Confessions from a former food addict
When I was a kid, my mother’s kitchen was a war zone. Becoming bulimic was one of the many ways I used food to nearly destroy myself. I was, in every sense of the word, insane around food. As a former food addict, I share these confessions because some of you may be able to relate.
I now see one of the keys that I was missing back then. Namely, to get help and find a community of like-minded people who struggled like I did. Only in retrospect and given what I now understand about the need for support (for people who feel stressed about or addicted to food) do I comprehend why the binging was prolonged longer than necessary.
Even the thought of food brought me enormous distress. The word was charged and triggered me into a stress response countless times. Bulimia is called a disease, or a condition. I look back at this as my own woundedness and inability to provide my body with wholesome nutrition.The food addiction was a symptom of deeper issues.
Instead of healing my body with food, which I do now, many decades later, I was poisoning my body with insane amounts of toxic food. I've had losses in my life. But to this day, nothing seems as tragic as the fact that I came so close to destroying myself.
But stick with me because this story ends well. Plus, if you are anywhere on the spectrum of struggling with either the quantity or quality of food that you eat, or feel addicted to food, I believe you may feel some relief by what I am going to share with you. Also, if you and your body are concerned about a diagnosis, a pending diagnosis, or the fear of something devastating happening to you, please read this with an open mind.
For the last twenty years I have studied and practiced a variety of lifestyle strategies with the intent of becoming more informed plus – and just as importantly – healing my body and restoring balance and joy in my life. I can now embrace what happened in the past regarding food addiction because it was a necessary step along the way to becoming a health coach. My experience and my recovery equip me to be more compassionate, patient, and resourceful for my clients, students, and myself.
In the Art of Being: 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in your Life, David Merritt Jones writes,
“In Zen, there is an old saying: The obstacle is the path. Know that a whole and happy life is not free of obstacles. Quite the contrary, a whole and happy life is riddled with obstacles-they simply become the very stepping-stones that help lift us to a new perspective. It is not what happens to us in this life that shapes us, it is how we choose to respond to what happens to us.”
Full disclosure: later in this article I will write about a style of eating that emphasizes whole foods and plants. Whether or not you intend to become a vegan or a vegetarian does not matter. You can still get a burst of inspiration, education, and perhaps even illumination here.
It’s Not One Thing
When I describe some of the steps I took to get myself squared away and overcome that food addiction, please know two things. First, these are some of the same steps that my clients take for their own relief and recovery. They aren’t fancy. Rather they are fundamental and wholesome.
For example, meditating regularly can help you relax, dial down the inflammation in your body (including your brain) and make it easier to choose food that supports you looking and feeling your best. Meditation does not cure you of binge-eating or food addiction, for example. And it does not make you lose weight. But in a multi-pronged approach, it helps.
The second thing to know is that when it comes to healing your body, it will always be a variety of ways that you intervene on your own behalf. There will be a few big things along the way, such as releasing yourself from sugary and artificially sweetened sodas. And healing your body will also be the result of some seemingly smaller adjustments, such as having a regular bedtime and ensuring that you get plenty of rest.
When you have the intention to improve your health and restore balance to your life, taking one step at a time is a smart way to go. I highly recommend that you read or listen to Undo It by Dean Ornish, MD. His program of lifestyle medicine covers the biggies: nutrition, exercise, loving relationships, and managing stress. This image is from Dr. Ornish’s website, http://deanornish.com/ornish-lifestyle-medicine/
Food, Glorious Food
Now I’d like to fast forward and tell you how and why I was able to release the insanity of food and the feeling of being addicted to food in order to be able to celebrate every day the joy and pleasure of nourishing my body and feeding my soul.
If this is something you struggle with, keep the faith. This is a process, an evolution, and it takes place over time. There were for me and there will be for you ups and downs, great discoveries and breakthroughs, perhaps even some setbacks. And then, your vision for your future, your dream for how you want to live in your body and enjoy your life begin to come into focus.
