“Let’s take it back to the start”. Another meaningful line from one of my favorite songs. If I’m being 100% honest and going back to the start I will face the music and admit: I have been addicted to food for 40 years.
I woke up this morning and for whatever reason, my childhood was on my mind. I decided to rewind and try to pinpoint when my food addiction began. Having been through therapy for some years, I am pretty well versed in how my childhood went. But, I haven’t actually thought about it in some time.
As I write this, I am 47 years old and I am having to accept the fact that, indeed, I have been a food addict for 40 years.
By the time I was about 7, I was using food as a source of comfort. Over the course of my childhood meal time either brought good memories or bad memories. The good ones stopped by about the time I was 6. By the time I was in third grade I had to shop in the “Husky” department (as they called it back then) at Sears for my clothes. It was the only place that had clothes that would fit me.
Maybe I was lucky because up until that age, I wasn’t fat at all. I was a really cute kid with beautiful hair and I was thin. But by third grade, I was getting chubby. By 5th grade, I was really chubby and by 6th grade I was just plain fat.
My childhood was really stressful and between childhood illnesses I had and my parent’s rocky and often violent marriage, comfort came with the boxes of devil dogs and captain crunch that were abundant in our cupboards.
By the time I was 10 I was full-on addicted to Honey Buns. It was 1976 and my life should have been about playing sports and summer camp. Instead it was about being the “sick” kid, feeling abandoned by my parents and hanging around the yard. My best friend and I would find 30 cents in any way we could, every day, to walk to the convenience store and buy Coke’s and Honey Buns. By noon every day, all I could see was that Honey Bun. So much for that pie in the sky – give me that gooey, glazed, luscious piece of sugar, fat and chemicals any day. Ummm, hmmm, it was all I could think of.
By the following summer I was about 145 pounds. Huge for a young girl of 11. I guess I knew I was fat, but I had no idea what I could do about it. I figured, my Mom was fat, so this is how we were. And of course there were the medications. I was on steroids, a lot, and the doctor just said that’s why I was “chubby”.
But back to the honey bun. I can still remember how it. I barely got out of the store before I unwrapped it and starting biting into it. It was my solace. It was my high. I had no idea then, but, it was my addiction that would lead me into a lifelong battle and create disease. To this day when I smell a bakery or a donut shop, it’s like, I’m high. I think only another food addict will understand what I mean, but it’s almost unconscious, yet you know you feel complete “bliss” for that moment.
As a pause button with this addiction, I had an interesting turn of events that actually gave me a break. The summer of 77, my Dad left my Mom and ended up taking us for the summer to his apartment. In living with my Dad and his girlfriend, we were very restricted with our food. We only ate at meal time (what a revelation) and we would have a small dessert after dinner. This was very hard for me because I had never had any restrictions on food. I can still remember crying because I was “hungry”. I remember my Dad would make us go out for walks or swim instead, and it took me weeks I’m sure, but eventually – I got used to that non-food focused lifestyle. During the summer of 1977 I went from almost 150 pounds down to 107 just by eating normal.
I was so thin! It was like magic. I returned to school that year in 7th grade and nobody recognized me. Everyone was in awe and suddenly, I went from the girl voted “most shy” in 4th grade to the super popular kid.
I was turning 12, developing, and I was thin and very strong. I’ve always had a LOT of muscle mass, which is why I got away with carrying so much weight all these years I suppose. But here I was, cute and thin and in 7th grade. I not only had all new girlfriends but I had the boys lining up to slip me notes in math class to ask me if I’d “go out” with them. It was a whole new world simply because my addiction was “taken away.”
I stayed at that weight for a long time, until I graduated high school. When I hear stories of people my age, and even older, who are having Weight Loss Surgery and have never known a day of being fit or in shape, my heart breaks. I am very thankful that I have had quite a number of years where I kept this Obesity at bay.
