food; to learn what is healthy and works for me and my body. Years of experimenting and searching for answers brought me to a pretty good place today. I eat mostly whole natural foods, mostly vegan, and I treat myself to sweets occasionally. For the most part I feel healthy and energized to support my daily activities and i see my strength improving over time.

But unfortunately, as with any addiction or disorder, it's never really gone. We can feel healed but we still have that nagging voice in our minds reminding us of the battles we face. At least that's what it feels like for me. It's really exhausting.

Recently, I fell off the wagon...hard. I was on a food bender for the last four days which brought me to a pretty dark place, physically and mentally. I'll spare you the details on what I ate and how much, mainly because it's embarrassing, but I will say it included donuts, m&ms, cheese (notice this stuff isn't vegan guys...) French fries, huge meals, and soda (I almost NEVER drink soda!). WTF.

The first day I fell off the wagon, I wasn't hard on myself. I thought "ok, it's just one day Tiffany; tomorrow is a new day to eat clean." After day one of my food bender I woke up feeling MISERABLE. I was groggy, grumpy, I felt slow mentally and physically, I just didn't feel like myself. So of course, that would help me make better food choices that day, right? Wrong. Something had shifted in my brain that told me I NEEDED the junk food. I knew it would make me feel worse, I knew the consequences, but I ate all the junk anyway...for the next three days. I'm pretty sure that's addiction right there.

The Outcome

Here's how my body responded to falling off the wagon:

  • Mood-Those of you that know me, see me as energetic and happy. Each day I was binging on food, my mood slowly changed to bring me to straight up depressed. I feel like a loser. I'm more irritable; things are agitating to me that normally don't even bother me. I've been eating clean for a few days, but this depressed feeling hasn't left yet.

  • Motivation-I'm usually energetic and excited to get my daily "to do" list accomplished. Now, things have shifted and I don't feel the excitement to do my yoga practice or CrossFit (two things that I absolutely LOVE), it feels like a chore. I've been procrastinating on projects I need to get done; which is not the typical me.

  • Headaches-I rarely get headaches, and I've had one for the last two days; I think my body is detoxing now.

  • Introvert-I love people. I love being around people. Falling off the wagon, I feel more quiet and reserved and frankly I just want to be alone.

  • Groggy-I feel totally groggy; like my brain isn't firing on all cylinders. There is a haze in my brain and it makes me feel cognitively slow.

  • Barfy-I pay for falling off the wagon working out. Each WOD I do I literally cuss myself out for falling off the wagon. I feel like SHIT. I feel heavy. Each movement is harder. I'm slower. There is nothing more disappointing that sucking wind and feeling like I'm going to barf doing movements that are usually fun for me.

  • Achy-eating shit for food creates serious inflammation in my body. As a result, my joints are stiff and my muscles are tight. I feel aches in my back and hips; areas that usually don't bother me.

So Now What

The really messed up thing I can't seem to get over is I knew what would happen when I made the food choices I did. I knew how my mind and body would respond and I still chose to go on a food bender. Part of the reason I decided to write this blog is so I would have something to remind myself how crappy I felt this time to hopefully avoid it again in the future.

I'm not suggesting I'm never going to eat some candy or junk food again, but what I'd like to promise myself is to not totally fall hard, face first, off the wagon again. It's obvious these food choices negatively impact my mind and body. I need to develop the tools to avoid triggers to allow this type of eating to happen. As much as I may want all the junk food, I must remind myself that my brain is playing a trick on me and that avoiding the temptation will actually make me feel better that giving in.

I think back to wear I was in my 20s and I'm definitely in a healthier place now, but there is obviously work that still needs to be done. I'll take the lesson that this past food bender gave me and learn from it. I'm also taking the time to be grateful that I'm not where I was in my 20s-addicted to diet pills and practically starving myself. I'm grateful to be alive, healthy, and able to see how food affects me and make the changes I need to.

This post was originally posted in April 2018.

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