If you want to live life to the fullest, and if you want to be the best and happiest version of you, then you will figure this out. Get help if you need along your journey. I had helpers along the way in the form of nutritious-savvy doctors, seminar leaders, compassionate friends who were (and still are) good listeners, and countless books on topics such as mindfulness, spirituality, and nutrition.
I also learned how to cook, using trial and plenty of error along the way. There are some excellent online sites with great simple, healthy go-to recipes, such as Dr. Greger's exceptional site, Nutrition Facts.org.
There is an extremely lively conversation going on among proponents of lifestyle medicine. Again, Dr. Ornish’s book will enlighten you to what it means to restore your body through food and other practices. His recipes and resources at the back of the book are invaluable. Speaking of food…
Here’s what you will hear from practitioners like me, and others who advocate whole-foods and plants to help you break free from the tyranny of unwanted weight, unresolved issues around food, and impending health crisis. Whole foods, also called real food, entail fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, beans, soy, whole grain, and a minimum of commercially processed food.
All the following are true for me now, and all of these were 100% foreign to me before I began this journey twenty years ago. I certainly did not learn these overnight. Like for you, one habit, one distinction at a time will add up to being among the most transformational voyages of your life.
- You can eat more delicious food without ever counting calories, weighing, measuring, or stressing than you ever imagined… while maximizing your health, your vitality, and your shape and size. You can set yourself free and enjoy the astonishing tastes, flavors, and textures of foods like these.
- Eating food can be a heavenly experience. This is true even more compared to the intoxicating addiction-like experience of eating food that seems to have control over you. Eating wholesome food is often sublime because of how good it tastes, how good you feel, and how freeing it is to distance yourself from remorse, shame, and guilt. Imagine not ruining a meal by feeling crummy, guilty, and depleted afterward. Imagine a meal with an aftermath of positive energy, a happy gut, and feeling comfortable in your clothes.
- When you skip mindless snacking and emotional eating and find other ways to “get into” your life, the newfound focus will give you a whole new dimension of productivity and enjoyment. Food preoccupation is like shackles. Eating when you are hungry and having ideal fuel to play and work to your greatest potential is nothing short of life-changing.
- When you become a person who intuitively knows how to “feed your body and nourish your soul” your sense of who you are transforms. Yes, it most likely will be a learning curve as you find ways to purchase and prepare food that helps you stay happy, healthy, and lean. This becomes its own reward because of a fundamental shift in your beingness. This is also called your state.
- Whatever pleasure you think you get from some of the foods that compromise your health, this is eclipsed by the sheer joy you can experience by eating wholesome food gifted to you and your body from Mother Nature. For example, you may think you love the taste of bacon, crisp from the frying pan.
But if your joints ache afterward and your doctor says that you must increase your heart or diabetes medicine, the pleasure gets washed away by the unwanted consequence. This does not happen when you eat food that heals your body. The act of doing so is therefore more rewarding and pleasurable.
My husband and I have three little celebrations each day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was not born a good cook. I chose to learn how to prepare delicious food. If this seems difficult to you, consider the difficulty of the alternative. Being sick is among the most difficult experiences of our lives. (Here is a reminder of a great online resource for recipes, Dr. Michael Greger’s https://nutritionfacts.org/recipes/)
Why I Burst Out Laughing
Last week I attended a fantastic event called Plant-based Nutrition Healthcare Conference in Oakland, California. (In case you want to go next year…) One of the topics that the speakers continuously referred to was how the volume of whole-foods and plants was naturally far less in calories than animal products and processed food. The image below comes from Forks Over Knives, which is also the name of a brilliant movie about food, health, and the planet. A picture says a thousand calories, I mean words.
They fed us at the conference. Nine heavenly meals. In addition to copious amounts of fruits and salad fixings, we were also served buckwheat pancakes, tofu veggie rolls, baked polenta, lentil pasta with marinara, guacamole, and the list goes on. If you think that there is any shortage to recipes and variety in the plant kingdom, hop online and learn some delicious meals you can easily prepare. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? (Learn how Kathy did it!)
