I remember my first binge like my first kiss. My daughter was four months old. Without even thinking, I picked up my baby, strapped her in her car seat and drove a mile to the nearest gas station. I ran in, making up a story about needing four candy bars for my visiting nieces and nephews and promptly ate every piece of every bar before I hit the driveway.
After 20 years of binging, obsessing over my weight, hating my body, and compulsively exercising, the scale hit 200 pounds and all I wanted to do was die. I even contemplated running my car off a bridge, yet I didn’t want to hurt the car. Valuing my vehicle more than myself led me to a 12-step program where I professed that I was powerless over food.
At first, I was ashamed. After all, society is not pleased by powerlessness. It loves to reward hard work, perseverance, control, willpower and self-discipline. Yet, saying that I was powerless over food made me feel so powerful for 5 reasons:
1. My addiction is a disease.
Just like someone who is diabetic, food addiction is my “thing.” PET scans prove that people with addictions have less dopamine receptors and are more susceptible to the deadly Bermuda Triangle of sugar, salt, fat within processed foods.
2. Now that I know that I have a disease, I am empowered to treat it.
In fact, it is my ultimate responsibility. I accept that I was not a normal eater, that I cannot stop at one bowl of cereal or just one chip. Certain foods are like alcohol to an alcoholic and they are banished from my life daily. Having clear rules makes eating and living empowering and enjoyable.
3. My addiction empowers me to stop trying to fix myself because I was never broken.
I am not my food addiction. I am a part of God. The shame has left and my full-out self-acceptance allows me to accept others because they are also a part of God. They don’t need fixing either. Each day I walk in humility allowing God to work through me. In fact, God is writing this article. I am merely his instrument for getting the word out.
4. Being powerless over food empowers me to discover what’s missing in my life.
I use food to fill me when certain parts of my life needed healing. I carried a lot of resentment and anger, yet I didn’t know how to express in a healthy way, so I used food. My food addiction allows me to take responsibility for my life and to make amends. Now, when I feel my cravings coming on strong, I view them as a message such as an unexpressed feeling or excessive worry. Even though I am powerless over food, the urges to binge are not about the food.
5. When I banish certain foods from my life, I do it daily instead of forever.
Committing for more than the next 24 hours dis-empowers me. It’s like charging something on your credit card that you know you cannot pay off. Tomorrow may never come. Forever banishing throws me into perfection and makes my compulsions even stronger. Instead I live in the present and commit to my abstinence one day at a time.
If you find yourself uncontrollably binging, or obsessing over your food and weight, please stop feeling ashamed. It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. If you knew you had a disease such as diabetes or heart disease, wouldn’t you do everything possible to get healthy?
Let go of your shame and embrace your powerlessness so that you can finally feel powerful.