I think one of the hardest parts of dealing with addiction, especially food addiction, is the surrender. It’s giving up your will. Before I gave up sugar, grains, and starches, I tried to deal with my food issues myself. And because of that I read all sorts of information about food and nutrition. I knew about calories. I knew about superfoods. I was up on all of the latest scientific research.
But I only used the information that fell in line with what I wanted to eat. I loved nut butters, so I ate them whenever I could. By the jar. I hated vegetables, so I didn’t eat them. Or I ate the ones that were all starch. In fact, the fruits and vegetables I ate then were exactly the ones I don’t eat now. I especially ate sweet potatoes and bananas. Not just one, but one after the other. I was still bingeing, just not on cake. I don’t eat either of them anymore. The people who helped me get my eating under control said that those were foods we don’t eat. I could either accept that, or I could move on. I chose to accept.
There are two aspects of the way I put boundaries around my food that make it so effective for me.
1) I don’t make the rules.
2) I don’t pay in money. I pay in being part of the group. I pay in honesty.
What I do is not science. As the years go by, science gathers more and more evidence that what I do is healthy. And also that food addiction, especially sugar addiction, is real. But people have been doing what I do for decades. Before the research and the studies. There were people doing what I do way back when rice cakes and plain baked potatoes were considered the perfect diet foods. When “fat makes you fat” was the mantra of every dieting woman in the United States. I do what I do, and the people who do it with me do it, because it works. Anecdotally? Sure. But anecdotally, I have personally lost over 150 pounds. I have kept it off for 10 years. (For the most part. There was some metabolism trouble for the 3 years after I quit smoking, but even that seems to have passed now. And even when I was gaining weight, I was not binge eating, or eating sugar or carbs.)
Part of the reason it works is because the rules are laid out. You are either within the boundaries, or you’re not. And the rules are not about weight. They are about what when and how we eat.
When I put boundaries around my food 10 years ago, I was told I could not have nut butters or avocado. I did not like that at all. I tried to bargain. After all, avocado is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Nuts as well! And I was told that in order to keep the boundaries, I was going to eat 3 meals a day, nothing in between except zero calorie drinks. But I knew that six meals a day was optimal. In fact, a mid day snack of almonds or avocado was highly recommended by sports nutritionists. I did the research! I knew what I was talking about.
But I didn’t know what I was talking about. I knew about nutrients. I knew about recommended blood sugar levels and eating habits. But I knew precisely jack squat about how to control my own eating. I knew nothing about how to keep myself sane and healthy.
But people who had been unable to stop eating before, and who now lived a life free of food obsession, did it by following the rules like giving up avocado and eating 3 meals a day. No, they did not save a little milk from breakfast to slip into their coffee through the day. (Yep, I asked about that as well.) They had surrendered.
It didn’t take long for me to give up the fight either. The peace and freedom from food obsession was enough pretty quickly. Black coffee became the norm for me. Avocado? Don’t miss it at all.
The second part, the part where what I do is free (financially speaking), is another aspect of why it works so well for me. See, if I pay for a diet, the exchange is made. I pay, I get the diet. I now “own” the diet as it pertains to me. If I don’t want to do it today, well, you can’t stop me. And I don’t have anyone to answer to. You got your money. The rest is none of your business.
But with what I do, I don’t pay in money (though I do choose to donate to my groups). I pay in honesty. I pay in showing up. I pay in doing service. I pay in keeping the boundaries around my food.
So, someone is giving freely of their time and attention to give me a chance at a peaceful life. Not someone. But many someones. Hundreds. Making phone calls, sharing their stories, helping people make difficult decisions about food. (If you don’t know what I mean by a difficult food decision, bless you. You are probably not a compulsive eating sugar addict.)
When my life is the currency, I don’t own anything. My life is connected to all of those other lives. And if I don’t want to keep my food boundaries today…well, I have free will. I can make a decision on my own. I can have my reasons and my justifications. But I have also created a community that holds me accountable. I have to be responsible for the time and attention that has been given to me free of charge over the past 10 years. And I am either in the boundaries, or I am outside of the boundaries.
This is not about shame for people who struggle or people who leave. Addiction is a bitch. And what I do is not right for everybody. This is about surrender. This is about when you are so hopeless and desperate that you give up your will when it comes to eating because you know you are sick with food.
I know its natural to want what we want. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to know that when it comes to food, what I want is toxic. And while I am part of the group that saved my life, what I want is also irrelevant.