My Story: The Origin Of My Food Addiction- Final

After the birth of my last child the fog of my life was so thick I didn’t even realize how bad things were. I was lost in the haze of having a new born and 3 other young children, working full time in a demanding career and just trying to survive. In this time my health habits had hit an all time low. My reaction to every emotion was to suppress the feeling with food. This was how I coped. This was how I got through every day.

But even with that cloud over my head a little spark was there. It was there because during my ninth month of pregnancy, I was given the opportunity through work to attend a leadership training course put on by the University Of Denver’s business college. It included 3 days at a mountain camp and 3 on campus where we were focused on content like The Seven Habits, Blue Ocean Leadership and the Servant Leader. Though well known material, this was the first time I had been exposed to it in a light where this content was valued. I took a lot a way from the course, but I think the biggest thing I took away was a desire to learn more. More about self improvement. The lectures lit a fire in me to ingest more than the mindless content that had been carrying me through to this point.

But time was a precious resource of which I had little. Then someone suggested I listen to to books instead of read them. I downloaded Audible and I was hooked. My commute to work was 45 minutes one way and I started consuming new content. For the first time in a long time I started to think about my life, my habits, my motivation. I listened to the full book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in follow up to the class. I struggled at the time to have the desire to go back to work, because babies. The schedule was hard, home was hard. We were not thriving. I downloaded “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandburg and leaned hard into my career. The words and encouragement was like a guidebook to me. Things got a little easier. Then I listened to “Girl, Wash Your Face” By Rachel Hollis and I picked myself up and started to dust myself off. Next, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and I started clearing the filth in my house and my head! Finally, one day while driving home craving sweets, willing myself home where I knew I could go in, grab a hand full of Halloween Candy and eat it, quickly satisfying the urge in my brain “to scratch that itch” I had an “aha” moment. It occurred to me this behavior was a habit, a bad habit that I had developed.

The next day, at the same time I felt the same need. I willed my self to stuff my face with cauliflower instead of candy. I crunched. I did it again the next day. Habits. Over and over it kept coming back to habits. I searched Audible for “habit formation”. I listed to “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Oh, the science of habit formation! Maybe I could change for the better. Next I listed to “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Mini Habits for Weight Loss” by Stephen Guise.

In my life I had tried every diet imaginable. From Weight Watchers to Keto and Whole 30 and everything in between. Each “diet” would work for a time, I would lose the same 15 lbs over and over again, each time gaining all of it plus an additions 3 or 4 back. In the end, I never changed my habits and immediately my old self would check back in. One slip up would turn into a 3 month bender and I would be back to square one, or worse.

Then one day while I was looking for a new book to listen to, Audible suggested I try “Bright Line Eating, The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free” by Susan Peirce Thompson.

My Story: The Origins Of My Food Addiction- Part 2

By the time I was about 8 years old, I was the subject of relentless teasing for my size at the small Catholic school I attended. I was quiet and stayed in my shell, afraid to draw attention to myself. I was sad and painfully aware of my weight problem. I was the “fat kid”.

At some point my mom mentioned an article she read that reported a “famous gymnast” had died of complications from anorexia nervosa and bulimia. I didn’t know what she was talking about and she explained that tragically, this gymnast had a disease where she thought she was fat and either starved herself or threw up after eating in order to control her weight. I asked how and she said they stick their finger down their throat. Looking back on it, I imagine my mom was talking about Christy Henrich, former US Olympic Gymnast who was only 60 lbs at the time of her death.

I am positive this off the cuff remark from my mom was mentioned in passing and had little bearing on her, I would be shocked if she even recalls the conversation. But it’s funny how some things we stay will stick with our kids. I did not hear “disease”, “tragic” or “death”. I heard, “weight control”. And suddenly something in my little brain snapped and a “blue print” was born.

I don’t even remember what I ate the first time I tried it. But I remember realizing how easy it was to gag myself. It worked! And just like that, new habits were formed. I started throwing up after meals. Sneaking into the bathroom to rid my self of whatever devil treat I had just consumed. This was before the days of smart phones and internet searches. My skill set developed on trial and error.

Within a few months I would regularly binge and purge everyday. I was only about 9 years old. My mom eventually took notice. I complained of stomach aches constantly, (a reasonable excuse for the need to vomit after meals). I would vomit blood and had constant heart burn.

Eventually I went to the doctor and had a barium test. I was diagnosed with stomach ulcers and prescribed Zantac. The Zantac calmed the pain and the “stomach issues” covered the lie. I lived this life through middle school. Still fat, but not so fat that any “childhood obesity” interventions would come. I loved sweets and would eat and eat.

“My, you are getting fat”. My great aunt would say.

“You had better be careful, that’s a moment on the lips, and years on the hips.”

A long road a head was forming.

My Story: The Origin Of My Food Addiction

“Rachel! Come in, honey.”

I look over my shoulder and see my great aunt standing on the front steps of the house on Cooper Avenue calling me to come in. It’s still early and light out. I turn, reluctantly and start making my way back down the street to her house. She’s in her 70’s, I am 5 or 6. I want to play with the neighborhood kids, but she’s worried she can’t keep track of me and beckons me into the house.

I come in and sit down on the floor in front of the couch. She offers me some candy from this blue dish she has that stacks, one bowl on top of the other, each higher one acting like the lid of the one below until the top little one which has a lid ends the stack. Chocolate covered raisins. Yum, my favorite. I grab a handful and settle in. She turns on Nick at Night and we wait for my parents to pick me up.

This scene repeats itself day after day all summer. Before you know it, school is starting and the lack of activity and ample supply of treats has contributed to an already brewing dependency developing in me; food addiction.

I didn’t know it then, I was a kid. But I was developing life long habits for emotional eating and sugar addiction.

Sitting here, watching my own children, I worry about what I am teaching them. I don’t want them to grow up facing the challenges I have faced. I want them to be free of these chains.

I grew up in a family and in a time, when separating food and emotion wasn’t a science people talked about. We celebrated with food, we comforted with food. We did holiday’s and traditions and condolences with food. And just like that, I went from a “healthy” weight kindergartner, to an overweight first grader. In the 30 years that have followed, I have yet to return to a “healthy weight”. But that is about to change…