WendyH

Food addiction?

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I've been very quiet lately, and I'm jumping in with a splash. I wrote this entry as a personal message to Stephtay due to her repeated acknowledgement of being a food addict. But as I was proofing it before hitting send, I decided to post it publicly. I do not have time to catch up on the forum at the moment, but I'll watch this thread.

I find myself struggling with the issues that led to my morbid obesity, and I saw a counselor on Sunday. She told me I have binge eating disorder (BED), so being the skeptical quasi-egghead that I am, I started learning about BED and found that I don't meet the diagnostic criteria.

I did, on the other hand, learn some interesting bits about obesity and pharmacology and specifically the naltrexone component of Contrave and its relationship with the mesolimbic pathway. I already take Wellbutrin (the other component in Contrave) and derive benefit from it. I am now intrigued by the idea that a drug that combines Wellbutrin with a drug indicated for alcoholism and opioid use disorder has shown enough clinical benefit in obesity to get an indication.

Which leads me to wonder, am I a food addict? I don't have an identifiable emotional component to poor eating behavior. I simply have a drive to eat sweet snacks and go back for another and another and another, and yet another one. My behavior with sweet treats makes me think of the scene from the show West Wing where Leo is talking to the intern who leaked his rehab records, and his only explanation for drinking to excess is "I'm an alcoholic," and then he acknowledges that it's hard to understand, and not many people do. Right now I'm grappling with the drive to gain weight. It's hard to understand, and not many people do.

That's as much as I'd written before I decided to shift gears and throw this out there for all to see.

My best guess is that my biology is begging me to rebuild my energy stores and pulling out every stop to be sure I have enough fat stores to survive the famine that's never coming. I don't think science has a solid answer right now for what's going on. The question is what to do about it.

As for what to do, it's worth acknowledging that I've been non-compliant with my Wellbutrin, which I have committed to taking every day this week and until I reach the threshold for clinical benefit (about three weeks). Then it will be easy to keep going. I also ordered the book on eating disorders that the counselor suggested. I've long acknowledged that I exhibit some disordered eating behavior even if I don't have a diagnosable eating disorder, so I anticipate finding some useful nuggets in the book. A colleague of mine who is having RNY later this month invited me to his practice's support group, which is large enough that someone crashing their party from another practice wouldn't be noticed. Their meeting isn't for a few weeks, though.

There's not really anything more to say at the moment That's where I am right now.

Edited by WendyH
Keyboard not registering all keystrokes.

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Wendy,

Thank you for this very thoughtful post. 

I think that most (if not all) of us on this forum became grossly overweight due to an unhealthy relationship with food for many years.  We viewed food as a source of comfort, pleasure, safety or entertainment. This manifested itself in different ways - some of us ate too much food, some of us ate unhealthy food (like sweets) and some of us had both of these problems. In any case, we consumed way too many calories, could not control our eating in the long term and became (and stayed) overweight.  Then our bodies set this high weight level as normal and would not let us lose weight long term by any conventional diet  

Whether this technically is an "addiction" and whether there may some day be a drug to "cure" this, I do not know. 

What I do believe is that waiting for an effective weight loss drug to arrive is not productive. Such a drug may never come, at least in our lifetimes. And even if the drug dies come, it may have serious side effects. 

The only effective way out of this unhealthy relationship with food and being grossly overweight is weight loss surgery combined with having a new relationship with food, in which food is viewed simply as fuel. The surgery helps with developing the new food relationship, as one has such a limited diet after surgery, but one still needs to change how you view food in order to succeed long term with weight loss after surgery. For many people therapy is necessary to accomplish this. I did not need therapy but simply had to focus the stubborn side of my personality to totally dedicate myself once I reached my goal weight to never gaining back any weight - not even one pound.

