To say that I have an addictive personality is a significant understatement. I always have gone hard in whatever I do. My type-A tendency can translate to compulsion, and unfortunately, this compulsion does not discern between positive or negative habits. I set my mind to a goal or streak of any kind and I can usually complete or exceed the plan. I thrive on checking things off lists, counting days of perfection, and giving myself gold stars. This all or nothing approach is a blessing and a curse. When it comes to adding healthy habits to my life, I find motivation. When it comes to my vices, this compulsion just feeds the beast inside me working so hard to numb.
For me, connecting food and shame began at a very young age.
Eating an entire box of cookies (you know the ones: soft, chewy, two-bite sized Entenmann’s chocolate chip… my mouth waters just thinking about them), followed by a responsible adult telling me “you CANNOT do that”.
But I did.
Secretly licking a stick of butter like an ice cream cone, my small toddler hands barely able to get a strong grip around it. There wasn’t much to be had, snack-wise, in my house that day, so I made do. I knew I shouldn’t.
But I did.
Eating an entire box of strawberry fruit roll ups, shrugging innocently to the babysitter who just didn’t understand how or why I was puking up SO.MUCH.RED. I knew I shouldn’t.
But I did.
I don’t remember exactly when food shifted from nourishment to vice status. My relationship with food has always been complicated. I have always felt the call to dim, numb, stomp my feelings with any resource available. I have explored many options, but food always gave me the quick results I wanted. Food was the most accessible, easiest, and most powerful tool available to numb my feelings, disconnect from myself, and lean in to my shadows. No matter how much shame and guilt I felt following a significant binge, I always found my way back to food. The fact that this habit disconnected me further from my body by creating more self-hatred and fat shaming just pushed me deeper into this self-harming cycle.
Addiction can present itself in many unique, complex ways. Most of us know this from personal experience (if we are being authentic, vulnerable, and honest with ourselves). For some, abstinence is the only answer in battling addiction; for others, harm reduction (reducing the harming behavior slowly over time) is the best way to go. More and more research is showing that authentic human connection plays an important role in healing, which makes a lot of sense to me.
When we face our vices and speak the truth about the tools we use to disconnect from ourselves, we can begin to release the power these vices have over us. Most people use something to disconnect. Alcohol, drugs, sex, technology, shopping, social media, food… all of these have the potential to evolve into self-harming behavior. All of these can dull our sparkle. Humans often seek escape. If we get honest and present with each other, and ourselves, these connections can begin the process of healing.
For most of my life I have felt guilt, shame, and every other negative feeling towards my self, my body, and my food choices. I have allowed my mood, self-worth, and emotional wellbeing to teeter on the edge of the balance beam that is my disordered eating habits. Biologically, humans require food. Food addiction cannot be treated with abstinence. We must eat. Learning to heal and love myself through this has been a process. Thankfully, through resources like Whole30, I have learned more and more about finding food freedom, rather than living in the food addict prison I had created. I still struggle in allowing myself to feel my feelings, but my human experience includes making progress. Making progress untaps my sparkle. I have come to learn that if I truly feel the good, bad, and ugly of my emotions, then I am active in the process of moving through and releasing them.
Releasing authentically is something I now work hard to celebrate. I work hard to give myself the space needed to feel and process emotions to move through them (rather than dropping anchor in or fighting them). I highly recommend a good cry, loud laugh, furiously fast journaling, loud groan, long walk, and acceptance that as humans, we are going to feel it all. This is one of the most important parts of this beautiful human experience. LET IT OUT. It feels good. Our brains are wired to reward us when we release, like a biological gift of relief and good vibes. Not only that, when we experience the full spectrum of emotions, we sparkle the absolute most.
Let’s release the power of these vices. Let’s connect.