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28 February 2002

A friend of mine who is 4 years in sobriety wrote to me the other day about how he still gets "agitated" when he sees a drink sitting on a table. He has no intention of drinking it, but he still becomes "agitated."

That was the perfect word to use. Agitated. I've come to realize that I am a food addict. (Hello, My name is Bev....) My alcoholic friend is always talking about "drunks" and "civilians." As I get further into this new lifestyle I understand what he means.

I think back to a family birthday dinner this past weekend. There was a birthday tort--one of those pudding-topped-with-glazed-fruit things--for dessert. I cut it and served it to everyone at the table, but then I could not concentrate on the conversation going on around me because all I wanted was a piece of that dessert, dammit. I finally allowed myself a taste, one corner.

Well, as the old saying goes about booze--one drink is too many and a thousand aren't enough. I stopped myself at that one taste, but it sure didn't stop the craving. The entire time I sat at the table, all I could think of was the dessert sitting right there at my elbow. I could have moved it, but that would have been a public admission that it was bothering me, and of course you can't have that. Earlier in the evening there had been hors d’oeuvres--crackers topped with my very favorite food: crab (1 cracker=4 points, + the crab and whatever it was mixed with). There were cashews (14 = 2 point). I didn't even try to calculate the potato chips and dip.

Civilians don't spend their time calculating how many of something they can have. Civilians sit back, enjoy the visit, and may take one or two of whatever is being offered. They don't let it become their whole focus, as I found it became mine.

Civilians, it has been pointed out to me, don't have those same food issues. Civilians can diet. They have a different sort of willpower. They decide they're going to do it and they it. I don't see civilians agonizing over needing the taste of something, or the feel of something in their mouth, as I admit I sometimes do.

Addicts may successfully diet, but they constantly battle the cravings.

When I'm at the club in the morning, I'm deciding what I'm going to have for breakfast when I get home. And then after breakfast, I'm deciding which food I'm going to have for my 10 o'clock snack. Then after that, I occupy my mind while I'm doing whatever I'm doing, by figuring out what I'm going to fix for myself for lunch. And then there is the mid-afternoon snack, and dinner.

Before I started this lifestyle change, I didn't spend my time obsessing--I just grabbed whatever high calorie thing was there, slathered butter on it, and that was it. Obsessing about food has replaced eating unhealthy food, I guess.

My friend and I have been having a discussion about alcohol addiction vs. food addiction. He told me awhile ago that he's heard forever the saying "you can give up alcohol entirely, but you have to eat." He said it finally hit him that he makes choices every day--whether to drink alcohol or something else, and that it should be the same for a food addict--simply making healthy choices.

Only it's not that simple. For example, my trigger foods are carbohydrates. (Well, I learned at my diabetes that everything has carbohydrates except sugarless Jello so let's say the bready, fatty carbohydrates. Don't let me sniff a donut.). Sugar isn't as big a problem for me. It's easier for me to just not have it at all. But you need some carbohydrates in your diet. Actually, you need some fat in your diet as well. So with someone who is food-addicted, you can't just give up all the trigger foods. I can't really see living the rest of my life eating only lettuce and sugarless Jello!

With me, the idea is not to diet, as I've said countless times in the past two months; it's to make this my new lifestyle, and that means learning how to live with the cravings. Learning how to have one piece of hot french bread at dinner--or none (and just smelling it instead, as I watch everyone else eat it), and stopping there. Learning how to go to a buffet and head to the salad table while everyone else is jammed up at the pastries. I can do that sort of thing, but my brain takes over and the whole focus of my mind becomes that thing that is calling to me.

Even diet foods are dangerous. Rice cakes are terrific diet foods. Low calories, low point value, good tasting. The only problem is that I can't stop with one or two. If I buy a bag to snack on, I have to finish the bag. That's not a LOT of points, but it's losing control and I can't do that.

Those Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches I was having were wonderful. One point each. You could easily have the entire package (6) and not have it affect your points for the day very much. So I was doing that. Oh, not six a day, but I could finish a package in two days. I was substituting a low calorie addictive food for the high calorie addictive food, but I was still giving in to my addiction. (The things are also ridiculously expensive!)

Some suggested making my own faux ice cream sandwiches. Take two low-fat graham crackers and spread a big mound of fat-free Cool Whip on them and freeze them. Delicious. Too delicious. Soon I was scarfing up graham crackers and cool whip without bothering to take the time to freeze it. I was acting like an addict again.

Oh all these addictive behaviors have all been within my point range for the day (even the birthday dinner, I think, fell within the point range--and I lost weight that week), but that's not teaching me how not to be an addict.

My goal in this new lifestyle is not only to eat healthy, lose weight, and increase energy, it's to learn how to be a civilian.

In fact, if I could learn how to be a civilian, all the rest would just fall into place naturally. But I suspect that's going to be the hardest part of this program--the civilian part. Losing weight is easy, reprogramming the brain waves that made you overeat in the first place is hard.

Guest Refrigerator Door

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This is the last of the magnets.
I know at least one person who
will be thrilled.
Tomorrow is a new month...
and I'll have to find a new "thing"
to put in this square!!

Thanks to everyone who
participated in this year-plus
project!  It was definitely....

One Year Ago

How the Other Half Lives

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Pounds Lost:  25.2
(this figure is updated on Tuesdays)

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Created 2/28/02