I also believe that having a gastric bypass, rather than a sleeve, has helped me greatly with my weight loss success.  I am not saying that one cannot succeed long term with a sleeve, lots of people on this forum like you have, I am just saying that the gastric bypass may make long term weight loss success easier and more possible  

A complicating factor for many people is mental illness. This needs to be under control or else losing and then keeping the weight off may be impossible. 

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Thanks for the post Wendy, as always its well thought out.

What you show is that Obesity is a complex problem.  There are environmental factors (family members that encourage eating), physiological factors (the good feeling of fullness and rush of things like sugar in our system), emotional factors (an ease of tension due to the ceremony and process of eating) and many many other things too numerous to list here.

The important thing is to do what you are doing now.  To continue to examine ourselves and ask questions about our behaviors and then take action on things we ourselves doing that are not healthy or productive.  My hat is off to you on your diligence to continue your success; you're asking the hard questions and taking action.

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Wendy, as always you think through what possible triggers/areas/circumstances that are going on in your life to make an educated guess as to what you are dealing with. I commend you for your honesty as you search to gain control. 

I'm not much for journaling but when I was in therapy, the therapist asked me to keep an honest account of what I ate and to write down my feelings around it. Was I bored? Did I just have an ' I'm a loser' thought, am I worried? Etc. it did help somewhat to get my feelings and thoughts sorted out and realize some of the triggers that pushed me forward to eat. 

You and the rest of us will always struggle with our food choices, some more than others. We at TT are here to encourage each other so you are sharing in the right place. 

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hi wendy!

i know steph and i have had several open conversations on the board about our food addiction. i appreciate you sharing this here (as i'm sure, others here do, as well).

as not everyone can speak from a personal standpoint, i can. i also take wellbutrin for my depression and anxiety (and i also have been slacking on that, not a good sign). i've found that when i'm not compliant with my anti-depressants, i start to revert back to my food addiction. recently, i've been incredibly busy with palaceburn, that i haven't been home much, if at all. which leads me going down the path of terrible options for food intake. with the sleeve, i've found that the further i get out from my surgery (my 2 year is coming up), the more food i can muster. i believe that there's something mental that happens when i eat (or drink), the feeling of "fullness" is almost like the same feeling i get when i take a sip of wine, or hit a bowl (i also partake in marijuana here and there). i have been lucky i have only dealt with an 11-lb regain, i really need to get myself together.

do i condone my actions? no. i was just in therapy yesterday discussing these same feelings and emotions. i have a terrible time dealing with grief, and i have yet to find a healthy outlet to address these feelings.

there was an article posted here earlier in the year discussing the "biggest loser" contestants, and how most of them gained the weight back? as far as a biology standpoint, when the body gets to a certain weight, it's increasingly more difficult to keep the weight off, as your body works against you to put the pounds back on. it's like - no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable YOU are, your body is more comfortable with the excess weight. it's weird.

it's hard to get out of that mindset of the original relationship with food as comfort, and not just fuel. it feels like alcoholism for me, tbh.

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I don't have much to add but {hugs}.  I hope you get things under control.  You've done so good.  

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i too am a food addict and it's really been up for me this past week.  i think i'm hungry all the time.  think being the operative word here.  i doubt i'm really hungry.  i don't really get hungry much.  i just want to eat something.  i've been back on zoloft for depression for the last two weeks.  it's helping with the depression.  you'd think it would help with the "hunger".  i've actually been pretty good with sticking to my eating plan but it's a struggle every day, every meal.  i need to bring it up in therapy again.  it's really a bummer that the addiction never really goes away.  

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Wendy, thanks for sharing and I'm sorry I'm just seeing this now. For me, I know food is an addiction because pre-op I frequently could not stop eating. Nor did I want to. And, if I did just have one cookie or a reasonable portion, I would then battle with my brain to keep myself from going back for more. (This isn't the only reason I identify as a food addict, but the main one.)