During Jr. High and High School I had many many friends. I participated in sports, cheerleading, and majorettes. I had all those experiences that young people are supposed to have. I had healthy friendships, boyfriends to hold my hand during the slow song at the Roller Skating rink. Summers on the beach with confidence, etc. I was very very fortunate. Despite my family dysfunction and breakup, I at least had friends and their families.
But, it wasn’t long after I graduated High School that I started packing on the pounds. It was time for college keg parties, going out to lunch with co-workers, and coffee. Dunkin Donuts coffee – my new addiction. The pounds started to come on fast. By age 19 I was right back to 155.
This is when the crash dieting started. I would have done anything to stay at 125, but as soon as the dieting stopped, there was the scale – my enemy – ruining my life again. Taking away my joy.
When I was 22 I got pregnant and ballooned up to 210 pounds. I was horrified. I had never weighed so much and I had no idea how I would ever see 125 again. And, sadly, I never have. I’ve never even come close.
Once I was a single parent, the extreme stress of my life during those years truly took over. My food addiction was something I couldn’t control, nor did I want to. I always got so much attention from boys/men, and now I wanted none of that, so I ate my way into “invisible” and topped the scale at a whopping 335 pounds.
At that time I went for a consult for gastric bypass surgery. It was about 1999 and I was too afraid to do it. Back then it wasn’t so “mainstream” like it is today – I was terrified. So I stayed morbidly obese. But after a couple of years at that weight, I had had it.
In comes Nutrisystem. I lost 50 pounds pretty quick and felt so much better. But I was still obese. I managed to get myself down to about 230 pounds but it took me a really long time.
During those 4 years I was in therapy with an eating disorder therapist and that helped very much. I saw her for about 6 years. It took me that long to dig up the childhood memories I had buried away. I literally couldn’t remember anything from age 5 to age 12. Not one thing. After a lot of talk and memory-recall therapy, I had processed a LOT of things. Still though, I had not faced I was a food addict. I knew I used food to cope, but I never said to myself: “You have an addiction.” I never said to myself: “You have a disease.”
Here I am now, 6 weeks pre-op from having gastric bypass surgery. I am anxious as hell to get it done and start shedding these pounds. But, I know that the post-honeymoon period will find me fast. I know I have to be ready. I know I have to be strong and have many tools in my pocket. I am not under the illusion that this will be easy or ‘magic’.
I started this blog to get me back into writing and to be honest with myself. I am saying out loud: For 40 years I have had an addiction that has caused me to be obese. I have a disease that I will never be cured of. I have an addiction that I am going to have to face every single day for the rest of my life if I want to be in remission.
One might say that I’m lucky – I have a disease that “I” can control. And that is true. It’s not like another disease that you can’t do much about other than cross your fingers and pray that “x” treatment worked. I am lucky – I am in the driver’s seat with this one. However, the fact remains – I am addicted to food and I have Obesity.
There I said it. Now I’m pissed off. It pisses me off that nobody told me this. It pisses me off that nobody talked about food being an addiction until recently. But, at least I know now. I know now and I have today, and tomorrow, and the future.
So this entry is about where I started from. It’s about where I’ve been. I went from that high school girl having the time of her life to that 335 pound morbidly obese woman who wanted to bury herself in a hole and never come out. But I dug myself out then, and I’ll dig myself out of my 100 pounds overweight hole again.
It is amazing how much our childhood effects our entire lives. Parents, be good at your jobs. It is the most important job in the world yet there is no training provided; no instructions; just a wing and a prayer. Sadly so many fail. My parents had all good intentions and started out with every hope and dream in the world. But none of that worked. Instead they “raised” 4 dysfunctional children all with various addictions.
I need to do something about this. I need to help others know that food is a drug and we live in a world where, no matter what your addiction is, it’s readily available to access. It’s so easy to kill yourself in this world and ruin your life. It’s harder to be successful. It’s harder to be happy. It’s harder to win.
I really want to say “I won” when I get to the finish line. I’m not giving up yet.
I’ve gone back to the start, but now, I’m ready to start again.