I have a lifelong love/hate relationship with food. Actually, this is not the case with all food. I have no strong feelings either way about fruits and vegetables. One might say I am merely ambivalent about them. Leave me alone in a room with either one of them and they would still be there when you get back. It’s been this way as long as I can remember. I wasn’t raised on junk food. It was quite the opposite. My mother did not trust us with snack food whatsoever. I’m not sure if this was a health issue or an economic issue. Most likely the latter. If you wanted a snack she would tell you to eat a piece of fruit. That she could trust you with, especially me because I hated fruit. It’s too sweet and doesn’t agree with my stomach. I also know that my mother battled her own weight issues. She would eat like a bird. For breakfast, she would eat a half of toasted pita and a cup of black coffee. She inherited the fat gene from her mother and she knew she was likely passing it down to us. She was right. My father’s mother was also, oh, shall we say, big-boned. Us kids were double whammied. Try as you might, you can’t protect your children from junk food forever. By the time we went to school we were amazed at the assortment of delights in other kids’ lunchboxes. Family functions were other opportunities for gluttony and, as you can imagine, I made the most of those occasions. I had a taste for the carbs, my friends. By 6th grade, I didn’t like being chubby and I started my first diet. It was horrible. “The Farmer’s Diet’ it was called. No, I didn’t have a premonition of life to come and this diet was actually based on eating farmer’s cheese. Meat and farmer’s cheese only. I’m sure it only lasted a day or two. Then there was the cabbage soup diet. The Scarsdale Diet. The Atkins diet. I would lose 5 pounds and put back 10. By senior year, I was a regular at Weight Watchers. Hey, to my credit, I lost 50 pounds just in time for the prom. I actually kept the weight off for the most part until I was 30. Not because I learned how to eat in moderation. I would alternate binge eating and exercising and dieting my brains out. Thank God I never learned how to make myself throw up. By the time I hit 30 I was tired. Tired of devoting my life to diets. I lost any trust I had of myself with food. I no longer had the ability to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. I hadn’t had that ability since I entered 5th grade! I became a compulsive overeater.
So what does that mean? Well, I’ll tell you. I use this analogy with people to help them understand. Let’s take alcohol addiction. A person can be 1) a non-drinker, 2) a social drinker or 3) an abusive drinker. Non-drinkers can stay non-drinkers or can become social drinkers and even become addictive drinkers. Social drinkers can go up to addictive drinkers or down to non-drinkers. Wait for it! Abusive/addictive drinkers can ONLY become non-drinkers. Once you have reached the level of an abusive drinker (or alcoholic) you cannot go back down to being a social drinker again. The wheel cannot be reinvented. Oh, believe me, people try. They fool themselves into thinking they can handle one or two drinks and stop. And maybe they can, one or two times or ten times but inevitabily they resume the abusive drinking pattern. It’s the same concept with food addiction. Once you engage in distorted eating (or eating disordered) behavior for a good length of time, that’s home base. To further complicate the situation, you MUST become a “social” eater because you cannot become a non-eater. Not an option. That’s why 96% of people regain their lost weight when they finish a diet. We lose the weight and feel like a superstar and forget we aren’t “normal” eaters just because we look different. It’s easy to trick ourselves into believing that we regained the NORMAL EATING CHIP! Until we realize that we didn’t. Welcome back to Weight Watchers. Hello, Lane Bryant. God bless the 4% that get it right for the rest of their lives. I always wanted to be you. I’m still trying!
So my lesson for today (and I do have one) is to encourage compassion. I promise to be compassionate with perfect people if perfect people can cultivate some compassion for me and others that struggle with addictive behaviors. If you don’t have addiction issues, just be happy and glad. Don’t assume you know everything about the person and their weakness. I for one think the world would be enormously more happy if we judged less and loved more. And, if by chance you come across someone with “more to love”, remember that it’s the one addictive behavior that can’t be hidden from the world. There are many that are – alcoholism, nicotine addiction, sexual addiction, gambling addiction, drug addiction, compulsive spending and even people addicted to chaos. I know a few of those people! Those people need compassion too. Somebody really smart once said, “Let he without sin, cast the first stone.” Amen! Nuff preaching for today.