 

I like to drink. I can stop at one drink. I like to buy shoes. I can tell myself no or stop at just one pair. I love to gamble but can not go in a casino or go in for a couple of hours and then tell myself its time to stop. I have self control in all other areas of life that give me pleasure except for food. I agree with Res - most if not all of us got to the point of needing surgery due to an unhealthy relationship with food. Some of us are food addicts and others aren't. For me, I found freedom in finally acknowledging my addiction. I was able to let go of my guilt and shame that I have so much self control in all other areas of my life except for food. Then, I was able to figure out how to manage my addiction in a way that works for me. 

 

I commend you for exploring this idea. Good Luck!

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Wendy, I relate. For me, my food addiction is mostly from emotion. I'm finding that, post-surgery, I don't feel the need to eat excessively when things are going well. However, I "eat my feelings" when things have me nervous or sad.  It's a day to day thing. With my father being ill, I find I have to very consciously choose to not stuff myself with carbs while I'm visiting him. Some days I win; some days I lose. As a result, my weight loss has stalled somewhat. It helps if I really think about what I'm doing, and I'm getting back on track.

Thank you for being transparent.  This is a long-term fight.

 

Edited by Kimchan

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I don't have much to offer except appreciation for you sharing and being so honest.   I hope you find the answers you need and feel the support of the people on here including me who are on your side!!

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Thank you for this post, Wendy. Can you give the title of the book you mentioned? 

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The book is Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer. It arrives tomorrow. I kind of wish I'd gotten the Kindle version. I read the freebie portion after I ordered the hard copy book and would like to have kept going. It would also give me the flexibility to read snippets here and there and to read it outside of the home (I don't like being seen with self-help books).

I've actually been doing fine with my behaviors this week. Monday morning I ate a frosted sugar cookie, stopped at one, and haven't had any sweets since. Since that day my carbs have been moderate (50-75 gm), which is my norm. I have also taken all my medications and supplements every day this week.

It's just so bizarre. it's like the pleasure centers in my brain light up like a Christmas tree. The switch flips on, and it stays on until I weigh 320, and then it shuts off on its own. The first two times that I lost all of my excess body weight, I bottomed out at 160 and immediately went right back up to 320. The third time I kept it off for about a year before the rapid regain to 320. My modus operandi is to lose 10+ pounds a month, month after month steadily down to a healthy BMI. Even that pesky last 10# that most people struggle with takes me about a month to lose. Then I will turn around and steadily gain about 10# a month until I hit my top weight, and then all of a sudden, the switch flips off. The drive to behave in a manner that results in weight gain simply evaporates, and my eating habits shift to maintenance all on their own.

It seems like the majority of people will lose weight and then gain everything back with interest. I was never that way. My weight has NEVER drifted. It is downright freaky how firmly my body was committed to weighing 320, not 319, not 321, exactly 320, for decades. Except for when I was rapidly gaining or losing and that one year I maintained at 160, I weighed 320 every time I got on the scale from the time I was 24 until I was 46. I only exceeded 320 after my third term pregnancy, and man could I ever feel that extra 16#. As soon as I lost that first little bit, I felt less bloated and more like myself. After briefly topping out at 336, I sat at 324 for the four months prior to my first bariatric appointment, and then I started losing rapidly.

At my psych evaluation, the therapist described my weight losses and gains as a ratcheting pattern. I'd never heard that term before in that context, but it perfectly describes what I've done in the past. And it's not that I'm happy or sad or stressed or depressed or bored. It's like some freaky mis-wired something in my brain takes over for seemingly no reason at all to relentlessly push me back to my set point.

Here is where my rubber meets the road. Here is where I put my sleeve to the test. Here's to my continued and ongoing success at behaving in a manner that keeps me healthy and feeling good. This is the time when I stop the madness instead of my brain stopping it after the damage is done.

Just saying it here makes me feel like I have the power to make it happen.

Edited by WendyH
Delete stray words

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@WendyH, question: Did your sleeve surgery initially change your appetite? I know I'm in the honeymoon phase, so I have no idea about the maintenance phase. Right now I find my appetite has significantly decreased.

