In the fall of 2009 I was at my bottom. Not the first bottom I’ve had, you understand, but one of three that changed my life in monumental ways. Maybe a better way to say this – it was one of the three bottoms that forced me to change for real. I’m not talking about small, somewhat challenging ways, I’m talking turning the Titanic and missing the iceberg kind of ways.
At that time I was turning 45, still single, realizing the marriage and baby thing wasn’t happening for me and found myself at 253 lbs. How the hell did I get here? More importantly, I was soaring my way back up into the stratosphere towards my top weight, which was 303 lbs. I was 303 lbs. in the spring of 2001 when I had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery performed by Dr. Patrick Chan in Toronto. (More about weight loss surgery in upcoming posts)
So, back to the fall of ’09 and here I am at 253 lbs. thinking this cannot take my life from me. It’s already taken, or I’ve allowed it to take, decades from me, and if I don’t fix this now then I will reach 50 years of age having missed out on many of life’s ‘rites of passage’, facing nothing but metabolic syndrome – a life of loneliness – a life with no meaning. Not exactly the life I wanted.
This weight, the food issue, has nearly killed me — a slow and torturous demise rather than a tragic, yet quick, departure resulting from an overdose on a narcotic of some kind — but it’s costing me my life. At 300 lbs. I was ready to tap out and weight loss surgery truly saved my life. However, by then it had been so long since the surgery, I couldn’t even attempt to diet or control my food intake in anyway. I felt out of control and helpless.
The surgery had me drop 90 lbs in six months and that was all (was hoping for 150 lbs). At the time, I felt I’d been ripped off, to be honest. What the surgery did do was restrict my food intake capacity. But without any other kind of intervention, I stumbled around until I found alcohol, a reasonable suitor. Now picture a cliff and just a few short years later there I was falling off it (more on this issue to follow as well). However, after time and much reflection, I knew that having that surgery had given me back my life – it pulled me away from the abyss. Yet there I was again in ‘09, my weight climbing, and frantic to know what to do. I didn’t think I had the strength to do anything and I’d already done the most drastic thing you can do… so what’s left?
I started a food journal, using one of the numerous online versions that cost me $8 a month to subscribe to. This meant calorie counting, healthy food choices, most of the time, and doing some walking. I probably walked 30 to 45 minutes a day, 4 to 5 days a week. By the spring of 2010 I had dropped 50 lbs. and was feeling like maybe I could do this thing. I had some hope. I also had the support of a great therapist here in Toronto, Patti Perry, who specializes in eating disorders.
But life happens, and by that time I’d been unemployed for a little over a year and I was struggling. It was a stressful time. Food called, and the instant comfort I knew I would get was just too enticing to pass up. I’m not talking about the odd cravings that ‘normal’ people have, I’m talking about the constant bombardment of noise in my head, the visual cues and the physical pull that made me feel that I would go insane if I didn’t quiet it. I just wanted to crawl out of my skin to do anything to stop the incessant, unyielding cravings. Once into sugar (in all its forms), flour and fat I was off the rails.
I did everything I could to stay strong and committed to my program, but I started gaining. In February 2011 at 226 lbs., after talking with a close friend about what she was doing, I walked into the rooms of FA (Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous). I lost 82 lbs in FA, and although I no longer attend; I learned there that I was most definitely an addict. It wasn’t a simple behaviour I didn’t seem to be capable of giving up e.g., lack of willpower that was my problem. It was that sugar and flour are as much a drug to me as is alcohol, cocaine and other substances can be to others. So the secret was that I had to give up the battle and surrender the substance! Who knew?
There is some pretty exciting work being done in the world of food addiction, Dr. Vera Tarman is committed to putting this issue on the map in North America, and I support her whole heartedly!
So this is where my story starts, or the start of the story that has me living in a solution from food addiction, primarily abstinence from refined sugar and flour, that I am now living. It’s not without its ups and downs. I was 144 lbs. Oh yes I was, and then lost my abstinence for over a year putting on 30 lbs. That is starting to come off now with several months of being back on solid footing, abstinent and gratefully so.
I am not one of those people, you know the 0.1%, who lost all their weight 20 years ago and is going to tell you how you can too. One of those people who you look at and think, “I can’t see there from here!” That’s the G-rated version. What I do have is a wealth of personal experience, some time on the recovery side of this devastating issue, a desire to help other struggling food addicts and to connect with others in giving this very real disease a voice.
I’m looking forward to talking here about all things related to food addiction from policy to the latest research, commenting on what the experts are saying and sharing my personal journey. Importantly, I would love to hear from you.
From the path,