My first real summer job, at the age of 13, was at the local bakery in town in Wautoma, Wisconsin. Getting that job I’d thought I won the lottery ticket. I had access to the goods five days a week with little supervision. It was a Willie Wonka life—for real. I ate bakery from the second the boss left until I clocked out.
Hi, my name is Lisa—I’m a food junkie. A food junkie thinks about food every waking moment: She/He is an addict. An addict is someone who is physiologically dependent on a substance.
My dependence began in early childhood but I wasn’t aware of it. At first I needed a doughnut to feel calm and it progressed to two, three, and four—and before I knew it the bakers dozen wasn’t cutting it.
I binged daily on cakes, cookies, doughnuts and freshly baked hot bread slathered in butter. But soon after taking my first bite of a “sugary/salty treat,” I fluctuated between a hair-raising, euphoric “sugar high” and a dark, negative wretchedness. To make matters worse, my weight swelled to 100 pounds over my ideal weight.
An abrupt deprivation of simple carbohydrates produced withdrawal symptoms. Chocolate bars, cakes, cookies, alcoholic beverages, sweetened soft drinks are simple sugar sources that provide calories, but usually no nutrients. From the sugar, I experienced depression, anxiety, and irritability only to return back to such sweets to fend off my melancholy, tranquilize my sense of being ill at ease, and lessen my agony—intense physical and mental suffering.
I experienced a violent struggle between outbursts of excitement and despair. A vicious cycle indeed! I didn’t realize these quickly metabolized carbohydrates briefly made me feel wonderful but then took me from that deceptive, blissful high to a tumultuous low.
I developed a physical dependence from chronic use of chocolate, cookies, cakes, and salty pretzels, which produced a high tolerance to them.
The chemical dependence is related to changes in the addict’s brain chemistry. Those changes involve the “pleasure circuit,” where, because of sensitivity to these substances, certain neurotransmitters and receptors create pleasurable feelings after being stimulated by simple carbohydrates.
With an abrupt deprivation of simple carbs, I experienced withdrawal symptoms, including severe headaches and body aches, and I broke out in a cold sweat and was irritable and fatigued. I found comfort in nothing except returning to sweets and starches.
In order to experience the symptoms of withdrawal, one must have first developed a chemical dependence. This happens after consuming one or more of these substances for a certain period of time, which is both dose dependent and varies based upon the drug consumed.
I first developed a chemical dependence after consuming sweets and salty simple carbohydrates every day in large quantities for months, to the point of being well beyond full. The negative symptoms of withdrawal were the result of abrupt discontinuation or cutting back on the amounts I consumed.
The higher the dose of sugar and starches typically the worse the physical dependence, and thus, the worse the withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can last days, weeks, or months, or on occasion even longer and will vary from individual to individual.
Although my sensitivity to certain foods was well in place in my formative years (and most likely from conception) it was my first real summer job at the local baker that really opened my eyes that I had a problem. My weight soared and I couldn’t stop eating. Answers and solutions only came to me later in life after years of studying, working with patients and making drastic changes in my own life style.
I learned if I numb my feelings through addictive foods I am incapable if action or feeling emotion, blocking joy from my life and entering a vicious cycle. But, but when I allowed myself to be vulnerable and let myself be “seen” rather than anesthetized from addictive foods, I could reach a spiritual awakening and perhaps with my awareness I can drop a seed of hope to others.
Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.