Your post is both frank and a little scary. I've been hoping that this feeling of satiation would continue. 

I think it's amazing that you've been able to lose massive amounts of weight more than once. Getting down to 160 from 320 is nothing to sneeze at.

I'm sorry that I don't have any answers, just questions.

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Kimchan,

Since I had a RNY gastric bypass, I cannot tell you what will happen with your appetite long term with the sleeve (although I suspect that it is the same with both types of surgery).  What I can tell you is that my "body" appetite or hunger essentially disappeared with my surgery and has not returned (I am almost three years out).  I can skip a meal with ease and frequently do.  My "head" appetite or hunger is much less than before my surgery.  I used the months after surgery to get my head used to eating much less and healthier food.  The thought now of eating the amounts and types of food that I used to eat quite frankly disgusts me.  

I still enjoy eating and food, but in a different way.  The crucial point is that weight loss surgery for me has been successful long term because I truly have a new and healthier relationship with food.  I am fairly careful with what I eat, although I like to eat, and do eat, some less than healthy foods in moderation (e.g., chocolate and wine).  I really like being healthy, thin and alive at my current weight and I refuse to let anything (including head hunger) cause me to gain weight.  

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6 minutes ago, Res Ipsa said:

I still enjoy eating and food, but in a different way.  The crucial point is that weight loss surgery for me has been successful long term because I truly have a new and healthier relationship with food.  I am fairly careful with what I eat, although I like to eat, and do eat, some less than healthy foods in moderation (e.g., chocolate and wine).  I really like being healthy, thin and alive at my current weight and I refuse to let anything (including head hunger) cause me to gain weight.  

Here I was going to disagree with what you said father above and what I've read numerous times on various boards:

"viewing food as simply fuel"

That's simply not possible. Eating is a pleasure to living creatures - otherwise we would starve to death. We're hardwired to enjoy food. It's our biology. I absolutely agree with the quoted part above though. Still enjoying food but in a different way than before.

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@Kimchan - Yes my appetite decreased. It's still decreased. I enjoy meals and find them satisfying and satiating. It's something else, a drive, not appetite, per se. It's not that I'm seeking fullness or satisfaction. It's feeding a need to indulge in a drug that I neither enjoy nor find satisfying. Eating junk doesn't fuel anything except the need for more.

@Res Ipsa - I have the strong will that you describe, and like you, I can skip a meal and not skip a beat. That I'm experiencing is something you mentioned in your first post. 

On 10/12/2016 at 2:20 AM, Res Ipsa said:

In any case, we consumed way too many calories, could not control our eating in the long term and became (and stayed) overweight.  Then our bodies set this high weight level as normal and would not let us lose weight long term by any conventional diet  

This is exactly what I'm fighting. In some ways, maybe I'm fortunate that they way my body seeks to gain weight is direct and in my face, so to speak. It's not subtle and insidious. It's a drive, a compulsion to engage in a self-destructive behavior despite everything else being fine, and that drive continues until the requisite amount of damage has been done and then it goes away, all on its own.

I've alluded to the possibility of this storm coming a few times on this forum. It arrived. The tools to ride it out differently are in place, and one of those tools is coming here to talk about it.

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3 minutes ago, WendyH said:

I've alluded to the possibility of this storm coming a few times on this forum. It arrived. The tools to ride it out differently are in place, and one of those tools is coming here to talk about it.

Remember that we are here to support you, just as you have supported each of us.  Don't ever be shy about asking for help or (if appropriate) tough love.

The storm will come, but I am confident that you can and will weather the storm and be OK.  Remember that going back to your old weight is simply not an option.  Never surrender. 

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11 hours ago, WendyH said:

Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer

Just ordered a copy on Barnes and Noble for $1.99. Thanks for the recommendation, Wendy!

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Wendy, I see that your surgery was about 1.5 years ago? That's not really long ago and you can't be at goal weight for that long.

