I recently read the following, in my favourite Martha Beck book:
“Years ago, when I was doing research on addiction, I found that all my interview subjects, regardless of the nature of their addictions, had one thing in common: they lied to themselves. Obviously, they lied about their addictive behaviour, but they hadn’t become liars because they were addicts; on the contrary, they’d turned to addiction because they’d been telling themselves lies, often since childhood. You may have some of those tricky little truth loopholes in your own belief system: ‘Of course Mum loved us, she just expressed it by cursing and pelting us with cigarette butts’…”
The thought made me shudder. “This sounds really tragic” I said to myself, imagining little children being raised by monster parents. “I must remember never to complain about Mum again. Thank God I’m not an addict!”
A few days later, I found myself wondering how on Earth I managed to put on a stone over the past year. I mostly eat healthy meals, usually in small portions; I rarely drink and I do exercise a bit. This had been bugging me lately, especially since I turned 35 in the spring and I started contemplating a doom scenario of expanding waistline and early middle age.
The only think I could think of is I snack at odd times, but then some dietitians do advise to do small meals often. I often joke that I’m addicted to biscuits, but it’s only a joke… right?
Come to think of it I get cravings all the time. I usually crave chocolate or crisps when I’m bored at home or frustrated at work. I’ve always done it, but lately they’re become increasingly out of control, and it’s beginning to drive me crazy.
The typical scenario goes like this:
I’m doing something I’d rather not be doing, and suddenly the idea of a naughty snack pops into my head seemingly out of nowhere. It’s only a whisper first, but the more I try to ignore it, the most I lose my concentration, as my brain continually shouts “crisps!-crisps!-crisps!-crisps!” You’d think it’s a matter of life or death. Attempts to fight it usually have no results, and I mostly give in after a few minutes. The weirdest thing is, once I start eating I don’t particularly enjoy it. I often eat it mindlessly, consuming the entire thing in record time, and I often have no memory of it afterwards, when I contemplate the empty packet on my desk.
Let me put this in perspective – we’re not talking family-sized snacks here, more like 4-biscuit wrappers or small packed of crisps. I’m not obese, only slightly overweight for my taste. Which is basically why I’ve been able to avoid the issue for so long.
But the problem isn’t so much that my clothes are too tight, it’s that I’m beginning to feel like a crazy person.
“It’s all fine”, I’ve been telling myself as I reached for my favourite treat “I’m only eating snacks to compensate because I’m annoyed/ unhappy/ bored”.
This sounded perfectly rational, until I read the Martha Beck addict story.
“Hang on a minute”, I thought, “at what point did it become fine to eat myself through frustration or boredom, at the expense of my waistline and self-esteem?” I’m not sure at what point in my life this became a good option, but surely it would be healthier trying to sort the situation that’s causing it.”
I appreciate compulsive snacking is probably my brain’s (stupid but effective) way to keep me in line, instead of say, punching a colleague or throwing stuff out of window. But as lies go, this is a seemingly innocuous line, with big consequences on my everyday life.
Since I made the connection, I’m glad to report I’m now getting my diet back on track.
But this was never really about food. Addicts lie to themselves I tell you, and it doesn’t just happen to other people. What have you been lying to yourself about recently? Maybe worth giving it a second thought.