Diets Don’t Work

How many people do you know who have gone on a diet and kept all their weight off? In my memory, I know two or three people.  They didn’t have much weight to lose, and usually the weight had come on over a holiday season or a vacation. They took it off.  Two or three people is less than .0001% of the dieting population.

Why is that? Almost all the diets I see advertised, show happy people on the day they reach their goal weight. I can’t help but wonder what those people look like five years later. Chances are good they have gained all their weight back plus more.

We live in a world of instant gratification.  I want this and I want in NOW. We wake up one morning with a burst of willingness to do something about our weight.  We know ourselves well enough to realize the willingness many not last long.  We jump on the computer and google “Can’t Stop Eating” or “Lose weight” and then shuffle through the sites that come up.  The one with the most bling, the best razzle-dazzle, and the promise that in just one month, you can lose up to thirty pounds jumps out at you. You’re afraid if you don’t plunk down your money now, you’ll lose your willingness and not do anything.  Congratulations! You’ve signed up for a diet that has the absolute best marketing plan and knows how to take advantage of your desperation. 

You are not alone.  I’ve done that. We’ve all done that.  And it doesn’t seem to matter how intelligent we are. At the moment of willingness and desperation, we are blind to everything except the overwhelming desire to lose weight NOW.

Some of us may take all our weight off quickly, some of us may make it half-way, and some may falter out of the starting gate. It doesn’t really matter.  What all the research has shown, both my personal research and professional research, is that without changing ways of thinking and much of our behavior, we’ll gain the weight back.  Then we hang our head in shame, want to disappear from the world, and take one more step towards disconnecting from our feelings, our hearts, and our souls.

The truth is that changing our relationship with food is hard work. Any diet program that doesn’t tell you that is lying, is more concerned with making money than they are with your health, both mental and physical. If you are forty years old, you’ve been doing something for twenty or thirty years that has resulted in you being overweight, underweight, or trying to manage your weight with vomiting or exercise bulimia. No one can undo that in thirty days. What is wrong with us is three fold. One, we have physical problem.  We abuse our bodies with food, some make it much worse by vomiting or anorexia. Two, we have an emotional problem. We have no idea how to live with the range of human feelings we all experience.  We let our feelings run our lives.  Three, we have a spiritual problem.  Most of us have a huge, empty hole in our souls that we are desperately trying to fill up. We try to fill it with food, or alcohol, or sex, or any variety of things.  And the hole stays empty because we don’t have any idea what to really do.

We need help. We need the kind of help that treats what is wrong with us. We need a three-fold solution not a diet. In my experience the only solution is a twelve-step program or any program that treats the three problems.  I like twelve-step programs because they are free, they work, and it’s a ‘together’ program.  We all recover together. I found Greysheeters Anonymous. I now live in the solution. I live in today. I’m pretty darn sure I will never be normal around food.  It hasn’t happened in over sixty years so it’s very unlikely. I crossed some invisible line when I was very young.  I’m a food addict. GSA has helped me accept that I am what I am. It gives me a food plan that won’t trigger my addiction. I have learned what behaviors lead me back into active addiction and which ones lead me away. At some point I realized that something miraculous had happened: the impossible.  I hadn’t binged in years; I was right size.  Did I mention GSA is free and that it works!!! That hole in my soul is filled with gratitude for the life I live today.

It’s January.  It’s the month so many of us swear we are going to lose weight. I encourage you to save your money and try something new.

Please look under Resources on this blog.  Especially go to YouTube and do a search for the GreySheet channel and you can hear lots of people tell their stories. And if you feel moved to tell me your story, I would be honored.

Join me in a discussion of Food Addiction with Judy Collins, singer and author of Cravings

A virtual “Evening with an Author” hosted by the American Library in Paris featuring a conversation between Judy Collins and Sara Somers about food addiction and recovery to celebrate the release of Sara’s new book “Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food Addiction.” Filmed via Zoom with a live audience on 18/11/2020.

For nearly fifty years, Sara Somers suffered from untreated food addiction. In “Saving Sara,” she offers readers an inside view of a food addict’s mind, showcasing her experiences with obsessive cravings, compulsivity, and powerlessness regarding food, with the hopes of educating her readers and promoting life-saving conversations between loved ones and those suffering with addiction. “Saving Sara” chronicles her addiction from childhood to adulthood, beginning with abnormal eating as a nine-year-old. A raw account of Somers’ decades-long journey, “Saving Sara” underscores the challenges faced by food addicts of any age – and the hope that exists for them all.

available anywhere books are sold.

Since childhood, legendary folk singer Judy Collins has had a tumultuous relationship with food. Her issues with overeating nearly claimed her career and her life. For decades she thought she simply lacked self-discipline. She tried nearly every diet plan that exists, often turning to alcohol to dull the pain of yet another failed attempt to control her seemingly insatiable cravings. Today, Judy knows she suffers from an addiction to sugar, grains, flour, and wheat. She adheres to a strict diet of unprocessed foods, consumed in carefully measured portions. This solution has allowed her to maintain a healthy weight, to enjoy the glow of good health, and to attain peace of mind. Alternating between chapters on her life and those on the many diet gurus she has encountered along the way, “Cravings: How I Conquered Food” is the culmination of Judy’s desire to share what she’s learned—so that no one else has to struggle in the same way she did.

Thank you and look forward to any of your comments,

Sara

What is a food addict?

