Photo: Oprah Winfrey Network
Anyone else watch that Lindsay Lohan reality show on OWN? I was strangely transfixed as I followed her attempts to live like a normal human in the aftermath of being a catered-to child star and later, an addict.
As I watched the final two episodes, I thought about her plight and how all addicts deal with temptations, whether it's tequila, cigarettes, crack or crullers.
The struggles are the same -- relapsing, self sabotage, having to live your life around people who either don't have a problem with [fill in the blank] or have no desire to change, coming up with new coping skills instead of using, trying not to swap one addiction for another.
- Some substances are illegal (cocaine)
- Some substances are legal but deadly (tobacco)
- Some substances are legal and in small amounts may be perfectly fine or even healthful (red wine)
Then there's food.
You can live without booze, cigs and drugs but you can't go "cold turkey" on food.
Instead, the food addict has to come to an understanding with their substance of choice.
(It's why you will never see a box of Girl Scout cookies in my house.)
Back in my "bad old days" -- actually, just a few years ago -- I thought I was doing OK because I wasn't compulsively eating food late at night, while I ate ketchup off a spoon while standing in front of the fridge. (Yeah, really.) It wasn't food food -- it was a condiment.
Hey, even Oprah Winfrey, Lindsay's executive producer, had those moments. She famously talked about dousing a package of frozen hot dog buns in maple syrup.
I worked through that nonsense with a therapist, and now I've got Retrofit advisors peering at my activity and food logs and Skyping with me regularly.
It's taking a while -- a long while -- but slowly I'm making progress. I had to buy a dress this week because the two I had in my closet were too big. And I'm happy to say that in dresses at least, I'm the smallest size at Lane Bryant and Avenue.
One small victory yesterday -- I had to wake up early to take the kid to school and I was going straight to the gym after that. I wanted to get something in me before I worked out so I gulped down a cup of coffee and ate a Kit's Organic fruit and nut bar in the car on the way to the gym, totally violating my rule of "no food in the car." After my workout, I grabbed a Greek yogurt while running an errand at Target.
So what's the victory? In the past I would overthink the whole thing -- I'd eat the bar as a "pre-breakfast snack" then workout and eat a regular breakfast, because that's what I'm supposed to do. Wednesday I called it a "split breakfast" and didn't label it pre-breakfast, breakfast or mid-morning snack.
It was just fueling before and after. No rules, just right. (Yes, I know it's the Outback Steakhouse slogan but I'm co-opting it to make my eating less neurotic.)
While I've been working on this post (it's taken a few days, then my blogging platform went down for a few days so I had extra time to stew), I came across a few outstanding items on the Internet.
The first was an article on Health.com, written by novelist Valerie Frankel, titled "4 Ways to Cure an Unhealthy Relationship With Food." Here's a little:
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be slim. But depriving yourself of crucial nutrients (or eating only a select few) — whether through cleanses, fasts or cutting out food groups — and pretending it's all for the good of your health is a dangerous game. Ironically, it can backfire and set off the "starve, binge, hate yourself" cycle that makes you gain weight instead.
I especially identified with Problem No. 1 -- being ruled by rules:
"Some people feel lost without structure," adds Mary Pritchard, PhD, professor in the department of psychology at Boise State University. "Walking into a restaurant or opening a fridge kicks off an algorithm of counting."
Another article at Rodale.com basically confirms what I've already known probably since I was 10 years old:
Food addicts often have the same impulsive personality traits that predispose people to abuse drugs and alcohol.
... The scientists also noticed an association between being food addicted and being unable to follow through on boring or challenging tasks, which would suggest that those suffering food addiction might have a hard time sticking with a diet or exercise plan.
(Oh, geez. Hand goes up again.)
And because I have jacked-up hunger hormones from decades of dieting, I'm particularly susceptible to feeling hungry all the time -- thanks, leptin!
The Men's Health article "8 Reasons You're Still Hungry -- Even After You Just Ate" explains the reason why you can't tame the hunger beast. Some of the reasons: dehydration, not eating a big enough breakfast, even -- get this -- cereal viscosity.
So, all that. Some rules but flexible rules. Food but not a lot of food. Good, normal, healthy food, not "anti-food" (I'm looking at you, ketchup). Keeping an eye on things, not playing human calorie calculator with everything you see. And following through, not dicking around.