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Since lockdown began, I have lost and gained the same seven pounds. Well, I cannot be absolutely certain that it is the SAME seven pounds. Let’s just say they’re not far away from my body at any given time. I am walking every day. I am stretching, eating mostly good food, and spending time outside most every day.

I have tried changing what/when/how I eat. No difference.

I’ve tried intermittent fasting. No difference.

I have tried two different “eating plans”. No difference.

If I read or hear one more time that I need more “willpower” someone will get hurt.

The reality of the situation is this: I am an addict. I have very poor impulse control. I cannot eat one cookie or one potato chip. I eat them all. Maybe not in one setting, but most often. So I try not to keep junk food at home. The cravings get awful.

I have made the conscious decision not to drink alcohol. I used to love drinking alcohol. Like, REALLY enjoy drinking. And, like junk food, if I opened a bottle of wine I would drink all of it. Sometimes I’d open a second bottle. I’d buy a growler of beer. Then I’d drink most, if not all of it in short order. Then I decided I didn’t need to do this to myself…so I stopped.

When I was recovering from surgery at the beginning of the year, I was offered a glass of wine. I agreed. It tasted awful and it wasn’t the wine, it was me. I went out for dinner and ordered a beer. And again, it tasted awful. Ick. So I made the decision to stop drinking, aside from communion.

I’ve not craved alcohol since. Yay!

Before lockdown, I had significantly lessened the amount of sugar/stevia/aspartame that I consumed. I would have a small treat every now and then. I was on the way to kicking the sugar habit. And was really proud of myself.

Then lockdown happened. My grocery bills started increasing because I was determined to eat healthy foods; fresh foods. No processed food. No junk. Excellent plan, not fully realised.

The problem with being a food addict is that you cannot abstain from food. You will never hear at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting: “Hello, my name is Andrea and I’m an addict. It’s been 45 days since my last bite of food.” Food is a very social part of who we are and what we do. If we don’t eat, we die. It will take a long, harrowing time, but we will die.

Eating is a central part to the sacrament of the Eucharist. We gather to share together in the body and blood of Christ. Not literally the body and blood, but a small, round wafer and a sip of red wine. Or a cube of gluten-free bread and a Jesus-jigger of grape juice.

I say often, of the Church, that we gather at the table; either the Lord’s table or the kitchen table. Except right now we can’t. We are unable to gather in our buildings and share these expressions of sacrament and commitment, because it simply isn’t safe to do so.

In the grand scheme of things, being addicted to food isn’t the worst thing, right? Wrong. You can eat yourself to death. You can damage your body, mind and soul from eating the “wrong kinds” of food and abusing food. Many people laugh when I tell them I’m a food addict. Because it does sound funny. How can you be addicted to something that is meant to fuel your body? Impulse control…or lack thereof.

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and we were chatting about how I’m struggling with the food addiction. Food carries a tremendous amount of shame for me. I have difficulty eating in front of other people. When I go out to eat, which I haven’t done in a long time, I carefully manage how much I eat.

I am capable of eating mindfully, and when I do, I feel great. Yet when I am under stress I “fog eat” when I sit down to eat something and before I know it the bowl is empty, the container is empty and I have no recollection of refilling the bowl or emptying the container.

Almost immediately I feel profound shame for my lack of control. Why am I so weak and powerless to food? When I keep junk out of my house I’ll be fine for a few days to a week, and then I’ll start craving and it will be horrendous. I can’t function until I tend to the craving. I try all the tricks; drinking water, counting to 10, breathing deeply, having something as a substitute. But none of these tricks work, especially when I’m craving mashed potatoes or cheezies or chocolate cake.

Mashed potatoes are comfort food to me. I make really good mashed potatoes. And I can portion control them, most of the time. But when it comes to potato chips and sweets, I will crave and eat them until they are gone. I’ll make a list and stick to it at the grocery store. I’ll be really disciplined, I’ll be really “good” and then I find myself waiting in line…and the craving begins…just a small bag of chips. You’ve been good. Oh go on, get the big bag, you’ll have a serving and put them away. You can do it.

Except I can’t.

No matter how well I justify “earning” the treat, I cannot stop until they are gone. Not all at once, but within a 24 hour period I will continue to go back to that treat until they are all gone. More shame and self-disgust.

