The three little words that almost killed me:
“Everything in Moderation”
For me, these words are an utter lie, an impossibility, and the height of denial. They made me try and fail and try and fail more times than it is possible to count. As such an accepted part of our lexicon, “Everything in Moderation” must be true! Therefore, I, incapable of eating certain things in moderation, must just lack willpower. Right?
Years ago, when I was suffering from obesity and high blood sugar, my doctor sent me to a dietitian to help me lose weight. After the first week, when I returned to the skinny, perky dietitian’s office with my chocolate-smeared food log in hand, she asked incredulously “But you are trying to lose weight! Why are you eating boxes of cookies??!” I answered, through my tears of shame, “I don’t know! That’s why I am here. It’s like I am an addict and I can’t stop. I need help!” To which she angrily replied “There is no such thing as food addiction. Just follow the diet.”
I never went back to her office. I went home and ate another box of cookies. There is no such thing as food addiction. Just have ONE cookie, Emily. One. everythinginmoderation
But what I found, once again, is there is no such thing as “one cookie”. Not for me.
I honestly and truly owe my life to the angel in women’s clothing, who came along and said “Food addiction is a real thing and I too, am a food addict.” She introduced me to the concept of Elimination of Trigger Foods and taught me the importance of recognizing and having a strategy for handling Trigger Situations. She told me to read a book called Thin Tastes Better by Dr. Stephen Gullo. I read it, mouth agape, one hundred times. There are foods that render certain people utterly devoid of the ability to stop eating. I might be crazy, but I am not the only one!
In his book, Dr. Gullo asks you to remember every diet you ever went on. Then he asks you to remember every time you fell off the diet and what food you fell of the diet with. In 99% of the cases, we fall off our diet with the same handful of foods. For me: cookies, candy, cake. Every. Time.
So, if the same handful of foods lead you astray, those foods are your trigger foods and your life will be so much more peaceful without them in it. Tada, Elimination. As I have written many times before, when we stop negotiating with the terrorists in our minds and on our plates, we finally achieve that sought-after peace agreement.
Now, I do recognize that if this were not my own personal reality, I would probably think it’s nutso, just like that dietitian did. So if you are the type of person who can eat one cookie and stop, then keep on with your “Everything in Moderation”. BUT, know that there ARE people who CANNOT do moderation. They are not weak-willed and they should not just “try harder.” They can’t do it. In fact, you may even be living with one of these people! They may be your own children, or your partner. So when you buy cookies to have in the house for when guests come, and your food addict child or spouse drags the box back to his or her room like a fresh carcass on the savannah, the answer is to:
a. Lecture this person about “everythinginmoderation”
b. Stop buying cookies and leave your loved one in peace
the answer is “b”.
And if you really want to know what it is like inside the head of a food addict, read this most amazing description over on the Disease Proof blog. Then get a copy of The End of Overeating by David Kessler where you will learn why some people get addicted in the first place (brain chemicals and food chemicals oh my!), and that even the former head of the FDA considers himself a food addict. We’re in good company.
So the next time you find yourself looking up from an empty packet of whatever, after promising yourself you would just have ONE, open your eyes and see your trigger food for what it is: a life robbing, self-esteem sucking, lying terrorist with a bomb strapped to his chest. Do not even try to negotiate!
Elimination is not as hard as hard as Moderation. I promise, promise, promise you.
(Part Two of this post is now located here: More on Moderation).