“Addiction is a term that’s used a lot these days. People claim to be addicted to everything from romance novels to cars. They feel guilty when they enjoy something just a little too much. When it comes to food addiction, the misunderstanding is epidemic…
Until now, scientists and clinicians alike have been reluctant to acknowledge that food addiction even exists. Yes, abnormal eating behaviours have been identified throughout history, but there has long been a resistance to labelling it an addiction.”
― Vera Tarman, Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction
I first genuinely started down the path of recovery from my food addiction in my 50s. Only I called it compulsive eating. I’d never heard the words ‘food addict’. It is true that I used to compulsively eat, but it’s also true that I obsessed about food all the time. I could obsess about food even while bingeing, wishing I was eating something else. The obsession, 99% of the time, led to bingeing. So I had a mental component to this problem. Once I was bingeing, and I had my favorite foods that usually consisted of sugar and wheat, no matter how hard I tried to stop, I couldn’t stop. I could be crying on my bed, praying to God, even making phone calls for help, but nothing stopped the binge until it stopped. That is the physical component. A mental obsession and a physical allergy adds up to addiction. When I first heard the words ‘food addict’ I think I actually cringed. I had just barely accepted that I was a compulsive eater but an addict, that was going too far. Yet, as the years have passed, and I accept that that is indeed what I am, the recovery is more solid and easier.
The thing about most addicts is we just want to belong. So we turn ourselves into chameleons trying to fit into any and every group that attracts us. To stick out as different spells horror and leads to loneliness. When I was in my thirties, and most of us were turning into foodies, as we discovered what we liked and didn’t like, I was terrified of letting my friends know that I didn’t really know how to savor a bite of food. I often couldn’t tell a musk taste from a dust taste. I was appalled at restaurants that served itty bitty servings and charged enormous prices. My friend, Georgia, really understood food. She worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Ca. She would talk about food and it’s differentiations like I talk about mystery authors. I went along because I desperately wanted to belong. I wanted her friendship and I wanted her friends to be my friends. I knew I was different. I just prayed that no one else did. I did a pretty good job. Today Georgia tells me, “I had no idea what you were suffering.”
So telling me that the only way I could recover from the bingeing, the insanity of disordered eating, was to call myself a name that would, not only make me different, but make me something much further down the social chain (that is how I thought of addict), was telling me that if I flew to the moon and back, I’d be a normal person. Wasn’t going to happen. Not ever, not to someone like me who was smart, had post-graduate degrees, had a successful business and could travel comfortably to other countries.
So how does someone like me, who thinks she is too smart to be something she is, get her head out of the ground?