Emotional eating and food addiction not only ruin health, but relationships as well, because both addictions have the potential to cause irrational thinking and behaviors.
- In the throes of my addictions I stole my children’s Easter candies, Halloween treats, Christmas cookies; carefully making it look like nothing was missing, of course.
- I ate my husband’s leftover birthday pie our first year of marriage, and when he found out he was shocked and furious! I even ate the top tier of our wedding cake that was intended for our first year anniversary celebration.
- I ate out of the trash can; especially after a party when half-eaten Sloppy Joes and pieces of discarded birthday cake were calling my name. I would wait until the guests had gone home, and my family was sound asleep before the raid. I loved the paper plates loaded with leftover cake and frosting flowers stuck to them the best.
- Besides my favorite, burnt edges of lasagna straight from the pan, one time I even ate salty, hardened hamburger grease that was sitting on the kitchen counter in a container — now that’s the humdinger of addiction!
And to be totally honest, the 100 lbs of fat that I’d gained as a result of emotional eating and food addiction wasn’t nearly as painful as the inner turmoil and shame that it created within. The addictions consumed my thoughts, actions and moods; and both ruined precious relationships along the way. However, I overcame them by establishing a clear boundary line and made the steadfast decision to stay within it. Impulsive slip-ups happened from time to time, but I refused to let them derail my decision to stay 100% committed to be free from addiction and get my health back.
That may sound too simplistic to be true, but it worked.
Within four days of making the commitment to carefully follow Eat to Live, my teenage son with Type I diabetes ate a 2# bag of M & M’s, and he didn’t inject himself with insulin to cover it. Suddenly, I was thrust into a tumultuous medical crisis that lasted the better part of three months. I wasn’t able to focus on books or programs to unravel the reasons behind my emotional eating. I didn’t have time to analyze every morsel of food that went into my mouth. During that time of crisis I couldn’t dig up past wounds to contemplate those who had wrongfully hurt me, or that I had hurt. My thoughts were consumed with saving my child’s life, and nothing else mattered.
Thankfully, I had copied the Six-Week Plan, that’s outlined on p. 216 of Eat to Live, onto several 3x5 cards and had them laminated at an office supply store. Those cards were my “boundary line” at all times. I kept one in my purse, one in a book, one in the car, and attached one to the front of the refrigerator with a magnet. Those cards made all decisions for me, regardless of the turmoil that engulfed me.
I also worked on a daily piece of art anytime that I was tempted to eat. I carried 4"x4" squares of Bristol board, and colorful markers and pencils with me everywhere I went. I focused on creating art instead of eating food; and many times it was just doodling with colors in a hospital room. That was a tremendous tool to help divert my frustrations and anguish, and the resulting cravings to eat.
After three months the numbers on the scale were down 40 lbs, but more importantly, both emotional eating and addictive cravings for unhealthy food had significantly subsided. I actually craved green vegetables instead of bacon, cheese, and peanut butter!
I’ve had episodes of emotional eating since then, but they have been short lived. For example, the following year during another diabetic crisis involving my son, I was pouring cocoa powder into bowls of oatmeal and banana ice-creams like crazy. (More like I was dumping it on!) Dr. Fuhrman told me to “Stop. Stop immediately, and don’t use anymore cocoa powder for two weeks.” That was my boundary line. Sure, I still nearly drowned in raging emotions that were all over the place, but I clung to the safety of the boundary line throughout the ordeal and overcame both emotional eating and addiction to cocoa powder as a result.
Then this past summer I was extremely sleep deprived and experienced PTSD symptoms from a sudden, tragic event in my life. I craved dopamine producing, high calorie, low-nutrient, “healthy” foods over high-nutrient choices. Dr. Fuhrman instructed me to focus on shopping and preparing delicious tasting, high-nutrient foods; and to focus on getting deep sleep every night by darkening my bedroom windows. Again, that was my boundary line. Within a few weeks the PTSD symptoms subsided, I desired high-nutrient foods again, and my sleep cycles were restored.
If we want emotional, psychological and physiological freedom from addictions, we must establish a clear boundary line and stay within it no matter what.
It may seem scrupulous, but it has to be.
Some will think it is extreme, but so is addiction.
Addicts cannot afford compromise. Addicts cannot turn back. If we do, we will be undone, because the addiction will recover strength and take over our lives.