We all experience denial in one form or another - arguably on a daily basis. The show talked about how denial is at the root of alcoholism and drug addiction.
But alcohol and drugs are not the only substances that are addictive.
Alcholism's sister addiction is FOOD.
I've been (am) addicted to both. It took me a long time to get my mind around my food addiction; I didn't consider it an addiction. We all have to eat, after all, and if I made a poor food choice here and there, so what? It's not like I'm going to crash my car into a tree after too many brownies.
The feelings are the same, though, with both addictions. When you reach for something outside yourself for comfort, when you have the who-gives-a-damn-anyway attitude about doing something that you know is harming yourself but you just don't care. When you're faced with feelings of self-loathing or remorse after a binge. When you tell yourself that it's not that bad... that's addiction.
Food addiction is another silent epidemic, and people who struggle with it also struggle with stigma. Obese people, or overweight people, are met with the same disdainful attitudes, the questions of "well, why don't you just stop?" that alcoholics face. Have you ever eyed an overweight person in line at McDonald's (the same line you're standing in, by the way) and thought: thank God I'm not her.
I have. Even as my mouth watered in anticipation of a greasy, carb riddled meal. I wasn't that overweight, after all. My denial allowed me to ignore my emotional addiction. A healthy meal would have sufficed if I was simply hungry. That McDonald's meal was aimed at something deeper, more insidious, that aching black hole of want.
Three years ago I lost 65 lbs, and got down to a healthy weight for the first time since I gave birth to my daughter. Then I got cancer and got scary-skinny, and once I was in remission and the feeding tube was removed I had to gain weight.
The party was on.
I ate whatever I wanted to, telling myself that it was important to have that chocolate cake, those Tootsie Rolls, because I needed the calories. I did this until I was over my healthy weight - just how over I chose to ignore. I denied it away into the corner of my brain where I tuck unwanted truths.
When I couldn't button the pants that had slid on easily for months, I knew I couldn't keep going, that I had to eat better and exercise.
Knowing this was easy; doing something about it wasn't.
I found myself in the throes of a food addiction. That may seem dramatic, but it's not. Because of my experience getting sober, I recognized the symptoms: obsession, inability to stop myself, rationalizing poor choices. Physical symptoms when I cut out things like processed sugar. I would beat myself up, wondering why I wasn't strong enough to just stop. I'd last a few days, and then have a hard day - or go to a fun event - and the food would just speak to me. Just like alcohol used to (and still does, sometimes).
I thought I was about 10 lbs over my healthy weight. When I finally screwed up the courage to step on the scale, I was 20 lbs overweight. I was crushed, but my brain said "screw it, food is the last treat you have left - you deserve to eat what you want. You had cancer. You can't drink. Eat whatever you want."
I wasn't ready.
Then the weather got warmer and I pulled out shorts that fit just fine last year. I couldn't get them over my hips. I was done.
I realized I couldn't change my eating habits alone. Just like when I got sober, I needed help. The first time I lost weight I did it through Jenny Craig, but I couldn't afford that now. Cancer is expensive.
You may be tired of hearing me talk about Arbonne's fitness program. I feel like apologizing for talking about it here, like I'm pouring my heart out just to sell something.
But I'm not. Doing Arbonne's 30 day fitness program, and then getting on a maintenance program, changed my life. And now I'm seeing it change the life of my clients, my friends, and so I'm not going to apologize for talking about it here.
Because it's not simply a weight loss program. It's a I-don't-care-enough-to-try fixer. It helped me flip my self-destructive switch from "who cares" over to "I care".
The first week of this program was hard. It's as much about what I eliminated from my diet as it is about the healthy things I'm putting in my body, and what I discovered in the first seven days was that I was addicted - and I don't use that word lightly - to sugar and carbs. I had a headache, I was cranky, irritable. My body screamed for sugar.
That's what I was doing to my body? I marveled. Consuming sugar and carbs to the point that my body needed them?
That is not an exaggeration. I know the symptoms of withdrawal, and I had them. Both physically and emotionally.
The plan put some of the power back in my hands, though, by giving me instructions of what to do (and equally importantly what not to do). Just like with getting sober, all I had to do was NOT do something (not drink in the case of getting sober, and not eat crap in the case of getting healthy) and follow instructions from people who had walked this path before me.
That first week was tough, but by day 8 the rewards I got from making better choices for seven whole days were enough to keep me going: increased energy, looser clothing, inches starting to come off my waist. I felt good about myself, my choices.
The feeling of making healthy choices became the reward. Just like when I got sober. It takes time, and patience, and help, but it's so worth it.
My best friend Amanda just finished the Arbonne 30 day fit program. She did not need to lose a lot of weight (she never has, that skinny little minx) - but she wanted to eat healthier, wean herself off her own sugar (read: ice cream) habit and feel and look like the best version of herself.
She did it. She looks and feels great. I marvel at how I get to be sober with my best friend - we've known each other for over thirty years - and now we get excited about our new eating habits together, too. We feel like we're back - as close to those young girls full of hope and energy that we can get for women in our forties.
The irony, too, is that we tried to eat healthier when we were drinking. We did the Weight Watchers Point system and allotted all our points to wine. We would never, ever have been able to make a life change like this - for ourselves - when we were drinking. Back then it wasn't just about the drinking, it was about our ability to hide from ourselves, to simply Not Care.
Caring feels a whole lot better.
The 30 day fitness kit comes with a membership to a wonderful (and private) Facebook community, where we prop each other up, share recipes, tips and advice and share successes. Because if there is one thing I know for sure it's this: major life changes are a lot more fun (and successful) when you don't do them alone.
You don't have to do this alone.
For those of you who know what I'm talking about with food addiction - who know it's a real thing - I understand.
I'm not trying to be a super model. I just want to be the healthiest me. One day at a time.