therapy? check!, food addiction? hmmm?
on 1/26/13 12:58 am
Since I don't seem to be the only one wrestling with the mental health piece today I decided I had to post. I have done therapy for over a decade of my adult life and know that it has saved my life on more than one occasion. I have dealt with my depression, my dysfunctional childhood, my personality quirks, but have never been terribly successful dealing with weight and food issues. I am working with someone now but I find that it helps if I come to therapy with some questions and a direction I want to go.
That said, I know I have some food addiction issues. Sometimes I am strong enough to override the voices in my head. Sometimes I am not. I know to really be successful I have to be strong enough to override that voice always. How do I get there? Distracting myself doesn't usually work. One bite never works. Anyone with suggestions of questions I need to ask myself? or tools that they found worked when they just wanted food to 'calm' themselves or to 'soothe' themselves?
Any thoughts are appreciated. Thank you all for this amazing community of support.
It has been my experience that food addiction has both a psychological/emotional aspect and a biochemical aspect. I've had years of therapy, knew all my issues and what kinds of things prompted inappropriate eating. But until I took the addictive substances out of my diet, I never really conquered the beast. Most of the substances are the obvious ones: sugar and ALL sugar-like substances, highly processed foods, flours, etc. but others are things such as cheese, nuts, artificial sweeteners of all kinds (and I mean ALL).
Prior to VSG, I followed an (and follow now, albeit a little more loosely) an extremely regimented plan of eating which for the first time in my life, allowed me to be free from the obsessive food thoughts, and the "jonesing" for sugar, my drug of choice. After years of beating myself up for "failing" over and over again, taking the crap out of my diet stopped the addiction feedback loop and made me realize that I have no "control" over it.
Feel free to PM me if you want more info.
on 1/26/13 3:48 am
Thank you for your response. I find myself wondering about whether or not I need to cut it all out of my diet. And know that just the fact that I am wondering means it would probably be a good idea. I do very little but as I am sure you are aware a little is all it takes. I haven't mastered pm'ing yet but if you have a chance to respond again I would be interested in your thoughts on artificial sweeteners. I don't do sugar but I do crystal light and the occasional sugar free hard candy. I am finding though that some days this triggers me too. I've had some success with stevia instead of the chemical options but don't know if that would eventually cause the same probs. Wondering what your experience has been. Thank you again for taking the time to share with me.
When I began the process for getting sleeved, I knew that I would have to deviate from my plan because of the necessity of the types of clear liquids prescribed pre-surgery and protein drinks just after surgery. So pre-surgery, I reintroduced things with artificial sweeteners like Crystal Lite and sugar-free Jello and found that I was drinking more and more as time went by--like guzzling them. This kind of made me go hmmmm, because honestly, I knew sugar was my downfall, but I didn't really think I was that sensitive to artificial sweeteners.
Even now, some days I'm having trouble getting the fluids in (more an issue in winter I think, as ice water is just not that appealing when it's 2 degrees outside) so I've been flavoring it with Mio. I've found I have to be very mindful that I don't sort of lose my mind with it and limit it to one water bottle. Although I have been drinking it, I do find that it starts cravings for me, and I notice the same types of emotional reactions I experienced when I was eating sugar--depressive symptoms and being emotionally reactive.
I can't really speak about stevia simply because to me it tastes like new-mown hay so I'm just not going to drink it. :-)
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think I'm a pretty hard-core sugar addict and moderation isn't going to be an option for me. I certainly don't think that everyone who decides to have weight-loss surgery has the same biological addiction to sugar that I do, and definitely, your mileage may vary.
But I guess if I were in your shoes and was that concerned about it, I might do a trial, just to see how I felt. Although it's undoubtedly difficult to eat clean, I got many benefits from it, not the least of which was realizing that I wasn't stupid or a hopeless failure, but that when I took the addictive substances away, my life wasn't all about obsessing about what and when the next meal would be, just like a "normal" person. Very freeing!
So what did I eat on this clean diet?
lean proteins, grilled, baked, sauteed in cooking spray-no deli meats (cured with sugar), no rotisserie chickens (injected with dextrose), no bacon, ham, corned beef (high-fat, cured with sugar), nothing fried or breaded
dairy-skim or 1% only, only plain yogurt, nothing artificially sweetened
vegetables-all kinds; roasting IMO brings out the sweetness in vegetables, so for example, onions roasted to the point of caramelization tasted like candy to me
whole grains and potatoes (not so much an issue for us VSGers) I barely eat any of these at all now; before VSG, no corn, no grains other than whole grains, no wheat, no flour of any kind
fruit-again, not so much an issue for VSGers but before, I ate no bananas, cherries, tropical fruits, dried fruits
I love your approach to therapy. So many people think that you just need to show up and get cured. The reality is that therapy is what happens between people and you, as a client, need to be in the right frame of mind and be actively involved in the process. I hope that you have chosen a specialist that works with eating issues and is trained to work your thoughts and actions and not just your history or your feelings. I hope that he/she has a cognitive therapy background as this has been shown to work best with addiction. I want to invite you to walk into therapy being ready to answer this question, "What do you want to accomplish?" and "How will you know that you have accomplished it?" I want you to be prepared to look honestly at your thoughts, and beliefs around food. I want you to be willing to try new techniques to deal with old patterns and to be willing to find new ways to have your needs met. This of course means that you will need to identify your needs first, and learn how food has been used as a coping mechanism. Then you will most likely need to find new ways to have the old needs met. You need to be open to understanding that this is a life long process and a good therapist will hopefully give you the tools that you will need to use over and over again to stay on the path.
I found that knowing what I know was really not enough until after I had the surgery, but together with the surgery, it was finally enough. I think that good therapy and good medicine work very well together and will greatly improve your outcome. Good luck and congratulations on choosing a winning strategy.
on 1/26/13 3:53 am
Thank you so much for responding Elina. You are such a strong and inspirational presence on this board that I appreciate you taking the time to give me your insight. I have had enough therapy to know that it most definitely doesn't work if I don't work it. It is a tool, just like the sleeve, that only works when I am working it. That said I think I mentally hit a bit of a wall when it comes to contemplating the addiction side and the coping strategies. I feel like I can answer the first two questions but have a hard time linking eating to emotional or behavioral triggers. Possibly because it has always been such an all encompassing facet of my life? Not sure. Fortunately I did choose a therapist with the right skills and background to help me. I am just so good normally at being able to 'self-analyze' that it is weird to me how I have this blind spot on the heart of the food addiction issue. Thanks again for your insight. If you have found any other resources useful, books, articles, tools, etc. I would love to hear about it.
Elina, yes, I think I can relate (I am pre-op)...I KNOW I am a food addict. I know I use food for boredom, sadness, happiness, stress...any and every feeling imaginable. But, just because I know I am a hard-core raging food addict is not enough...I need a tool to help me with it...the VSG. I have been 14 years in and out of a 12 Step Program for Food Addiction, been to 4 different food addict specialist (therapists) in 2 years...no one can help me, nothing can stop me from eating 3,000+ calories a day of sugar, flour, fat, fried....I hope and pray that the combo of continued therapy AND the Sleeve AND exercise will be my Ace in the Hole...