Confessions of a Food Addict

This week’s guest post is by Raquel Branchik, an independent health coach who is on her own journey to overcoming food addiction, obesity and poor health.  At the time of this writing, she has lost 72 lbs in 7 months and is feeling better than ever. She is paying this gift forward to help as many as she can. I know Raquel and her story firsthand and invited her to share the gist of one of her live videos with all of you. She and I have different ways of helping people reach their goals, but we agree completely on the need for an honest admission of the true state of things and a new mindset that looks forward and is not trapped in the past.

Hi.   My name is Raquel and I am addict.    Those who know me might think that statement to be hyperbolic, but trust me when I tell you it is not.   For the past 8 months, I have been on a journey to optimal health after living most of my adult life as morbidly obese with multiple health issues.   Along this journey, I discovered my addiction.

I never realized that food addiction was a real thing.   I thought I just loved food.   And I mean who doesn’t?   We all over indulge from time to time, right?

I utilize a health program that has an educational component to it.   I was surprised to learn that sugar hits the brain in the exact same spot that heroin does.   When we consume sugar, it gives us the same “high” that a drug addict has when they inject heroin.   Same crash afterwards.   And it leaves us craving more.

Now, I am not saying that everyone who eats a donut or orders a piece of pie after dinner is a food addict.   However, studies have shown that people can develop a relationship with food that is identical to that of a drug addict or alcoholic.

For me, I had to examine my relationship with food.   Was I eating to fuel my body, or did I have another purpose in mind?    Being honest with myself, I had to admit that food was my friend.   I used it for comfort, stress relief, escape from reality, etc.   When I had a bad day at work and I was stressed, annoyed, depressed or just feeling sorry for myself, I literally believed the cure was a pizza.   And you know what… it worked!   Temporarily.    After a bad day I would stop at Fox’s pizza and order a six-cut pepperoni and mushroom pizza AND a half of an Italian hoagie and I would eat it in one sitting.   I would be sick afterwards, but I would feel the “high”, the comfort, the escape… and then I would sleep off the nausea, the bloating, the fatigue.   I would wake up feeling horrible and hating myself, but the cycle repeated each day.  The days turned into years and I accepted it as my life.    Reread that paragraph but substitute food with crack, beer, heroin, oxy, hard liquor…. and it’s the story of an addict.

I started my health program after seeing the weight loss that my sister, who is now my health coach, had on this program.   When I began, I thought it was another diet.   I soon discovered that it was not a diet but a path to whole, optimal health.   Through this journey I discovered my addiction – and how to overcome it.

So why do I share my story?   First, many folks do not believe that food addiction is a real thing.   My desire is to awaken people to the truth that it is.   Again, I am not saying that everyone who overeats or is overweight is a food addict.   Not every person who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic.    But for some of us, food addiction is a very real thing.     Secondly, I want to enlighten folks on how to help someone who is battling food addiction, particularly those who are overcoming and reclaiming our health.    When someone is an alcoholic and they commit to rehab or AA, they will tell you that they are an alcoholic even after they are sober for years.   Most of them know their “clean date” but they forever will say “my name is _______ and I am alcoholic.”

Unlike alcoholics, food addicts cannot stay away from food.  We need to food to survive.   When our friends and family understand this concept, they can help us to keep a healthy relationship with food.   When people do not understand food addiction, they tend to think we are just dieting.   I cannot count the number of times I have heard things like “a little bit won’t hurt” or “you can have a treat every once in a while” or “you can cheat just this once”.   I hear things like “just skip your diet for one day, its Christmas (or whatever special occasion)”.

Would you say those things to an alcoholic?    Would you tell them to just have a small drink because its all about moderation?   Would you tell them that a little here and there will not hurt?   Would you tell them to reward themselves with alcohol after they have successfully gone without it for a period of time?    Of course not.

At the same time, the alcoholic does not typically tell others not to drink.  I am in various social settings where I know people are going to be having desserts, pasta, pizza and other items that I am choosing not to have.   Sometimes, my friends feel guilty for eating in front of me, and I tell them to have at it.   Enjoy it.   If it is not harming you, then dig in.    The problem comes when they encourage me to partake or try to give me an excuse or loophole to get off my health plan “just this once”.

Allow me to share what happens when I allow a “just this once”.   Christmas Day 2019.   I am hosting my family in my home.    My parents, my sister and her boyfriend, and my aunt are in my home and I want to be a good hostess and give them a good Christmas Day.  My father and I are on the same health program, the others are not.   I wanted to be sure to have snacks for everyone and I bought things that I typically would never keep at home:  potato chips, pretzels, etc.   For most of the day I did well.  I had a cheese ball and I used veggies instead of crackers.   But as I began to clear the table to set it for dinner, I got close to the potato chips.  Oh, they were calling my name.   The thought crept in “one won’t hurt”.  Did I have one?  Yes.   Did I stop there?  No.   I didn’t eat a handful at once, but each time I walked by I grabbed another one “just this once”.   In the time I prepared and served a healthy Christmas dinner, my “one” potato chip turned into half the bowl.   I felt sluggish and just “icky”.   As my family prepared to leave, I asked them to take every unhealthy item with them.   The chips, the pretzels, even the cheese ball because, although cheese balls are fairly healthy, it would be easy for me to eat the whole thing.   This is why moderation does not work for a food addict.  It may work well for a dieter or just someone looking to be a bit healthier, but food addicts will not stop at a little bit, just like alcoholics won’t have one small drink.

So, I share my story to two groups of people.   For my fellow food addicts, there is hope.   There is way out.  There is a better life.    Reach out to me; I can help you.   I will walk this journey with you.   To the rest of you, food addiction is real.   I hope my story can help you to help others who are taking back their health.

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