You might be thinking that the title of this week’s post sounds a bit different to the usual jovial, quirky stories I often share here. Well, in the spirit of being open, honest and a little bit vulnerable I really wanted to talk about this and how it affects me. What image springs to mind when you think of a food addict? Someone morbidly obese who spends every waking minute eating? In all honesty I don’t think many people would ever see me and consider I could be a food addict. Why, well I’ve never really had a weight problem in my life and generally look fairly healthy and fit. There were two periods when I put on a few stone but neither were down to psychological reasons.
When I was 15 I had a spinal fusion and spent five months off school unable to exercise or walk much. I discovered test cricket and watched England whilst eating more macaroni cheese than a normal human being should. When I was 23 I was made redundant and as I was going away with Camp America shortly afterwards I spent a couple of months doing voluntary work, playing on the Sega Mega Drive and eating a lot of cheese. Ok, I’ll be straight with you, it was minimal voluntary work and 95% playing Sega and eating cheese.
Being a food addict can manifest itself in varied ways. One is to constantly graze, eating as almost in a daze with no conscious thought. Another way is to binge on unhealthy food, particularly those high in sugar and saturated fat. I do both of those very well, or very badly depending which way you look at it. When I graze this could be a typical days consumption in order of eating: 3 big glasses (1.2L) of fresh fruit smoothie, cereal, 3 biscuits, crisps, chocolate bar, wrap, crisps, yoghurt, 5 biscuits, fruit bar, crumpets and jam, dinner, 5 biscuits, cereal, chocolate bar, crisps, beigals and jam.
When I binge I can go through a pick of 6 jam doughnuts / iced buns in five mins. Halfway through the second I’ll start feeling sick but will keep eating. By the third one I’ll be asking myself what I’m doing but will continue until they’re gone. The same with a pack of Jammie Dodgers or a Mr Kipling Battenberg. It normally happens at home but I’ve eaten the pack of iced buns / jam doughnuts whilst walking round the supermarket presenting the empty packet to the bewildered cashier. I don’t know why I do it but I do, a lot. The only saving grace is that my body distributes excess weight very evenly so even putting on two stone, I still look the same with clothes on. Unfortunately when this happens my nice clothes are resigned to the back of the wardrobe and out come the old, unflattering and ‘fashionable back in the late 80’s’ numbers. I then have to spend time looking like a Rick Astley throwback until I sort my head out and lose the weight.
The thing is, I’ve lost weight successfully with Weight Leaders and even been a Weight Watchers leader. I understand what’s healthy and what’s not. I’ve also been a counsellor and have excellent self awareness so again recognise most of my triggers. I am an emotional eater so understand my triggers around that. It’s a case of trying to be mindful when I get upset etc and pause before reaching for the cupboard. It’s the times that I start grazing / binging for no conscious reason that’s the hardest. In that moment I feel totally out of control of my body and unable to stop myself. The worse thing I do is eat the girls’ food. Chocolate, cakes, sweets, all in mortal danger with me around.
A couple of years ago we took a big box of Heroes to a family BBQ. I surreptitiously ate all of the ones I liked (everything apart from Fudgeand Dairy Milk Caramel), whilst everyone else watched Kung Fu Panda. Katie then excitedly reached for her fave, the Creme Egg Twisted. What followed was horrible. She cried, I felt almost as guilty as the time I forced Jade to go on Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park whilst she was in floods of tears. I had to go out and buy another pack whilst feeling like the world’s worst dad. I’ve even eaten their food and when they’ve asked where it was I told them it had gone off or fallen on the floor and Honey the dog licked it. All lies, I’m a bad, bad man.
I think about food constantly, literally all the time which apparently is another symptom of being a food addict. We went on an all inclusive holiday to Spain a few years ago. Never, even again. After eating approximately five ice creams and Danish pastries a day along with three loaves of bread I put on 11lbs in 9 days. I was actually proud of that and the same goes for occasions when I eat for England. In 1977 I went to a Mc Donalds birthday party for my friend Jason Portman. I ate 7 Fillet-O-Fishes, 3 chips, 2 apple pies and a strawberry milkshake. On the way home I ate the birthday cake and promptly threw up all over the car. I must have had a bug or something……
When I’m in this spiral of never ending food consumption I’ll tell myself, “Tomorrow I’ll start eating healthily” and then carry on the same path. Eventually and with absolutely no understanding how, one day I’ll be focused and will lose the weight by eating sensibly and healthily. When I got to goal at Weight Watchers three years ago I bought my first ever pair of Levi 501’s. I’d never been able to get into them mainly due to the size of my legs and so this was a big deal. I haven’t been able to get anywhere near them since 2016. I’m currently part of a small group where we’re working towards our big visions. I gave myself a month a get back into the 501’s and if not I’d pay out £120. The stick definitely works for me as I hate having to lose money unnecessarily. Yesterday was the deadline and I’m back in them. Today was good until I started writing this post. In the last 90 mins I’ve eaten cereal, crisps and biscuits. I would have eaten more but Rachel has hidden everything else tempting from me, how said is that.
Addictions can occur as a result of various factors; physical, emotional and mental. My life history including relationships, friendships and upbringing all play a part. I believe all of this and my subsequent handling of them manifests in my addiction. I’ve explored the possibilities in therapy over the years and never come to a definitive reason. Instead, I’ll do what I always do when attempting to explain unwelcome feelings, behaviour or an inability to function on a positive level. It’s down to my parents separating when I was three and my dad emigrating to Canada when I was ten, works for me. Dad, if you read this, don’t feel bad, I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
I’m honest with the girls and they know my struggles. They were impressed (and I think a little surprised) that I got back into the jeans. I guess, if anything it shows them what hard work and perseverance can do so a good life lesson. In finishing, I wanted to list some of the more common occasions I find myself reaching for the food and eating myself back to the 80’s wardrobe.
- A social occasion with people I don’t know well.
- A social occasion with friends.
- A social occasion with family.
- A social occasion with a combination of the above.
- Any time I visit an all you can eat buffet. Thank goodness Jimmy’s World Buffet has closed down. That was not a good place to be.
- Any time I get upset, stressed, bored, angry, tired, ill or feel out of control.
- Any day the auto pilot in my brain takes over and temporarily turns off my ability to have any awareness and conscious thought.
Being positive at least I don’t do a job where I have unhealthy sugary food thrust in my face constantly. Imagine if I was a children’s entertainer. Wait, what? Exactly, every single time I go to a party I’m faced with jam sandwiches, Jammie Dodgers, chocolate mini rolls, chocolate, pizza, cake and lots more. I do my best to politely decline the plates of food and birthday cake and most of the time I’m ok. Pizza is the worst though, I just can’t say no to it. Even the horrible kosher pizza from somewhere in NW London that I know from experience tastes like cardboard but I still accept it.
If I come to your party please don’t offer me anything to eat apart from a raw onion or some fresh mint. I guarantee I won’t go near either as I hate them more than looking like an 80’s throwback.