At my parents’ place for the Christmas holidays, everyone was in bed.
But I couldn’t sleep. There was a homemade cheesecake keeping cool downstairs and my mouth was watering just thinking about it.
One piece won’t hurt, I told myself.
Suddenly, my legs were carrying me down the stairs and, on autopilot, I scoffed one slice followed by another.
First, relief washed over me. Then the guilt hit like a punch in the stomach.
Why do I always do this? I tortured myself, filled with shame as I looked at the leftover crumbs.
Of course everyone overindulges during the festive season. The truth was, I had a real problem. In secret, I’d binge excessively.
I’d always enjoyed big portions, but when I went through a bad break-up, moved house and got a new job all at the same time, eating became an obsession.
On the way to work I’d stop at a bakery and buy two chocolate croissants.
Then I’d go to another one for a couple of pastries and a third for cookies, so the shop assistants wouldn’t think I was greedy.
I called it a food safari.
‘I’m trying to be good,’ I’d say to my colleagues, tucking into a salad in front of them. Popping out on my lunch break though, I’d pick up a stash of chocolate bars for the afternoon.
When a craving fizzed through my body, I’d sneak off to the bathroom. Hiding in a toilet cubicle, I’d tear into the shiny packets and scoff the lot in seconds.
At home, I didn’t keep food in the cupboards. That way I won’t be able to binge, I told myself. But then the uncontrollable urge would consume me and it was all I could think about.
Don’t do it, it’s not healthy... Go on, just buy a couple of things... I battled internally.
Before I knew what was happening, I was racing out of my apartment to the nearest shop. So desperate, I’d rip into my purchases on the way back. In one sitting, I could demolish a whole loaf of bread with a jar of Nutella, a tub of ice cream, two quiches, three family- sized slabs of chocolate and five bowls of cereal.
At around 4000 calories, I knew it was unhealthy. But to control my weight and cholesterol, I had another obsession.
Every morning I’d run to the gym, work out for an hour, then run back.
It was physically and mentally exhausting, a secret hell. My brain never stopped. Knowing I needed help, I went to a counsellor. ‘I think I’ve got an eating disorder,’ I said.
She referred me to a support group and I started a 12-step recovery program.
‘Try eating three meals a day,’ one lady told me.
‘Give up bread and sugar,’ someone else advised.
So I tried to follow their advice, but I just binged on healthy food instead. Munching five apples, a huge carton of yoghurt, a bag of carrots and three salmon steaks in one go, I felt sick.
Surely if it’s not chocolate, I’m recovered, I thought. I wasn’t though. I was mentally ill. Then someone in the support group used the term ‘food addict’.
'That’s me!' I realised.
With drugs and alcohol an addict can eliminate them, but I needed food to live. I had to nd a way to deal with my addiction. Breaking down in the support group, I was ready to change.
‘I want to recover,’ I sobbed. ‘I’ll do anything.’
Amazingly, a new mentor offered to help.
‘Measuring your quantities is critical,’ she told me.
So I bought some scales and measuring cups and she created a food plan.
The next day, I carefully weighed out three meals. Breakfast was porridge with fruit and for lunch I had chicken. Dinner was two cups of veg, half a cup of rice and 4oz of sh.
When my mentor called to offer her support, I burst into tears. ‘I’m free!’ I said. Having my food structured like that meant my mind was clearer. It was like the obsession had lifted.
After a year, I felt so good I wanted to help other people. I’d studied counselling, so I started my business, Food Freedom Coaching. Now I’ve been free from addiction for four years. I still stick to a strict plan, using carefully weighed ingredients with no sugar or our.
Christmas Day will be the same to ensure I don’t relapse and I don’t eat recreationally. Like most people, I’d never heard of the term ‘food addict’ before. I’m sharing my story to raise awareness and encourage others not to suffer in silence. There’s nothing to be ashamed of and help is available.
It really could change your life.
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