I have to be honest; it took me years to recover from my food addiction and binge eating disorder. Years!! But I didn’t have the key information and resources that I needed to recover. While it’s difficult to put a timeline on a person’s recovery, but I do believe that if I had had the education and information about food addiction being a treatable condition, a lot of pain could have been avoided.
- Stop the drug
When I started therapy for binge eating disorder my therapist said that the goal of treatment was to change my relationship with food, myself and others so that I could manage life comfortably without food as a crutch. The aim was to make sure I could eat all foods in moderation – like a normal person. But at that point it wasn’t recognised that I had an underlying addiction. I tried, for many years, to eat in different ways. I tried to moderate my intake of sweet foods, of bread and other items. But when we have an addiction to these items, moderation won’t work. Trying to moderate an addictive substance is like a heroin addict taking just one dose of heroin once a week. It would lead to immediate relapse. So, I had to go through a process where my trigger foods and food behaviours had to be identified. I had to learn how to stick to a food plan which was totally abstinent of my triggers. Once the ‘drug’ foods and behaviours were gone, the cravings and obsessions diminished. I had to do this with outside help as trying to do it alone didn’t seem to work.
I started by seeking help from a counsellor. That was an important first step for me. Initially, I had sessions just once weekly and the recovery process was very slow. I found that doing journaling exercises throughout the week was essential to support my recovery. After a while my counsellor suggested that I go to a support group. I’m so glad I did. Ultimately, connecting to people who are having the same problem and who are trying to recover as well was, and still is, the most important thing in my recovery. I could not have done it without the support and experience of other food addicts. Addiction thrives in isolation so connection with others who understand is a cornerstone of recovery. And that’s not only a question of identifying with others. It’s also a financial issue. Food addiction is a lifelong thing that we need to learn how to manage to live a fulfilling life. Just like with any other chronic condition. It would be unaffordable to be paying a counsellor for the rest of my life. Support groups are free and you get a lot more contact than you would with a therapist.
- Spirituality and mindfulness
I was using food as my crutch for everything. I couldn’t deal with anything in life without binge eating. It was my one and only coping mechanism. Food became my god. Everything in my life revolved around food. It was the best way for me to seek pleasure and avoid pain. I could ‘check out’ of life and get relief by bingeing. When I had to give food up something else had to take its place. How would I have the strength to walk through life without my friend the food? The answer is that I had to learn to develop a relationship with a higher power of some sort. I had to learn to rely on an inner source of strength. This is not about becoming religious but it’s about having a relationship with a certain power or source that can provide me with strength and from which I could seek guidance. I had to reestablish my inner values system, reevaluate what I believe in, what I stand for. I had to become mindful of the present moment, of my body, and practice gratitude of what life brings to me. I had to learn how to trust that all is evolving just as it should. I had to surrender to a power greater than myself without really understanding what that power was. How did I do that? The answer is I’m still doing it. It’s a never-ending process of daily spiritual practice. I have a clear (but evolving) picture of what that inner source of strength is for me. I pray everyday. I listen to what it says and where it guides me. I read inspiring literature and journal everyday. I join spiritual activities. I meditate. I do yoga. All of these are parts of my daily spiritual practice. I do this practice because when life happens and I need strong coping skills, I can draw on my higher power. And that way I no longer need to rely on the food.