I remember being ‘different’ around food for most of my life. This included things such as being the person who had two cream buns at morning tea when everyone else had one; eating icing sugar by the spoonful directly from the packet; and being the family member who went into the kitchen after dinner to eat the leftovers. There are numerous other examples – too many to list. I could overeat anything. If I couldn’t get my preferred favourites (e.g. chocolate), I’d be eating the vegetables.
I was also aware as a child of generally feeling like I didn’t quite fit in and struggling with personal relationships. I was painfully shy and self-conscious, and riddled with fear. In social situations and at school, I would look for people to cling onto. I was also surprised when someone wanted to be friends with me and invited me to their house after school. There was no real reason for this
strange thinking. I had a normal, loving family, and I was actually pretty well liked at school. I learnt later that this broken thinking is part of the disease of addiction.
I also learnt later that food wasn’t actually my problem – I was using food as my solution to the real problem, which was my broken thinking and that I didn’t know how to fit in with life. In hindsight, it’s clear I’d started at a young age to rely heavily on food to make me feel happy.
I also developed other ‘unhelpful’ ways to cope with life, including trying to be the best at things (e.g. schoolwork, my career), and arrogantly telling myself I was better than other people. No surprises that life was to become more difficult and, correspondingly, from my mid-teens onwards, my eating started to escalate out of control.
In my younger years, I was pretty much a normal weight. But from my mid-teens onwards, my weight fluctuated up and down between a healthy weight and being overweight, depending on whether I was happy. I had learned in my teens that I couldn’t stick to a diet.
As an adult, immature personal relationships dominated my life. I was overly reliant on what certain key people thought of me. With boyfriends, I would just do whatever they wanted to do. It was quite a revelation when one day I started to think about, for example, what movies do I actually like, rather than just watching what my boyfriend chose. On the other hand, in some other relationships, I was a self-centred bully who demanded things be exactly how I wanted. At work, I started to base my self-worth on my performance in my job.
In my 30s, these coping mechanisms started to fail and life fell apart. I lost my job and also, around the same time, the approval of the key people I was overly reliant on. I sank into a depression that was to last ten years. My eating problems escalated even further in direct proportion to my problems and I eventually ended up being obese at 105kgs.
I didn’t try any weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers because, firstly, I knew I would not be able to stick to their programs and secondly, my eating wasn’t the real problem – it was just a by-product of my broken thinking and out-of-control emotions, and I knew I had to instead look for a solution to fix these.
I started counselling when I lost my job, and was put on anti-depressants. This continued for the next 10 years, and although I tried different anti-depressants, nothing worked to fix my depression or my eating. (I later came to believe that my depression was probably just the result of being an untreated food addict.) I also tried numerous other alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and kinesiology, again with no success.
I eventually started taking the weight loss medication, Xenical. Although this was successfully helping me lose weight, I was still obsessed with food and I would manipulate it so I could still have my favourite foods. I knew it wasn’t fixing the reason behind my eating, and therefore it wasn’t a long-term solution; sooner or later I would revert back to my old eating habits.
After ten years of depression, my life had hit rock bottom. I had alienated most friends and family, and I really struggled to get along with people in general. I was a difficult, rude, oversensitive person with an inflated ego. I had not worked for most of the ten years since losing my job, or had worked in jobs well below what I was qualified for. Fear dominated my life and I had dozens of resentments – I hated everyone and everything. My life consisted of sitting alone at home, wallowing in self-pity (which I actually enjoyed), watching TV and eating.
I knew the problem was with me, and I kept searching for a solution. Finally, I saw an ad for a 12 Step fellowship dealing with food addiction, and suspected this would deal with the real problem of my broken thinking – which it did. It was such a relief to walk into a 12 Step meeting and finally find a genuine solution. It was important to me that I saw people who had stopped their problem eating, and who were now a healthy weight. And who hadn’t simply swapped over to some other addiction (such as alcohol, gambling, pills, etc.) instead. It was equally important to see people who had been able to successfully deal with the broken thinking and out-of-control emotions that were dominating my life, and it gave me so much hope to see people who were happy, calm, confident and getting on with ‘normal’ lives, often having come from lives that I thought were much worse than mine.
I decided to start living this 12 Step program in my life. I stopped taking the Xenical and gradually weaned myself off the anti-depressants. I was also able to stop other medications, such as heartburn tablets. Depression is now a distant memory; the 12 Steps of Addictive Eaters Anonymous (AEA) provide a solution that was not even remotely achieved with anti-depressants. Resentments no longer rule my life and self-pity very rarely shows up.
My life today is dramatically improved compared to the life I had before.
I am now back at a healthy weight and food has been in its proper place for many years; I no longer crave or obsess about food. I have been able to do this by following the actions taken by those AEA members who are further ahead of me on the path of recovery. I am so very grateful to all the guidance that has so generously and freely been given to me.