Monday, November 23, 2009

Avoiding temptation vs. accepting and dealing with it

Monday morning finds me glad that it's Monday...TGIM! Part of the reason is that this weekend afforded me way too many opportunities to eat too much. I wasn't crazy, but there seemed to be lots of good food at every event and locale I attended. There's even a certain AA meeting that I decided last week I have to stop attending because they always have a smorgasboard of sweets, and no matter how determined I am prior to walking into the room, I end up having something, which often leads to something else. It wouldn't have to lead to something else, but with me it does. I know this about myself, accept it, and therefore can take necessary action on my own behalf IF I CHOOSE TO. And I do chose to.

Amy H, of No To The Deuce, had a great post about this today that got me thinking about it all. She even mentioned an alcohol connection where a friend of hers in early alcohol recovery didn't attended a certain function because there would be alcohol served and many folks would be drinking. I know all about this, given my 18+ years of AA recovery. Especially in the early days, or even years of giving up booze, an excellent tool for staying sober is to avoid situations where booze is part of the mix. Even if fellow attendees are having but one drink or so, it can be a real trigger for someone trying not to drink. Besides just seeing people loosening up over the hours after a drinky poo or 2, an atmosphere with alcohol is a potential hotbed of conflicting confusing temptations and emotions for a recovering alcoholic. It's a wonderful tool to simply stay away if one is feeling vulnerable. "When in doubt, leave it out." Some events are command performances, like weddings, funerals, retirement parties, office holiday gatherings...the list is endless. If you have to show up, have an escape hatch, like one's own car in which to get out of dodge if one starts feeling squirrely. Very smart strategy.

Amy points out that it's different with food. Do we really have to stay away from parties and events because there might be something good to eat? It's such a good question, and again brings up the importance of knowing ourselves and our tendencies, or addictions in some cases. It rather sucks to think that there are certain events that are essentially food based, whether originally intended to be or not. Sad but true that Thanksgiving has taken on this dubious distinction. I need only walk up the hall of my work place and see bulletin boards decorated for the holiday that don't mention Thanksgiving...they say instead, "Happy Turkey Day!" Yeah, and happy stuffing, yams, casseroles, breads, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, creamed onions and assorted pies and cakes day.

I hear myself speak about this as though viewing it from a place of sanity and possible sad judgement, "Too bad society has bastardized a holiday about gratitude and family by making it all about food. Tsk, tsk". Let me assure you, plenty more than just holidays are essentially all about food in my life, else I wouldn't have a weightloss blog, a 25 year history of eating disordered behaviors and dimpled thighs! But obviously it isn't just parties, special occasions and holidays that fall prey to the "about food" designation".

For the food addict I am, anything over the course of a day can become about the comfort, warm fuzziness, the softening of harshness of tough feelings, and blunting of emotions and serious living issues that food so readily provides many of us. Booze IS different. You don't ever have to drink a drop again and you will not only be fine, but your life will unfold in miraculous ways that are unimaginable to a newly sober person. But we have to eat to exist. We don't have to abuse nutrient empty calorie and chemical dense food, but we have to ingest nutritional substance in order to be healthy and well and function optimally. The beast must be let out of its cage 3-5 times a day (depending on your food plan!)

And so it is that wrestling with addictive or emotional eating is at its core a head game. There are no failsafe tactics with which to deal with a sudden craving or the unexpected appearance of our favorite junk food item. Each day presents its own challenges. Some days are easy - feelings of gnawing empty stomach hunger are bearable, even embraceable. Just saying no to the first compulsive bite is (sorry) a piece of cake. Other days it seems that food thoughts prevail over all reality and each non-bingeing moment is a struggle from the moment we open our eyes. On such days, if a food situation looms ahead (like an eatin' meetin' as they call it in AA), I can decide to stay away so I'm not faced with "to eat or not to eat" as a question. But generally speaking, I'm not likely to avoid events because I "might overeat". Maybe I should? Sometimes I do, if it's a dispensable situation.

It does get tiresome at times. I wish I could just be normal with food. All the time - not just when I'm visiting the DR, or when I'm under the influence of general anesthesia. I wish one bite of a savory morsel could stay just bite; rather than morphing into the equivalent of the first drink of alcohol where all bets are off as to the outcome of the indulgence. This is what I mean when I talk about making peace with food. In the DR, I several times drank freshly made fuit juice with sugar in it. It was delicious, and I could have drunk 5 gallon containers of it left to my own devices. But given the circumstance where a glass or at most 2 were offered, and then we were on our way, the juice didn't set off that reaction of total obsession in the mind to GET MORE OF SAME OR SIMILAR. Nor did I worry about that happening, nor feel guilty about enjoying it. Because I experienced that so recently, I'm still wondrous over it as it was such a departure from ye olde default setting!

