Today I came to a pretty startling realization. I have spent a lot of time and money on attempting to live a healthier lifestyle, to eat better, be more active, and truly nourish my body. I recently began a rigorous workout trainer (Pipehitter) designed by fitness star Ashley Horner, and it is by far no joke and contains a pretty strict meal plan. And I’ve been kidding myself into thinking that just because I’m not following the meal plan verbatim, that I am still watching closely what I eat.
This past weekend was a pretty big wake up call for me. I had finished the first week of my trainer and was just starting to get back use of my legs (seriously, leg day is not something for the faint of heart), and despite the agony I had put myself through at the gym and soreness in my legs, I was still eating crap. It was late and I was helping family prep for a wedding to take place in that back yard on Saturday and I intended on running to the supermarket to get a rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies to eat for dinner but, the store was closed. So, with a lack of truly healthy options at my disposal, I grabbed pizza. Normally, I wouldn’t really shun myself for this – one bad meal won’t make you unhealthy the same way eating one salad won’t make healthy – but it had more to do with what I ordered and the manner in which I ate it. I ordered two plain slices, a rice ball, and 3 squares of pepperoni bread. To make it worse, I was so embarrassed by the size of my order (and that fact that my cousin-in-law who was helping me with my trainer at the gym was inside the house) that I proceeded to eat half of my food in the car before entering the house. I was officially sneak-eating. That was when it hit me, I sneak eat all the time. Somewhere along the way I was introduced to potato salad at a BBQ and fell in love. Sometimes when I go to the grocery store I buy a small container, eat it, and then hide it under other garbage in my trash can so my husband doesn’t say anything to me. Or I’ll buy my husband snacks that he can eat (cookies/chips) since he has an incredibly fast metabolism, and then when he’s napping or not home, I’ll indulge. And then, like I have no idea what is happening, I will freak out when the scale doesn’t budge – or worse – it goes up.
I don’t know exactly what it is that triggers it, boredom, stress or laziness. But whatever it is, it is 100% the reason why I can’t lose the weight I’ve been dying to see melt off. I’ve been reading the book It Starts With Food by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig, not necessarily with the intent of starting the Whole 30 diet, but because the book discusses the mechanics and psychology of eating. In a brief two page excerpt, Dallas & Melissa Hartwig explain the psychology of stress eating and suddenly it made all the sense in the world why I can’t seem to walk past that potato salad without taking some home. There’s nothing wrong with me and it is extremely common: my brain has a chemical addiction to food.
With a little bit of online research I found that food can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Highly palatable foods: those rich in salt, fat, and sugar, can make the brain release the same feel-good hormones (like dopamine) as addictive drugs. So, potato salad which is high in both fat and salt is a prime example of a food that could release a potential “high” for someone addicted to food.
Deciding to use the word “addict” to describe myself is a pretty big deal, but it also helps me understand why eating something so horrible for me can somehow make me feel so good, but that first step of eating something bad is the trigger of a very unhealthy cycle. Gives into bad food -> creates feelings of stress and guilt -> bad food releases feel good hormones -> therefore eats bad food all over again. What is the very first step of the 12-step program used to help drug addicts become sober? Admitting you are powerless to your addiction and that it has become unmanageable.
In an attempt to regain some control of my relationship with food, I purchased the book Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction by Vera Tarman, MD with Philip Werdell. I can only hope that having a better understanding of my unhealthy relationship with food will eventually allow me to live a healthier life.