Leveling up – Addiction and the Weight Gain Connection

Two weeks ago I wrote about a very important subject, addiction and the addictive personality.  This week I want to continue to discuss another aspect of the same topic. If you read that article and felt that it spoke to you, I would very much like you to consider what I have to say today. If you believe you have an addictive personality, if food is your drug of choice, and if you haven't yet been able to conquer all of your inner demons, then you need to be warned about some dangers you might face as a result of changing your eating habits.


As I wrote earlier, you have probably been reaching for food all your life because there is an issue you are not willing to face.  If you can't imagine what the issue is, let me suggest a way to identify it.  Think about the times in the middle of the night when your subconscious mind comes to the surface and you wake up, lying there wondering why you are awake, once again staring at the ceiling.  Then that restless feeling inside gets you turning from side to side, front to back. What is making you so disquieted?  Why can't you get back to sleep? As your mind races in a hundred directions, you give in and get out of bed, maybe check on the children, use the bathroom, and then, whoops, too late, you're reaching into the open fridge. I must be hungry. Yes, that's it; that's why I woke up. I'll just have a little something so I can get back to sleep, you reason as you finish off the dinner leftovers.  You know you're really not hungry, but you also know that focusing on food will deaden the nagging ache that awakened you. If you could just steel yourself and name the ache, you would be on your way to conquering the behavior that is keeping you from living in peace!


However, you don't name it; instead, you decide to try another diet. As luck would have it, you find my site and my words resonate, you follow my advice, and you start Just Losing it with Me. A couple of months go by and you read my blog on the addictive personality, recognize yourself and realize that food is, indeed, your drug of choice. Great, but then what?  Well, next you become more conscious of why you are eating what you eat.   But now something else starts to happen.  As I've said before, we conquer one obstacle and something else always seems to arise, doesn't it?  So, now you find yourself focusing your attention on other things that appear to be healthy distractions, and they are taking your mind off food. Great! Until you, or more likely, your spouse or partner, notice that you are doing these other things just a little bit more than appears normal. You might even recognize it yourself if you detach for a moment and really see what you are doing. Speaking of this phenomenon might seem premature at this point in the journey, but I think that it is important to get you ready for what might be in store, so you can recognize it, should it happen.


Don't get me wrong, I am happy that you have distracted yourself from the food that is destroying your health, but here is the thing, and it's tricky: if you haven't dealt with the "issue," then even if you "transfer" your attention from food for the moment, you might still be in danger of going back to it when down the road, you are forced to face your demons.  This is kind of like the appeal of going back to an old lover who was great in bed but abusive as hell. So, let's just stay with the unfortunate truth that even if you are able to use your awareness and insight to change from bingeing on food to doing something else to excess, you have not stopped the addiction; you have merely transferred it.  Again, it's not the food; it's you; but please, don't lose hope because there is an answer!


Before I move on, really think about how you respond to the following questions.  Do you find yourself spending a little more time on the computer lately?  Maybe posting or lurking on Facebook more than you should? Are online games like Texas Hold'em, Solitaire, Backgammon, Chess, or Scrabble consuming your time? Are you diverting your attention from food with activities, such as day trading, soap operas, reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku. Are you out shopping more than necessary? I know many who have discovered the amazing deals Goodwill stores in very nice towns offer, thanks to their addictive tendencies! Agreed, these are not terrible ways to focus your attention, and at least if you're shopping like crazy and getting good deals, you're not putting the family finances at risk, but…


I don't see anything wrong with them, you might think.  At least I'm not eating uncontrollably. Well, if you don't realize that you have transferred your addictive behavior from food to something else, and you don't understand that you are not "cured," you won't realize that you can easily transfer back to food at any moment. If we continue to insist that this other stuff is now healthy for us, nothing has changed. You have not dealt with the addiction; although, it looks like you have until, that is, you find yourself driving through a fast food restaurant and scoffing down a meal for two without even realizing what happened!


Let me continue.  You now have the pairing of excessive and addictive behaviors that look quite beneficial to your health.  I think these are dangerous transferences of addiction because neither you nor anyone else will ever think of them as negative. However, if you are doing them obsessively, you will run right back into yourself before you know it. I know it sounds crazy that I am warning you about running, jogging, walking, and working out, but you need to know that it's not the activity I am worried about. Just as it's not the one indulgent chocolate dessert you have every once in a while; it's the behavior of having to do it excessively, compulsively.  Not being able to stop running for miles and miles and miles, raises the big question: "What are you running from?" And, yes, better to run a few marathons than eat your way through the cookie aisle at Stop & Shop, but again, if you haven't dealt with your demons, they will surely come back. So please bring awareness to the behavior and recognize the addiction it represents so you can put an end to it, once and for all.


