Have you ever eaten an entire sleeve of cookies when you intended to eat just one? Did you promise yourself tomorrow you would eat only whole natural foods only to eat an entire deep dish pizza? Did you diet your way to a smaller you only to regain the lost weight and then some?
Hi, my name is Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego…I’m a food addict…in recovery….
There once was a time I struggled with my weight (100 additional pounds to be exact). I felt diminished and useless…no where to turn. I did’t understand why my eating was so out of control. It was nothing for me to polish off an entire large pizza followed by a quart of ice cream and want for more.
Weight Up…Weight Down
How could I weigh 135 pounds one moment and then 234 the next? Up and down with my weight…from 20 pounds to 100 pounds, back up to 50 pounds, down 20…and on and on it would go. Until one day something clicked—I got it.
I found the answer…
To date, I released my obsession with food and shed 100 pounds maintaining this loss for years and years.
Yes, I keep a “normal” weight, and cravings are gone, and it appears as though I am really in a good place. With that said, make no mistake, I am human first and definitely not out of the woods. It is a daily journey. Yes, it is true I do not eat sugar, flour, and wheat, and it seems as though I am skipping along just fine. And…for the most part, I am. But…in all honesty, I do have my days where I wish I could be like everyone (who ever that might be!) else.
I wish to eat a chocolate bar, or a piece of cake, or something indulgent. But…the fact of the matter is, I am a food addict. There…I said it. The doc is a food addict. What does that mean? It means I have a chemical imbalance. If I eat certain foods I can not stop eating. I do not have a thermostat that indicates I am full. I will eat and eat…and yes eat some more.
I don’t know how to eat a piece of cake, only the whole cake and then some.
Who is a Food Addict….
Food addiction is defined as an uncontrollable urge for excess food, particularly refined carbohydrates such as sugar and flour substances, which are quick to metabolize. The disease—for food addiction truly constitutes a disease—is biochemical in nature because the body of the food addict reacts differently to some foods than the bodies of other people. A common link between food addicts is sensitivity to sugars and certain carbohydrates. More specifically, the reaction of deep craving begins with just one chocolate bar, a slice of cake, a bowl of pasta, or similar carbohydrates: all normal foods for most individuals.
Are you a food addict?
Food addicts come in all sizes, colors, genders, intelligence, economic status, ages, etc., yet this type of addiction is most frowned upon because it’s food. How can a person be addicted to food?
WE HAVE TO EAT…RIGHT?
Yes, of course we have to eat and food is a good thing, but…when you can’t stop it turns into something daunting and frightening and darn right nightmarish.
According to Pam Peeke, The Hunger Fix, “Addiction research shows that abusing drugs leads to changes in the way we perceive emotions, make decisions, remember things—even slowing our motor reflexes.” I can tell you from 20-plus years as an addiction and eating disorder specialist with a doctorate in addiction and a food addict for most of my young adult and childhood life this holds true for the food addict as well. Many books, articles and journals place emphasis on new treatments for illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine and licit drugs such as Xanax, Vicodin, and OxyContin.
What about those suffering from addictions to food?
As of late the new rage is on binge eating. Of course these addictions and some of the new treatments are not new to me as an addiction professional; however, what is interesting is the attention abuse of these drugs received and now finally compulsive eating is recognized in the same category.
The response to the triggers is almost identical
Whether the addiction is cocaine or a twinky, there is a loss of control, physiological tolerance, and psychological dependence occurring when the specific stimulus is ingested (or snorted or mainlined) resulting in negative consequences in basic life functions. These negative consequences include, relationships with: family, social situations, intimate relationships, spiritual or God, the law, health, and work life.
The Secret of Breaking the Addiction to Food
Is there an answer?
Yes…I have not had a binge in at least 20 years. Was it easy to break free? NO. But for sure it was possible as I’ve seen many addicts from wired to broken free from food addiction one meal at a time.
Sadly, going to a diet group or joining the newest diet fad, bariatric surgery or taking the shiny pill of the month promising to free you of binge eating, is not quite going to cut it. Telling patients to just get it together and grab a little will power is not the answer either. Sure, group support or surgery or maybe even pills may be an initial start to breaking free from food addiction but dipping into the core cause is the only way out…permanently.