Here is a picture of me with a plate that is overflowing with food like this. That is some cashew cream sauce (made without dairy) over the sweet potatoes and fresh salsa on the side.
I was amazed by the portions eaten by people who were lean, vibrant, energetic, and obviously happy. Who doesn’t love to eat delicious food? If you look again at that infographic above, you can see that food like this is filling, but not high in calories.
Here are three terms to incorporate into your food narrative: calorie-dense, nutrient-void, and nutrient-dense. Essentially this describes how much nutrition you are getting in the food that you are eating. Plants are your friends. Unlike animal products, plants contain high amounts of essential antioxidants and fiber. Plus, plenty of fiber.
When I came home, I continued with my regular food plan, which is exactly like what they served us at the conference. I noticed that I was really piling on the plate. I thought that maybe being around all those plant-loving, kale inhaling foodies had an impact on me. I wanted to weigh myself, and I was a bit concerned that perhaps I had gone overboard.
Do you have a magic weight? Your dream weight? I know what my dream weight is. It is where I feel the best, have the most energy, and feel most comfortable in my clothes. (Currently my magic weight is nine pounds less than a weight I used to want to achieve many years ago. Back then, I was unable to achieve that other weight, even though I was dieting, fixated on food, trying to control my portions, depriving myself, and generally miserable.) Currently in my life, this new dream weight began to show up on the scale as I adopted this new lifestyle and way of eating.
Do you get it? Even after twenty years, I was still concerned that all of my happiness, freedom, and letting go around food might put me at risk regarding my weight. Adopting new beliefs is like turning a barge.
Like one of my clients put it so eloquently, I am still catching up with the new version of myself.
So, albeit a bit reluctantly, I stepped on the scale, looked down, and burst out laughing. My magic weight, minus ½ pound, was winking back at me from the display. Pass the cashew cream sauce!
One more thing, and this is as personal as the fact that I used to puke my brains out as a raging bulimic. I think of myself as a purveyor of peace and happiness. Being aligned with our bodies is a wonderful way to navigate around the planet. Living an embodied life does increase peace and happiness because, well, this is where we reside. Perhaps you have seen this famous quote by Jim Rohn: “If you don’t have a body, where will you live?”
In mentioning the planet, let’s include both the earth itself, which is suffering from abuse, climate disruption, and tragic imbalances. The animals on this sacred earth are suffering too. I used to be one of those people who wouldn’t watch Food, Inc., Food Matters, or Cowspiracy because I did not want to learn from these documentaries about the cost to animals of agribusiness and being raised for commercial profits.
But I made myself watch them. I read The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle, even though it was difficult to get through in the beginning. Instead of turning away – because as an animal lover, it was like chewing on glass – I learned. I cared enough to face the truth.
Unfortunately, I am unable to envision a future in which all people everywhere stop eating animal products. I’m sorry to say, this is not a feasible scenario. But I do know that there is a real movement afoot. And that every time you choose plants over animals, your body, the earth, and the animals are grateful to you. Gratitude is high on the charts as it relates to you taking care of you and inspiring you to continue along this path.
When I was first developing my health coaching practice, I spent many days contemplating what I wanted my brand to stand for. I came up with two messages that are even more poignant today as when I first thought of them.
Love your body and get your body to love you back.
Fall in love with food that is good for you.
It’s all about love.
Thank yourself for making it to the end of this. To whatever degree you are actively involved in healing your body and restoring your life, I congratulate you from the bottom of my healthy heart.
Rosie also holds these qualifications:
- Graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
- Certification in Plant Based Nutrition by The Center for Nutrition Studies (e-Cornell).
- Nutrition and Wellness Consultant certification through the American Fitness Professionals Association.
- Nutrition Advisor through Sanoviv Medical Institute.
- Advanced Rolfer, Rolf Movement Educator
- Graduate Iyengar Yoga Institute
Rosie founded The Vitality Club in Brentwood, CA in 2018.
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