Election Sanity vs Binge Eating

As part of my self-care program to keep my food addiction at bay, I meditate. And, as everyone who participates in any kind of social media knows, once I started asking questions or downloading any thing to do with meditation, I began to receive many invites in my e-mail. One of the best that I have discovered is 10% Happier–an app that had its beginnings with the book of the same name by Dan Harris of ABC Television. This no-nonsence, down to earth approach and aid to meditation is a wonderful way for anyone to get started on meditation as a daily practice.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from 10% Happier inviting me to partake in the Election Sanity Challenge. Of course my mind went on Tilt. No such thing as sanity and election in the same sentence. Elections in the USA have grown more and more insane as the years go by. But, in theory I thought, great idea, sign me up. Each Monday, a talk arrived in my mailbox that addressed one of the four nobel truths of Buddhism: Loving Kindness/Friendliness; Compassion/Giving a crap; Sympathetic Joy/the opposite of schadenfreude; Equanimity/Keeping cool. The second label is Dan Harris’ way of making these truths accessible to all of us. It works.

Why am I telling you all this? This week, I realized that as the election is 7 days away and I have no idea what will happen, this is the kind of worry or anxiety that I would eat over. The more I got involved with something that I feel great passion for, the higher my anxiety got as I realized that I had no control over the outcome. That kind of anxiety is terribly uncomfortable and I would always eat/binge when I was at any level of discomfort. Preferably–my drug of choice ‘ice cream’, which I thought would cool me down. Of course, the quantities that I consumed would knock me out, make me numb, and while numb I might sign up for yet another round of activity with my political party of choice. When the food/drug wore off, there I was: neck-deep in craziness, powerlessness and not knowing. Three quarters of the way towards another binge.

Radical Self-care is the assertion that you have the responsibility to take care of yourself first before attempting to take care of others. It’s necessary to fill your cup first, then to give to others from the overflow. This is what gives you the capacity to heal and to move forward into your next chapter of life.

This is a week of ultimate need for radical self-care. Dan Harris anticipated this and, for the last month, has been preparing us and our active minds to think in terms of kindness–to ourselves and others. He offers a daily mediation challenge through next Tuesday. You can sign up on the app 10% Happier. I find that I need to consciously acknowledge where I can go with this sense of wanting to control the outcome of the election. The first thing is to accept that I cannot control it. This morning, I asked myself if I was pleased and satisfied with all the actions I had taken to participate in this election. As a voter from abroad, I had the extra challenge of making sure I got my ballot in time to get it returned in time. I did. Check. Have I participated in physical actions to get out the vote? Yes, Check. Since my time zone is not conducive to making phone calls all day to make sure people voted, I donated money. More than I ever have in any previous election. Check. But I don’t want my mailbox filled with requests, solicitations, some even shaming me for not doing enough. So this morning, I unsubscribed to every single one of them. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt strong that I wanted to survive this election time abstinent from compulsive eating, abstinent from crazy, insane, powerless thinking, abstinent from the adrenaline rushes I used to get from the highs of sugar misinterpreting that energy as creative energy.

No matter what happens next week, I still have to live with me. I still have to wake up each morning and feed my cat, do my work, write my blog, talk to friends. Do I really want to wake up having thrown away years and years of abstaining from the substances that will kill me? Go back to living in hell praying to the God that I don’t understand to help me stop binging? Having to face all of you and say “I didn’t make it through this election.” NO I DON’T. No election, no political party, no person (other than me) is worth throwing away the life I live today; a life of mostly sanity, a life I have chosen that I love.

What are you going to do this week to take care of yourself? If you have a horse in this race, how can you detach from the outcome today and one moment at a time, abstain from the substances and the negativity that once ruled you and your life. You are worth it. Vote for yourself, for your happiness, for freedom from the food from this moment forward. Then listen to 10% Happier!! It just might give you some new and well needed tools.

Here’s to freedom from Food Addiction, one day at a time.

Sara

When you have finished your meditation, take a look at my memoir–how I went from fat and bingeing on a daily basis to recovery from my food addiction. If you identify, there is hope, I promise. Available at your favourite bookstore, bookshop.com and of course, Amazon.

What was it like?

A reader asked me, “What was it like when you first gave up sugar and grains?” For me, as a food addict, I stopped putting poison in my system. I didn’t completely understand what was happening, but it certainly was very disruptive to my physical being and my life. I’d say I was detoxing which can be both emotionally and physically painful. I was (sometimes still am) an instant gratification person so the desire to stop the pain was intense. All my life I’d used sugar and grains to numb myself from pain. The people I now had to turn to for guidance said, “you are very, very vulnerable right now. Take good care. Protect yourself.” I really didn’t want to be living in hell anymore so I said ‘No’ to most invitations. I wanted the support and encouragement of my friends but, truthfully, it’s very difficult to understand why anyone would go to the lengths I was going unless they also were a food addict and had lived in the hell I had lived in.

It was not so different from learning a new language and the best way to do that is total immersion. I didn’t have the money to put myself into a treatment center and, in the end, it was me who was responsible for my own health and sanity. I had to create a similar atmosphere of immersion so that most of my days would be surrounded by the love and encouragement of the people who had gone before me. That included meetings, phone calls, walks with other recovering food addicts, going to others’ homes and weighing my food with them. Being around others who would love me until I learned to love myself.

Being around beings who love you exactly as you are.

Each thing I contemplated doing outside of this initial time of detoxing and learning the ins and outs of eating healthily without sugar and grains, I had to consider carefully. It wasn’t in my nature to think ahead and to be totally honest how I would respond to certain situations. An example of this was a cruise I had signed up for. A group of friends and I were going to fly to Russia and take a cruise up the Volga to St. Petersburg. It was fun planning it and I was looking forward to it. Then my sponsor asked me how I was going to deal with the food. Well, I hadn’t even thought about it. Not one member of our group was in a Twelve Step program. No one was sure if we would have any WiFi and I probably couldn’t make any phone calls so it was certain I would be out of contact with all my support. Because it was a Russian cruise line, it took me almost two months to get through to someone who could tell me about the food. By that time, there was only about three weeks until we were to leave. I was told that there was one seating an evening and only one choice for a meal. If I cancelled I’d lose my deposit. I started going back and forth in my head. On the one hand, I was trying to rationalise why it would be ok if I went, I’d be fine–even though left alone without support, it had never been fine before. My GSA program was urging caution and “when in doubt, leave it out.” No one said ‘Don’t go’. I made myself crazy trying to fit something I really wanted to do into a hole that it wouldn’t fit in. I didn’t want to lose the deposit. Finally my sponsor said, “What if you lost your abstinence and ate sugar and grains. You likely would binge because that is your history. How much money do you think you would spend on bingeing before you were able to get home?” That was pretty convincing. I could easily see myself terrified and desolate and paying top dollar for an early flight back to California. In the end, it would cost many times more than the $500 deposit. So I cancelled and have never regretted that decision.

My friends didn’t really understand. The average person thinks it’s a matter of will power and knowledge. I had tons of knowledge about food, nutrition, psychology, behavior and I was very wilful. None of that helped me deal with my food addiction.

I have a spiritual disease, an emptiness, that only a spiritual solution can heal. What I had to do during those first days and months of abstaining from sugar and grains, my friends in recovery call Radical Self-Care. Many people grow into adulthood knowing these caretaking things. Addicts don’t. In the quest to feed the habit, many important skills do not develop.

Next week: What are these new friends like, the people I had to depend on for my life and sanity?

Have a great week and plan ahead,

Sara