Let me be the first to say to you, if you are a food addict I’m truly sorry…it’s not fair…and it’s not your fault just as it’s not my fault I’ve been passed this gene.
What’s most interesting to me is the heroin, cocaine, alcohol, drug, and gambling addicts that I work with are easier to release from the addiction than the food addict—the black belt of all addictions. The other addictions require total abstinence and they are on their way to recovery but the food addict must eat…at least four times a day.
The binge eater is confronted with food temptations at every turn from their kitchen to the malls, billboards, fast food joints and everything else in between. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “…oh come on just have one, you only live once.” Yes, but to live wired, scared, angry, out of control is no fun even for a bite of whatever….
No, that bite of sweet, salty, and fat-laden food is not worth the pure hell that comes with compulsive eating. Perhaps your friends, co-workers, and family don’t get it but I do. I get it. Give yourself a hug and get ready to make a change…break free from food addiction.
The key to success is to understand which foods are causing you to binge. Once you pinpoint the trouble foods and eliminate them the cravings begin to go away leaving you with your emotions that you’ve blocked for most likely all of your life. This may be the time to talk to a therapist, spiritual director or a support group. I’ve found the best way to break free is to keep it simple, simple, simple. I can talk about neurotransmitters and addictions but it’s not necessary. What is necessary is to let go of your food drug and replace it with real, natural foods four hours apart with the right balance of nutrients and soon—very soon—calm replaces wired.
Abandoned and Alone with Toddler and Food….
At 33 years old with a toddler in tow I found myself single parenting with a house mortgage four months behind payment. My only income was working part-time at Weight Watchers while stuffing food into my mouth as it was the only relief I knew to simmer my frantic emotions and broken heart. I had no energy…lifting my arm up was strenuous not to mention walking or heck keeping my eyes open. And…staying attentive to my young child was nearly impossible—my every waken moment was thinking either about what I was going to eat or what I ate.
NO doubt abusing food lead to changes in the way I perceived emotions, made decisions, recalled information—and yes even slowed my motor reflexes. I was spent…strung out…and the only thing that made me feel better was a binge.
Day in and day out for the past thirty years I’ve heard similar sad stories with different twists and turns but all revolving around the inability to stop eating.
My interest in the field of eating disorders, particularly food addiction and binge eating, started in the early 1990s out of my need to understand my own neural structure and chemistry of my brain, and what I could do to “fix” my addiction and obesity. Although never officially diagnosed with an eating disturbance, I saw that I displayed many of the characteristics and traits of those who have a “binge eating” disorder.
In my struggles concerning food, I was wrestling with a dependence that science disregarded as an addiction. Today, however, science has finally proved food addiction is every bit as powerful and painful as an addiction to cocaine, heroin, alcohol, or nicotine—and every bit as hard to break as a sex impulse or an obsessive gambling quandary.
As I discovered and created a framework to help myself, I started attracting more and more patients in my private psychotherapy practice who were affected by food addiction. During the mid-1990s, I pursued post-graduate education in the field. In 2001, I launched “Weightcontroltherapy.com,” a website and program designed to help people with food addiction and other eating disorders such as anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia. Weight control therapy isn’t about losing weight or gaining weight but rather about reaching that “sweet spot”—a natural weight control self-therapy.
What to Eat…or Not Eat…
The best way to start is to eat foods that are not in a package, box, bag, or any sort of sealed container. Instead eat foods that come from the ground, off the tree, fly in the air, or swim in the sea. REAL FOOD!
The foods found to cause such highs tend to be sugar, flour, and wheat, which although only three little food groups they seem to be found in just about every packaged food.
Soon you will have no interest in eating one cookie or let alone an entire sleeve of cookies. The promise of starting over tomorrow will be a thought of the past. Rather than shoveling down deep dish pizza you’ll look forward to fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean proteins, good sources of fat and starch and rather than dieting your way to a smaller you only to regain the lost weight and then some you will return to your “normal weight” and remain there day after day after day…
Do you have a food addiction?
What have you done to curb your obsession?
Please share your story and together we can climb out of the abyss….
Keep tuned…more to come….