Not to beat a dead horse, but I can't help myself! There are so many crazy behaviors we substitute for our food addiction that I have to mention a few more. Beyond the numbing exercise schedule where two hours of spinning aren't enough and you insist upon jumping on and off the treadmill before and after every meal, there is the person who becomes obsessed with people: falling in love with everyone she meets.  Love is healthy, right? Not when it's obsessive, it isn't.  You must love yourself before you can receive love from someone else (that's a whole other blog), but you are in trouble if you find yourself crying over a new guy in your life, texting him 20 or 30 times a day as if he were some kind of lifeline. Worse yet are the sex addicts.  If you are suddenly thinking only about sex, you could be heading for dangers that make food look positively benign.  And let's not forget that you have already met your true love… Less obvious is the gossiper or Hollywood obsessed. If you're consumed with other people's lives, I can only ask why you believe your life isn't worth talking about?


Ah, but the worst transference there can be, and one that that I have seen creep up on many people, is that of drinking alcohol.  I am not talking about the alcoholic whose first love is alcohol, not food. I am speaking about the food lover who transfers her obsession from food to alcohol. Ironically, if you were to visit an AA meeting, you would find the group obsessively drinking coffee, eating doughnuts and chain smoking. They have transferred their alcohol craving to an insatiable need for sugar, nicotine and caffeine. You, too, might eventually do the same thing, using alcohol to replace food.  This is really dangerous, girls; you need to watch this one more closely than any other. In our society, drinking to relax is acceptable, and you just might find yourself relaxing way too often-usually around the same time you used to snack.  Coincidence?


Are you pouring yourself a glass of wine right after getting home from work, then perhaps another while cooking dinner for your family so you don't pick at the food? Are you having another glass during dinner so you don't overeat, and then, perhaps, a quick nightcap before bed?  This is very dangerous! Alcohol isn't your first love, but it can easily function as a happy rebound.  And because of the addictive personality that you haven't yet addressed, you have now transferred your attention to something almost worse, especially if your blood sugars are elevated due to your eating issues.  So, this is one that I want you to look at very closely. If you find your mind turning to a glass of something on any given afternoon, please go and buy yourself a pair of sneakers and hit the pavement-then it's only your knees that might take a beating.


So, here I am again writing something that looks a bit depressing.  Is there no way out for us?  Are we all just lost and hopeless, working as hard as we can to get rid of the one thing that has plagued us our whole lives only to pick up something that could be even worse?  Is this what is in store for the group of us?  Well, again, I quote myself, "If weight loss were easy, we would all be thin."  I bring this all up so that you have a heads-up regarding the addictive personality and the ways it sabotages your progress. I want you to realize that I speak about all of this because I have been to all of these places, and I know what could be in store for you.  I know how easy it is to trip over yourself. I know for sure that after the Texas Hold'em tournaments (my favorite), the online games, the shopping, and the pounding of the pavement, eventually you will come home to your first love…Unless you figure this out.  Unless you can sit yourself down, look within, and see what you need to see, see what you don't want to see, and answer the questions you don't want to answer. Who am I? Why am I here? Why am I not good enough? Why am I not happy? Why doesn't anyone love me? When is it my turn for happiness? Why am I so afraid to be alone? Why can't I sleep? Why do I cry so much? Maybe these aren't your questions, but yours are in there, waiting for your attention and your answers.


The next time you find yourself alone and wondering what's in the fridge or the wine rack, or what level you can aspire to on addictive games.com, stop in your tracks, grab a pen and paper, and think about your question.  What is it that lies deep with in you? You will know when you hear it, so go through my list and then start asking your own.  Eventually one or more will resonate.  Write them down and keep them with you in your bag, on the refrigerator, and on the bathroom mirror.  You might not be ready to find answers yet, but finding the questions is a huge first step.  The next time you feel that disquiet, nagging feeling, pick up a pen and paper-not the Amex Platinum or the Pumas or the Pinot. There is an answer that only you can find.  Then, once you find this answer, the next step is just doing it, and that, my friends, is for another day and another article.


‘Til then…


Berta is a respected weight loss counselor who has educated and empowered hundreds of women JUST LIKE YOU to lose the excess weight that prevents them from living their dream and becoming the woman they were meant to be.

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