Two years ago, I attended a 12 step program for eating called Food Addicts In Recovery. I lasted exactly 2 months with them, because their strategy was extremely rigid in all aspects, from meeting attendance to every morsel put in one's body. You had to call a sponsor every morning and talk for 15 minutes about your feelings. You also had to list all your food for the day ahead. If you ended up dropping an apple during the day you were going to eat on the subway platform and it was crushed by an incoming train, necessitating you to instead eat an orange, it was considered a relapse unless you called your sponsor first to report and discuss it. When I asked why such rigidity, my mirthless lifeless orange-haired sponsor said, "We keep the food black and white so we can live our lives in color." Oh, really? Well that's f'ed up, so bye bye. It has to be the gentle head game of making the best choice in each moment of how I'm going to treat my body, mind and spirit. There's no perfect abstinence with food, so patient progress and learning to stop beating myself for my imperfections will have to be the way.


  1. I loved that you mentioned the 'exit stategy' - I do that too.

    We almost always go in two cars. Sometimes even 3 cars (there are 5 of us).

    If we go in one - everyone in the car knows that if I say - we are OUT OF HERE - we are out the door that minute. No questions, no hassle, no delay.

    For me this isn't always about food.

    It can be my asthma (if the priest gets out the Incense we are GONE).

    Or it can be the heat (can't stand humid/hot).

    or it can be anxiety.

    I am pretty much mentally prepared now for the fact that SOCIETY is UTTERLY ignorant about what they eat. I do not go somewhere and expect to be able to eat. I either take my own or eat before I go (and then not eat a THING there).

    My therapist is the one that worked with me A LOT on topic. Not putting myself in harms way. Staying EVEN.

    One big area with the therapist was movies. she would often tell me that she had been to see something and that I absolutely should NOT go see it. There are a lot of topics that I can't take. I only go to a movie if I am pretty sure of the plot and the tone and the outcome. If I get there and then realize it is going to be upsetting (in any way) - we are gone.

  2. I have something for you on my blog Miss Leslie - I guess I am not the only one who thinks so either ;-)

  3. I think her post was really timely and true. I thing I said something on her blog about the fact that I hated social situations where food was the focus during my weight loss year. It's true, it was hard but on the other hand it gave me practice for dealing with food in maintenance.

    Because I realized if I avoided the situations too much then I wouldn't be prepared for the most important part of the journey - the maintenance part.

    This was a very great, insightful post!!

  4. Hi Leslie. I suppose I'm very lucky to have no social life! It certainly does lessen the temptations. I wouldn't want to eat out right now - or possibly for the next three months until I feel on more solid ground. And even then only with extreme caution. Luckily for me I'm unlikely to be tested in this area.

    Maybe in some social situations the only thing to do is totally abstain from the food as well as the alcohol.

    Hope you're having a great day,
    Bearfriend xx

  5. I couldnt be a food addict sponsor...I'd die laughing if someone called me to say "I dropped my apple on the ground, can I eat an orange instead?" I'd probably say "Yes, you moron!" How on earth does anyone ever recover and be able to do it on their own if they have to check in like that?

  6. Keeping food black and white so you can live your life in color, huh? But food is one of the pleasures of life, so why would you take it away completely? Sounds silly to me.

    It does suck though that SO MUCH is about food nowadays. Pot lucks, holidays, get togethers with friends, even things like going to the movies, we've made it so food is a big part of it. I guess it's because people don't know how to talk and just have fun anymore, so food can be the common reason that everyone is there. But you not having alcohol has become easier over time, right? I imagine it'd be the same with food addiction.

  7. Hi leslie, just wanted to say I read your post and it's a good one. eating to create the warm fuzzies is def. something we have to fight daily.
    I love your clearsightedness.

  8. Thank you for this post! I've already got in place my strategy for coping with the festive season - enjoy it at the time and LET IT GO! Something I've struggled with in the past - the 'beating yourself up' part about enjoying a nice meal out with family and/or friends is Not Normal Behaviour and something that can lead to serious bingey behaviour as we fall into the self-pity trap of comfort eating! That is something in my attitude that has finally changed for the better!