New Year’s Resolution—Stop Dieting Start Eating—Release Your Obsession with food!

New Year’s Resolution

Belinda, a fairly new patient, bolted through the waiting room sprinting into my office like she was running a 10K marathon. Breathless, she plopped down sinking deep into my plush autumn brown couch, perspiration trickling down her face—though we were experiencing a South Florida cold-snap of 44 degrees. She abruptly announced, “I’m starting a 500 calorie diet to get rid of this weight once and for all!,” as she grabbed a fist full of fat from her expanded waist.

As I listened to Belinda promise with such conviction on how she would lose her weight—that she owned the “secret” to drop weight quickly, I felt Belinda’s pain and urgency. Not only do I understand Belinda, I lived her desperation—starting and ending every fad diet imaginable for over 30 years of my life. I promised to lose the weight—that I had the quick weight loss secret. One hundred pounds heavier after a series of diets brought me to my knees begging for a transformation.

Yo Yo Dieting

I couldn’t help responding abruptly to Belinda, “Stop, don’t do it! Do not make another New Year’s resolution to diet as it leads to yo yo dieting!”

When I explain to patients what’s really going on with desperate dieting followed by binge eating I often see a twinkle in their eye as they nod, bobbing their head like a dolphin dancing on the ocean top–delighted direction is coming.

Food Addiction or Binge Eating Disorder

Belinda is a food addict who binge eats. In my practice, the majority of my eating disordered patients suffer from binge eating disorder and/or food addiction. This isn’t to say all bingers are food addicts but for sure all food addicts are bingers. Some are overweight while others are not.

Truth be known—some actually can be of normal weight.

Moreover, not all overweight persons binge eat. And where does food addiction fit into the mix? The biggest challenge is to sort through whether the patient has food addiction, binge eating disorder, or a combination of the two.

The food addict also eats a large amount of food in a small period of time, and like compulsive eating, it comes with consequences that can be lethal, such as obesity, heart disease, relationship issues, body image, and etc. The big difference between the two disorders is food addicts crave specific foods that are uncontrollable no matter what attempts they put forth to stop (i.e., dieting, restricting, exercising, etc.)

I liken food addiction, an uncontrollable craving for high sugar and processed foods, to recreational drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and nicotine. And the food addict needs to consume the sugary/starchy substance in order to function—to feel “normal.” In all addiction cases, the substance dependent consumes larger amounts of their drug for longer periods than were normally intended with a persistent desires or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit—even if it interrupts social, recreational, and family interaction—because the addicted substance takes precedence. 

When it comes to treatment for binge eating disorder it is often not about the food but rather about the emotional deficits. When it comes to treatment for food addiction it is about the food—specific foods that trigger the compulsion to consume large amounts of it no matter what the cost. Although binge eating disorder and food addiction share many of the same symptoms, food addiction shares the emotional component of binge eating disorder as well as the symptoms such as obsession with body, weight, mood shifts, closet eating, stealing, where compulsive eating is about the inability to deal with emotions.

As Belinda begins to “get it” she has an Oprah “light bulb moment!” realizing that her experience of up and down weight loss is not her fault, but rather from years of dieting and addictive eating.

Today, especially the first day of January, promises of food restriction, clamping teeth shut determined to eat 500 calories a day is a recipe for disaster.

Let’s be clear: There’s no such diet or trick or secret as losing 20, 40, 60 or whatever number of pounds you want to lose in a few short weeks and or months. Belinda’s 500 calorie diet sets her up for quick weight loss followed by quick weight gain. I know, been there done that a million times.

Where to begin? Let’s start with four points…

Ø Admit you are out of control with food
This first step is not easy but it’s a start point to release the obsession with food.

Ø Understand sugar, flour, and wheat are drugs to many binge eaters.
Belinda reminds me of the addict who promises they’ll never take another hit, snort, or shoot up again, without admission to the addictive components. Coming from a “will power” frame of mind is sure to fail.

Ø Develop a spiritual connection to something greater than yourself.
Call it God, Yahweh, or Lucy, whatever—just connect to your Divine Source. Belinda is two hundred pounds overweight. She is a prisoner in her own body. Addictions are stronger and bigger than our will to stop using, we can’t do it alone.

Ø Take one day at a time—practice recovery.  

Belinda must let go of the “quick” fix ideation. When humble and focused she can work a whole, natural food plan free of sugar, flour, and wheat. In the here and now, working her program one meal at a time with progress not perfection, I think she’ll make it to the other side: thin and healthy.

When I was in the food I promised I would stop. I too vowed to lose the weight and never binge again. I meant it! Once I dropped some weight and started looking good I fell deep into a binge. It wasn’t until I realized I had to let go of the addictive foods I became free of the obsessions and cravings. It’s not a question of will power but rather of letting go of an addiction to specific foods. As simple as it sounds it worked. My weight corrected and I am free of cravings.

Many patients I work with also are free from cravings and have returned to their normal weight. I wish I could say they all followed my path, but truth be told, many are on the same ride as Belinda, believing there’s a quick fix often losing only to gain more weight than what they started with.

Successful patients have a clear understanding it’s a process and that it takes time if they want to enter long-term success. Eat balanced meals one day at a time is the ticket to recovery.
Although I did not hear specific talk about spiritual recovery, Belinda is beginning to echo thoughts regarding some Higher Force to carry her through the process. She grasps it’s not about the food, nor is it about the weight, it’s an addiction to food. It is about turning to a physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery.

Photos taken by: Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego

*, founded in 2001, offers the public an opportunity to explore why you eat what you eat and to better understand why food can cause your moods to swing, your cravings to soar, your weight to increase, your self-esteem to plummet, and your fatigue to rage. I blog posts to share experiences, light the flame of hope for all to conquer their poor relationship physically, emotionally, and spiritually to food.

Hugs to you. I care…

Dr. Lisa

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