I have been thinking a lot lately about fat acceptance and addiction. How they intersect, and where they diverge.
As a person who grew up fat in a fat phobic society, I have a lot of experience with the shame and humiliation that comes from not being able to control so many things, especially my eating, the size of my body, and the way I was treated. I was miserable growing up because of all of those things.
I am addicted to sugar and carbohydrates. Certainly man-made ones. But also some natural ones. I don’t eat honey, or maple syrup, or agave nectar. Yes they are natural. But they are pure sugar, and I am an addict. I don’t eat potatoes. I don’t even eat sweet potatoes. When people think it’s “over the top” that I don’t eat sweet potatoes, which are also natural, I remind myself that there was a time when I was binge eating sweet potatoes. Sometimes 5 or 6 at a time. Sometimes cooking 2 at once thinking surely that would satisfy me, only to put 2 more in the oven immediately because I was not satisfied. And then again.
Perhaps once upon a time, if I had never become an addict in the first place, I would have been able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity. But that ship sailed long ago. And now I cannot eat them without diving back into food hell. Because for me, eating sugar and carbohydrates is hell. It is filled with lies, betrayals, paralysis, shame, desperation, and all manner of self-loathing. It’s not just a sweet potato to me. It is the door to my worst self.
When people talk about the moral neutrality of food, I have mixed feelings. Not for the people eating it. But for the people making it. Because corporations know what they are doing when they make addictive foods. They have hired scientists. They are doing it on purpose. They are *designing* foods to be addictive. Because a food company could not continually increase profit if we only ate food for nourishment. Money dictates that we, consumers, need to eat as a hobby, as a distraction, as time-waster.
Fat people get the shaming, but we can see the results in other ways. A 17-year-old boy is permanently blind because he only ate chips and French fries. And nobody took it particularly seriously because he “wasn’t fat.”
I know that not everyone who is fat is a food addict. I know that not everyone who is thin is not.
I have heard people in fat communities talk about “sugar truthers.” It’s a kind of mocking term, meant to bring to mind conspiracy theorists and tin-foil-hat-wearers. The idea that sugar is a drug is ridiculous to a lot of people.
Or that if it is a drug, so what? I even saw one person say that even though sugar was like heroin in the brain, love was like cocaine in the brain, and nobody wanted people to give up love.
Except we would expect them to give up cocaine. And heroin. And if you spend enough time in 12 step rooms, you know that some people need to deal with their addiction to love too. Or at least to unhealthy and obsessive relationships that occur like love.
I sometimes hear about eating disorder programs giving people sugar and junk food, telling them not to be afraid of the cupcake. That in moderation, a cupcake is just a little treat.
I, personally, need to be afraid of the cupcake. Not because it will jump down my throat of its own accord. But because if I choose it once, I will lose my ability to choose. Because I am physically incapable of moderation. That is what addiction is. And whether the people in those programs are skinny or fat or somewhere in between, if they are sugar addicts, then they have also lost the capacity for moderation, and that program is probably harming them, not helping them.
So what scares me is that sometimes it looks to me like the food industry has exactly the people it is using and harming carrying its banners!
“There is no such thing as bad food!”
But for some of us, there is. For *me* there is. There are foods that make me miserable and crazy.
I am not against harm reduction. I wish the best for everyone, whatever that “best” looks like. But I am grateful that I got abstinence, personally. Because I am free. Because I am deeply content. Because I love my life. And I don’t believe I could have that with my addiction in my life.