I'M ADDICTED TO FOOD - CAN PLANTS SAVE ME?
Food addiction goes back as far as I can remember. Sweet treats and salty snacks have helped me numb many heartaches and disappointments for many years. If I had to pick an age this affair started, I would say 7. Sweet little Dee was kind and curious, but also shy and awkward. I moved a lot as a kid – every 1 to 2 years - and it was very hard on me. As I would start to fit in at school, I would get ripped away and tossed into a new town, new classroom, and be left struggling to try and fit in once again.
My parents both worked, and weren’t home until long after we had arrived from school. I had an older brother that despised me, and made it his life’s purpose to ignore me. I felt alone, and insignificant. Food became my friend, a companion that temporarily filled my heart. I quickly adopted insecurities around my appearance.
My brother called me every fat name in the book, including the song, “fatty, fatty, two-by-four, can’t fit through the bathroom door…” and it was torture. Even though I wasn’t really overweight, it gave him a lot of pleasure to harass me. This was the beginning of my body dysmorphia disorder. Knowing that my older brother, who I looked up to, didn’t accept the way I looked sent me my first message that I needed to change. I can remember trying to starve myself at that young age. Then I would be so hungry that I would overeat. This is
commonly known as binge eating. I carried this nasty habit with me into my thirties! Almost three decades of starving myself, and then binging; and then feeling like total crap for overindulging.
For me, body dysmorphia showed up whenever I looked in the mirror. I would be looking at myself and I would see fat on my body that wasn’t really there. I remember entering a fitness competition and the day before I was looking in the mirror at my very lean and chiselled body that I had worked so hard on, and being so upset, to the point of tears, that there was still fat there. Body dysmorphia never allows you to be satisfied. It didn’t matter how fit, or thin I got, it was never going to satisfy me because my brain had been wired to not accept myself. I had very low self-worth and the proof of that was coming out in my body image, and control issues around food.
I have done a lot of work around this and have had to find ways to build my self-worth back up so that I don’t over-obsess about my body image. Am I one hundred percent healed from it? No. I still struggle. But it can get easier, especially when we recognize why it is happening. Doing that deep inner-child wound work can really help you to move forward with any disordered eating patterns you may have. When control issues come up around food, as they are right now for me, I look back at my past and say, “of course you are going to have issues here, you have struggled your entire life with body image and self-worth due to trauma. You are now safe, and loved, and you don’t need to be a perfect size to be lovable.”
The first time I saw a drastic change in how I was using food was when I adopted a plant based diet which really helped me connect to my food in a much healthier way. I was interested in how it fuelled my body, where it came from, and the impact it had on our environment. Caring about these new issues, took focus off my cravings to over-stuff myself when I was feeling like crap.
I also started to feel better all around. My weight was easier to manage, my mental health was doing better than it had ever been, and I had a new passion for cooking and learning new things around plant based eating. I was also finally able to detach from binge eating - what a relief! As I wrote earlier, I do still carry some of the deep-rooted issues I have around body image, but the self-love I have been working so hard on the past few years is really showing up and helping me navigate through it in a healthy way. I’m so grateful for the awareness I have cultivated around this so that I am not passing these traumas down to my children. I think it is important to be mindful that our kids are absorbing everything we do. Practicing healthy habits around diet and exercise will help set them up for success too!