My friend told me, in the grand scheme of things, that overeating, at this point in time, is not necessarily a terrible thing. Yes, it’s self-soothing. Yes, it’s not ideal. But we are living in a time of heightened stress. We are living in a time which is unprecedented for most of us.

I’ve decided to keep a food journal. Not to judge myself, not to punish myself, but to see if I can find a pattern to the cravings and overeating.

So, to that seven pounds that I keep losing and gaining, I say this: “it’s been a slice. How about you go away and stay away? I have no further need of you.”

If only it were that easy…

Wish me luck. Imma need it.

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My body is angry. I ache everywhere. I feel like I physically, from the neck down, have the ‘flu. My ankles are “clicking” more than usual. Same with my wrists. I was walking the other day and my ankle seized up. It simply stopped working and hurt a lot.

I stopped walking, rotated my ankle and was eventually able to weight bear. It scared me. I carefully walked back to my car, got home, elevated, medicated, applied heat and cold alternately and eventually dozed off.

I realised for the past two months I’ve been clenching everything. My jaw, my hands, my body and it’s unsustainable. We are living in a world most of us have never seen before. It’s scary. It’s frustrating. It’s unbelievable. And yet, it is our reality.

When I am at my best I eat three healthy meals a day. I cook at home, I drink lots of water, some decaffeinated tea, a little diet pop, and eat treats sparingly. I can get 8 hours of sleep and awaken feeling refreshed. I have few food cravings. My eyes are clear, my skin is dewy and I feel good.

Not these days, though.

My skin is sallow. I look haggard. I can’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. I wake before my alarm and when I decide to try and sleep more, I fall into a deep sleep and have difficulty rousing to my alarm.

I am craving foods I’ve not craved in months, if not years. I’m drinking mostly tea, lots of diet pop and a moderate amount of water. My skin is alternately dry and oily. Everything hurts. Well, except my hair. It’s just growing…fast…and a lot.

My food addiction is bad. I have so much shame about food that I feel humiliated. I am eating 1 – 2 meals a day. I start off with the best of intentions, then end up feeling ravenous, even though I KNOW I’m not hungry. I buy healthy food. Fruit, vegetables, lean meat, multi-grain bread. I don’t bring home a lot of processed food. And yet I crave chips and cookies. And I can’t eat one serving. I eat the whole bag.

I’m aware I’m doing it and I get angry and ashamed. Yet I can’t stop.

I’m currently using two online apps. One is through a wearable device which I really like because it gives advice on what to do as far as exercise in isolation. It’s adapted to the current reality of the world. The other is an online subscription app. I used it a few years ago and it was working well for me, then I stopped. I can’t remember why, but I know it was because I got frustrated with being moved from peer group to peer group.

The program has changed a little in a few years. And not at all since the pandemic. All the “helpful hints” involve getting together with family and friends, of going shopping with your girlfriends. Of going out to dinner, etc. NONE of which we can do right now. So, being the quiet and demure female I am… (you know, there REALLY needs to be a sarcasm font) I sent a message to my personal coach and the Concierge and didn’t receive a satisfactory answer.

I’ve asked questions about dealing with food addiction and been told “in their opinion” that such things don’t exist. Um, what?

I’m debating quitting the online program when my “course” is finished (August). I’m not losing weight, although I am following the course given the restrictions of COVID-19. Ugh.

I was listening to a podcast earlier today and there was woman who was raised by a crack-addicted mother. She was quite judmental with her mother for not having enough self-control. Until she found herself in her mid-twenties eating her feelings…until she weighed over 400 lbs and knew her life was in jeopardy. She joined Overeaters Anonymous and it helped her.

Food addiction is real. It is as valid an addiction as any other. Because I’m in a heightened place of stress, my coping mechanisms are weak…in some cases non-existent. My impulse control seems to be broken.

So, I’ve decided to check out Overeaters Anonymous. There are virtual meetings that I can drop into and drop out of. I think it would help me to talk to people who understand how I feel. Who understand the minefield that food addiction and grocery shopping can be.

Hopefully I can learn, again, to lessen my stress and eat properly so my body will stop being angry with me.

Oh! And then there’s the physical changes with menopause and HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). I’ll get there. I know I will.

It will take time. It will take effort. And it will take help. Help which I am determined to get.

Watch this space…

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