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Mostly Recovered Food Junkie

Addiction and recovery come in many shapes and sizes. We're addicted to TV, drugs, electronics, money, work, shopping, sex, love, war, behaviors, comfort zones, dogmas and ideologies, being right, gambling, social media and likes, alcohol, and food (namely salt, sugar, and fat). I now publicly admit that my heroin is veggie nachos and a beer. There are two Mexican restaurants near my flat that I avoid. If I walk near the front door, most likely I'll go in and get my fix. So, I chose the selective abstinence method for Latin-inspired restaurant food, and occasionally I fall off the wagon. The next day I get back on the horse. Sometimes, I don't get back on right away and spend a couple days or even weeks in an epicurean addict-stupor, and my body screams at me to wake up again. Now, I'm glad to report that there's way less back-peddling. Hi, my name is Michele and I’m a mostly recovered food junkie. Hello, Michele.

I read The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat by Stephan J Guyenet, PhD (2017), because I needed to understand why-oh-why I feel powerless with some foods. It's a thoroughly researched book with useful examples of how brain bio-chemistry, ancestral memory, the food/bev industry, over-abundance, pleasure and reward instincts, public policy, marketing tactics, and our caveman reptilian brains have contributed to our food addictions. Besides nachos, my top five cravings are: toasted everything bagels with herbed cream cheese, red onion, cucumber, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper, as well as chocolate chip cookies, pizza margherita, sushi, and caprese anything.

Unfortunately, addiction and recovery are still being approached with a kind of  "you have a disease and we're going to fix it" attitude.

With personal, social, and public shame attached, just look at prison statistics on incarcerated addicts in the US - a shameful reality. The perspective that makes the most sense to me is from Canadian physician Dr Gabor Maté. He teaches that all addictions are based in trauma and emotional loss caused during our childhood and early adulthood. He believes that the addict's objects of desire (food) are an attempt to stop the suffering caused by trauma and loss, and the primary solution would then be through compassionate inquiry. This is an approach which focuses on healing our core; the result can potentially create a new path towards managing the addiction in a realistic and balanced way. Although I fully understand that other approaches work as well, this one hits home for me the most. 

Since a majority of sociologists now agree that roughly 75% of all families are dysfunctional, is it any wonder that addiction has taken hold of the human race? I come from one of those families. Though I'm keenly aware that I was better off than some, I also understand my addiction's connection to core trauma and loss. The irony? These are heavy insights which have helped me lighten up, both emotionally and physically. Finally, through Dr Howk and Dr Lisle at the TrueNorth Center, I've also learned that after creating new habits, when (not if) I fall off the WPF wagon, it takes about four days to get back on track to my WPF habits. I've also become aware that many people have at least one food or beverage addiction. It's a tough pill to swallow, and it seems to be a tangible part of the modern human condition.

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