Weighty Matters

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Food Isn’t the Problem

I have a cold. I felt like crap all day, bad enough to stay home from work. I stayed home from work but didn’t refrain from working. Considering the sneezing, stuffy head, fuzzy brain and general tiredness, I was actually very productive and got a lot done. I was not, however, physically active. For the first time in months I have gone two days without reaching my minimum commitment of 10,000 steps. I feel sluggish. Even though I have more than enough reason to have not fulfilled my physical fitness goals the last two days, mentally I’m struggling with it. I’m sure that I’ll improve as soon as I get back on the step count, but it does me good to share this stuff. Thanks for listening.

While I was working from home today I had on the television. I sort of half listened during the Dr. Oz show, but in that hour I heard something that struck home. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but it was excellent timing for me to hear it again today. The doctors were talking about the growing number of heroin addicts and the different prescription drugs that are hydrocodone related in different strengths, the addiction problems, etc. One doctor said that in the lives of addicts, the drugs are not the problem. The drugs are the solution. What a strong, important point. From my perspective, food and my way of previous diseased eating are not the problems. They are what I used to cope or bury the real issues. They’re the ways that I tried to solve my issues.

Sometimes it’s difficult to separate out these things. Even though a drug addict might know that he/she turned to drugs for an emotional reason doesn’t mean their bodies don’t physically become hooked. Same thing with me. I can get hooked on the behavior of stuffing my feelings with food or bingeing on certain foods because of their carb, fat or sugar content. So, I can’t ignore that, while food isn’t the root problem, it became a secondary problem at some point. So, until I “got clean”, I couldn’t clear my head and emotions enough to work on the motivating issues.

Some might think that getting clean is the hard part, but the real work begins after. That’s why it was so important for me to understand that the vertical sleeve gastrectomy — the bariatric surgery — would only be a tool to help me control my overeating behavior, which I’d not been able to sustain control over in the past for any significant amount of time. The hardest work is picking through the emotional and psychological issues that make me run to food. All of the time I need to remember that I cannot rely on food to be anything more than food. It needs to not be a problem or a solution.

The work is hard, but it’s important. It’s also possible as long as I keep at it.

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Addictions, Relapse and the Never Ending Struggle

Many of us were shocked by the news of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden death. I didn’t know he was a heroin addict. I’m always sad when I hear that someone, anyone, dies because of their addiction. Aaron Sorkin made a great point. Hoffman didn’t die because of an overdose. He died because of the drug – period. A friend of mine who is a cop and rather hard line, posted to Facebook that this was not a tragedy. I politely disagreed. I think whenever someone has an addiction, it’s tragic. When that addiction results in their death, even more so.

Toda on This Week (ABC Sunday News Program), they had a segment about the growing use of heroin. I was surprised to hear that it is actually less expensive to buy heroin on the street than it is to illegally obtain prescription drugs like oxycodone. Oxycodone addiction is no joke either and one of the speakers spoke of it as almost a gateway drug to heroin. Some people start on oxycodone when it is prescribed as a painkiller for an injury, surgery, etc. When they get hooked but can then no longer get their doctors to prescribe them more because the condition has resolved, some seek out street heroin.

There was another commentator on the show who looked like the least likely heroin addict ever. Clean cut, perfect suit and tie, Harvard grad, eminently successful. He’s been in recovery from his addiction for years and baldly stated that he knows he could at some point relapse and be back into his addiction. They interviewed someone else who said the same thing. The doctor-expert pointed out that every addict or alcoholic he’s ever spoken to never describes themselves as recovered. They say “recovering”.

I don’t think of one substance as being more powerful or more addictive than another. I don’t care if the addiction is to cigarettes, alcohol, pot, painkillers, heroin, cocaine, or food. They’re all equal. When one is addicted, it becomes a never-ending struggle, with them for the rest of their lives.

That’s how I feel about food. I know that to someone who doesn’t get that food or the behavior of compulsive eating is as much of an addiction as any drug this can sound silly, but it’s deadly serious to me. I jumped off the wagon last night at a friend’s birthday party. One of the fabulous local bakers supplied cupcakes and cake for the party. The frosting was to die for. I would have been okay if I’d had one cupcake because I’d been terrific with my food plan, adequately exercised, and planned for it. I got sucked in by the delicious, buttercream frosting. I ate frosting off of another slice of cake and an additional cupcake. Hands down, that is 100% addictive eating behavior.

Less than half an hour later I felt sick to my stomach from the sugar rush and I was emotionally distraught at my relapse behavior. Granted, an overdose of cake frosting was not going to kill me on the spot, like an o.d. of heroin, but what if I was a diabetic? It could have sent me into a danger state. Constantly repeating the behavior absolutely could eventually kill me if it leads to a prolonged period of relapse and eating, spiraling into weight gain and so on.

I woke up this morning determined to get straight. I ate half a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter for breakfast and got on my bicycle. I pedaled for more than two hours and achieved my personal distance best of 21.34 miles! A few hours later and I feel like my body is still burning calories.

I have a lot to do around the house today and am concentrating on eating light and healthy while I work. It’s truly important when I slip to get back on track as soon as possible. The longer one stays in relapse, the harder it is to get straight again.

Recovering means staying on track one day, one meal at a time. I know I’m repeating myself and have talked about this in previous blogs, but it’s the reminder that I need to give myself today, right now.