People ask me what I mean when I say I’m a food addict or a compulsive eater. The dictionary defines addiction as “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity: he committed the offence to finance his drug addiction | addiction to crack cocaine is spreading | [count noun] :  an addiction to gambling.” This isn’t exactly helpful since the definition assumes you understand addicted. The way I understand addiction is that one is compelled to keep doing something like eating, drinking alcohol, gambling. Even when one wants to stop, they are unable to. It seems to the person that they have lost all power to control what they are doing. An alcoholic will binge drink until he blacks out, there is no more alcohol to drink or he is in an accident or dies. A food addict is no different. In my case, the ingredients in alcohol are the substance I seem to be addicted to: grains and sugar. Once I put them in my body, I binge until I run out of food, pass out in sleep or have some kind of accident.

In Healthline.com, Kris Gunnars says there are eight common symptoms of food addiction:

Cravings, Eating more than intended, Eating until stuffed, Feelings of guilt, Making up excuses, Setting rules, Hiding food intake, Inability to quit. While food addiction is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it typically involves binge eating behaviors, cravings, and a lack of control around food. http://www.healthline.com  

It is easy to think that if a person consumes a huge amount of food, they will be fat. This isn’t necessarily so. While it’s true that obesity is on the rise in USA and UK, teens, dancers, jockeys etc will learn to throw their food up after a meal. This is physical abuse that one does to oneself. It is as easy to get addicted to the throwing up as the eating and becomes a viscous circle. The movie Judy, that is in theatres right now, shows the result of Judy Garland being told she was too heavy as a child and the studio giving her pills. Then she needed pills to sleep. In the end, she died of all her pills.

The outside world sees a fat person or a horrendously thin person or someone who pushes food around on their plate but never actually eats. What isn’t well known, is what goes on inside the head of a food addict. The self-hatred, the anger, the pain, the panic attacks, the exhaustion that comes with an inability to sleep, feelings of hopelessness and despair are just some of the many mental and emotional symptoms that a food addict lives with and believes are true. Many people in recovery from alcoholism and food addiction believe that this is a disease. That it is a cancer that will eat a person up alive unless they get help. And of all ironies, the addict is just about as stubborn as they come and will reject any suggestions of help though they are screaming inside for someone to help them.

Food addiction is more rampant that one may think. Not all obese people are addicted but ingesting sugar and grains at high warp speed will push them closer to crossing the line. If a body is only fed these substances, it learns to subsist on them and cry out in rebellion if the addict takes them away. In future blogs, I will talk about why dieting doesn’t work. Why food addicts believe in magic and will do absolutely crazy things both to get food and thinking they will be cured. The world really needs more understanding that the food addict is not just some weak person who can’t take care of themselves but under the influence of substances much stronger than their will power.

Do you have a question about food addiction?

Sara

Saving Sara

I am a compulsive eater, a food addict. What does that mean? That means that, similar to an alcoholic who cannot stop drinking once booze is in their system, I start bingeing once certain foods are in my system. Bingeing is the same. Bingeing is doing something excessively, having no on/off button, completely unable to slow a speeding train down even though you know it will end in tears, self-hatred and recriminations. I’m that kind of compulsive eater. The foods that set off the bingeing are sugar, grains and refined carbohydrates.

I have compulsively eaten since I was a young girl. I didn’t know what was wrong. I knew I was different than other people and it seemed a very bad thing. I didn’t seem to fit in with girls my age. I would watch them and not understand how they knew to get along. I was often in trouble with my parents usually for disobedience, daydreaming, not trying hard to be a part of the family unit. I stole food out of the fridge all the time. I say stole because I was always sneaky about it. I knew even at that young age, it was wrong for me in my family to eat all the ice cream and not leave any for anyone else.

By the time I was in my fifties, I had spent my life trying to get thin, trying to understand what was wrong with me, trying to be happy, trying to be loved and, in my judgement, failing at everything. When I was fifty-eight, I gave up the fight. I discovered a solution for me, for my kind of compulsive eating. After fifteen years of recovery in that solution, I wrote a book: Saving Sara; A Memoir of Food Addiction. It will be published by She Writes Press May 12, 2020.

I wrote the book to tell other food addicts like me that there is hope. I had spent thousands of dollars on therapists. I had tried every diet under the sun except stapling my stomach. I had joined encounter groups and therapy groups, taken dangerous medications because they were advertised as reducing my appetite, bought over the counter medications that did nothing but they had pretty people in their ads. I had had shots in my butt and I don’t even want to know what was in that cocktail. I had tried hypnosis and religion. All in the hopes that I could get thin. Getting thin to me was the promise of happiness, that all my problems would go away, that people would like or love me. By the age of fifty-eight, I was running out of hope that there was a solution for someone like me. Thank goodness, I persisted.

This is a blog about food addiction. This is a blog written by a recovering food addict to give hope and inspiration to people like me. People who can’t stop bingeing. People who can’t stop self-destructing with food. It is also for their families who don’t understand what is happening to the people they love. Why they are so angry all the time? Why they feel criticised if someone makes the simplest suggestion. This blog will be a work in progress. There are a lot of blogs out there dealing with the same issues. Most are sincere and helpful. I hope that by adding my blog, people will benefit from the wealth of information accessible to them so they can take an action towards Hope.

Each week, I will pick a theme to discuss. I invite feedback and suggestions. I have found that on my own I never could have succeeded at most of my life goals. I have found that together, bringing out the best in each other, we can achieve what we thought was impossible. I invite you along for the ride.

Sara