Thursday, November 01, 2007

Addicted to Food?

I saw an interesting program on The Learning Channel last night. It was about 4 people who are truly food addicts. I learned a lot I didn't know from their stories. I learned what it means to be a food addict, and I learned I'm not one. That, at least, isn't my problem.

What these people said is that they can't stop eating. They get a "high" or "feel euphoric" after they've eaten. And it goes away, so they eat more. The people doing the show put on a table in front of each of them the foods they ate in one day. The foods were all high-fat, junk foods. The only veggies were french fries and chips. One woman ate something like 41 chocolate bars as snacks. One other woman ate enough M&Ms to add up to 3,000 calories. Their daily calorie totals ranged from a low of 9,000 to a high of 36,000. And that's for ONE day's food count. The two men couldn't get out of bed. The two women couldn't leave their houses. I don't know how these people afforded their food habits. They were spending hundreds of dollars a day on food. The people around them provided the food because if they didn't, the person would just order take-out.

This show had one flaw in that the way they presented the video of the people was done an a way that subtly suggested they were disgusting. I would have preferred if they'd done it in a way that showed some compassion for their situations. The scientist talking about the issue was very clear that there are a lot of factors in this and solving it isn't easy. Unlike other addictions, you can't totally give up food. They offered one man surgery to reduce the size of his stomach, but he has to lose over 100 pounds before they can do it. He made a rule list for the caregivers that stated what they were not to do, no matter what, because he said he'd try to manipulate them into giving him more food than he was supposed to eat. The chicken salad he was eating in his attempt to lose was the only healthy food on the program.

This show made my heart break a bit because our society insists on blaming people who are overweight, fat, whatever adjective fits the person. But we expect people to meet unrealistic weight requirements, too. So people who really aren't overweight get called overweight because we're constantly being fed the media image of "perfection". While I don't think any of us are buying into that ideal for ourselves, I also wonder if we don't think of ourselves as being worse than we really are--maybe even think we're like these 365-over 800-lb. people--just because we aren't ever thin "enough".

I guess what this really did was put things into perspective. It made me see that the successes I've had in the past can give me hope for the future. It made me appreciate that I'm healthy. I can exercise. I can live a normal life. These people can't do the baby steps that help us reach our goals because their lives are directly threatened. On the other hand, they're so discouraged by what they do and what they see in the mirror and their restricted lives that they don't believe they can change anything. What I got from that, again, is hope. I can change things. My life is full of things other than food. For these people, food IS their life. It was sad to watch. I know I can't help them, but I can help myself. And I can help all of you by lending my support in you all reaching your goals. It's worth the fight we all make with ourselves every day to keep ourselves healthy.

1 comment:

Trixie said...

I wish I could have seen that. I'm nowhere near as overweight as that (I could easily lose 30 to 40 pounds and be just fine). But my doctor put things in perspective by letting me know the TYPES of food I had been eating were killing me, and that kind of malnutrition is an addiction in itself.

"It's an addiction and you need to get sober, as surely as if you were an alcoholic or a drug addict," she told me. And she directed me to start looking at the 12 Steps and adapt them to my "addiction," for lack of a better word for this.

One of the most striking things she said to me was to start each day praying to God to help me make wiser choices just for that day. I have not missed a day yet of praying before I get out of bed for that wisdom and His help. And that is working for me.

"Death's grabbing for you, girl, and you better get serious about running from it," she said.

That helps too.