I can remember battling weight gain after having gastric banding for a whole while. After a few years though it seemed like my body had accepted a new and lower point of weight that it wanted to maintain. I have hope that now my body will adapt to another new and lower weight after a while.

Hang on and don't lose confidence. Bodies need time to adapt. Metabolisms need time to repair.

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10 hours ago, summerset said:

Wendy, I see that your surgery was about 1.5 years ago? That's not really long ago and you can't be at goal weight for that long.

I can remember battling weight gain after having gastric banding for a whole while. After a few years though it seemed like my body had accepted a new and lower point of weight that it wanted to maintain. I have hope that now my body will adapt to another new and lower weight after a while.

Hang on and don't lose confidence. Bodies need time to adapt. Metabolisms need time to repair.

This was a kind reassurance to provide and good food for thought. Thank you.

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Wendy, you do have the power!  You know you can do it!  I know you have a busy life but you need to take time to center on yourself.  

There are some days that are harder than others.  Those days I have to remind myself one bite at a time.  It's the old one day at a time.  For some of us we don't have the little in moderation; if we can have one cookie; why can't we have 5?!  I bought candy for Halloween this week-kept it at work til I left yesterday for vacation.  We will be out of the house til the 30th.  If I had brought It home I would have nibbled my way through it.  Almost like it was calling my name;). Candy has always been my downfall..

I bake but either take it to work or give it away.  There are other days I just don't feel like eating.  

Youve got this!  You are a strong woman who knows what you need to do!  Take it one bite at a time!

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1 hour ago, Cheesehead said:

Wendy, you do have the power!  You know you can do it!  I know you have a busy life but you need to take time to center on yourself.  

Thank you, and yes I can do it. As for focusing on myself, I'm getting a 90-minute massage at 11:00, my first one in more than six months. :)

You mentioned candy. I like candy too, and when I've felt at risk for not being able to control myself with Halloween candy, I buy Mounds bars and Almond Joy. I don't like coconut, and I'll stay out of them.

As for food that's a personal downfall, Hostess and Little Debbie snacks (one variety of one and three varieties of the other in particular) are a problem for me, and Hostess Cupcakes and Nutty Bars are frequently found in vending machines. I don't buy these types of foods at home, but they are at work. I'm fortunate that the break room closest to my work area contains only soft drink vending. I can stay out of the other break rooms and not see the prepackaged sweets.

And to circle back on where I was going when I started the paragraph above but went in another worthwhile direction, I wonder if the handful of "vending machine foods" that call my name do so because these items were some of the first that I got to choose on my own. Frequently I would get Zebra Cakes and Nutty Bars for lunch instead of real food (for those of you keeping count, my other preferred sweet treat is Oatmeal Cakes). These early poor choices fell at the end of this sequence of events: parents' divorce, mom's remarriage, and moving to a different school in the district in the middle of the school year. Food for thought.

On 10/14/2016 at 7:40 AM, Res Ipsa said:

Remember that we are here to support you, just as you have supported each of us.  Don't ever be shy about asking for help or (if appropriate) tough love.

Thank you. This community is great, and support is definitely a two-way street. As for tough love, that's one variety of support I personally don't need. I'm a thinker and reflecter, and I'm tough enough on myself. Pointing out things that I may not have thought of is productive; a swift kick to my backside isn't.

Edited by WendyH
Long post. Edits inevitable.

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1 hour ago, WendyH said:

 

As for food that's a personal downfall, Hostess and Little Debbie snacks (one variety of one and three varieties of the other in particular) are a problem for me

LOL Hostess powdered donuts are a weakness for me.  But if I do cave and buy a pack at the gas station when I'm getting coffee, the first thing I do is throw 3 of them in the trash.  Some days that's the best I can do.... :wacko:

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2 hours ago, WendyH said:

As for tough love, that's one variety of support I personally don't need. I'm a thinker and reflecter, and I'm tough enough on myself. Pointing out things that I may not have thought of is productive; a swift kick to my backside isn't.

This. ^_^

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