Perfectionism


Dave: I’m a male food addict and my problem is Dave!
Reader: Hi, Dave and welcome!

I was just thinking of the lyrics of a Paul Simon song from many years ago, Still Crazy After All These Years, and decided to slightly modify it’s title for the purpose of the subject of this post. When it comes to being imperfect (not to mention crazy), some of us male food addicts have great difficulty accepting ourselves as the flawed individuals we are. The truth was, is and ever shall be: We are “imperfect”, yet we can recover. To some degree (especially when it comes to food and other aspects of self-care) we are definitely “crazy”, yet we can become more sane — one day at a time (I love the concept “going sane” as an alternative to “going crazy/crazier”).

An obsession/addiction to be “perfect” or “the best” has often sabotaged my recovery effort — and still can at times. I would think the most common manifestation of self-defeating perfectionism has to do with those times we eat “a little more” than allowed by our food plan and use that imperfection to say to ourselves, “The heck with it…I might as well eat everything in sight!”  What started out as a fairly insignificant event then becomes a self-destructive excuse to justify a much larger food intake disaster. Some addicts insist they don’t have “a self-esteem problem.” But I insist that someone who really loved themselves (or at least loved themselves more than they love food) wouldn’t use imperfection to beat themselves up and justify self-destructive behavior.

Here’s one way to “turn it (our imperfection) around.” When I eat “a little more” than the optimum amount of food on my food plan, it serves as a reminder than I use this “event” as a time to Pray (to God), Reflect (within myself) and Share (what happened with other addict) so I can LEARN from my imperfection. And yes, I can also love myself — imperfections and all.

I’m glad that I’ve found a flexible food plan that allows for “imperfect moments”. The days of rigid food plans that only encourage self-destructive actions went by the wayside for me back in 2001, when I re-joined Weight Watchers and began following their Points food plan. DISCLAIMER: I am not saying the W.W. Points food plan is the “only” acceptable food plan for addicts. I just know that with it’s help I’ve released around 140 pounds as of this writing. I would like to point out that due to guidance from two health care professionals I work with, I do not follow the current version of the Points plan, instead I follow a previous version where fruits were assigned a Point’s value and not counted as having “0 Points”. As a diabetic I have to count all carbohydrates I consume, so the idea that carb-rich bananas can be valued at 0 Points like 0 carb Green Beans, well that doesn’t work for me. Your results may vary. I do eat bananas since I do not demonize carbohyrdrates.

The W.W. concept of “FlexPoints” gives me a “Plan B” so if I don’t want it to be, imperfect eating doesn’t have to set me up for a disaster known as a “food binge”. If I want an excuse to go on a binge, that’s one thing. But if I want to “get back on track ASAP”, then FlexPoints become a valuable tool for my recovery. The challenge is to be able to “love myself enough” to CHOOSE to not use my imperfection as a ticket for self-sabotage. We male food addicts are powerless over food, but we are NOT powerless over our choices!

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When I use the phrase (as in the subject line of this message) “Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis”, I am NOT (repeat: NOT) — in any way, shape or form — talking about members of the Nazi organization, skinheads or other racist groups. Understood?

Instead the phrase in the subject line of this post refers to food addicts for whom ONLY ONE food plan exists (which is ALWAYS the one they are following — how convenient!) that the rest of us food addicts MUST be following if we are “really serious” about our recovery.  These nut jobs are not above shaming, shunning and degrading anyone who would dare to disagree with them. If they were not so extreme in their tactics and insane in their beliefs I doubt I would feel the level of anger I do about them.  I also realize that FEAR of these people also tiggers my anger toward them. I mostly fear the physical, emotional and spiritual damage they do to newcomers to 12 Step recovery.

These “craziest-of-the-crazies” food addicts can be found within the meetings of Overeaters Anonymous and many other so-called 12 Step fellowships. At least in the case of OA, they do NOT represent the official (let alone the best) thinking of that fellowship. These extremists are (at the most) a “cult” within OA, far removed from the mainstream of OA thought and practice.

Many of these carb-phobic folks identify themselves as being part of the “H.O.W. Movement”, which is an outrageous abuse  of the 12 Step acronym “H.O.W.”, which stands for the three foundations of authentic recovery: Honesty, Openmindedness and Willingness. The inference the control freaks are making is that ONLY THEY are “honest, openminded and willing” and rest of us are just deluding ourselves because we don’t follow their sicko food plan. Talk about elitist nonsense!

Other than the issues identified above, why do these Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis upset me so much? Probably because they prey on the vulnerability of newcomers to OA and other 12 Step fellowships. Newcomers desperate to find answers and hope to overcome their addiction.

They also make me angry because I’ve found out their food plan(s) (it comes in various versions, but virtually all can be traced back to the original Gray Sheet Food Plan that came from an OA member around 1962) is UNhealthy and can even be harmful to one’s physical health if followed for any significant period of time. Their food plan is RIGID and NOT scientifically or medically sound for most individuals. It is based on, at best, superstition. Remember that superstition is “an irrational belief or practice resulting from ignorance”!

Thankfully I’m following a food plan today that has been designed by health care professionals (not irrational addicts determined to control my food intake, who can’t keep their own food intake under control) based on my unique medical history and health concerns. At the same time, I don’t demand any other addict follow my food plan. I know their is a God and it is not me! Thankfully I’m part of Weight Watchers, as imperfect as that organization is, they at least strive to be on top of the latest medical research when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

The idea that a fellow food addict would attempt to dictate to another adherance to a particular food plan is just plain NUTS! I would trust another food addict to tell me how much and what (and what not) to eat as I would trust a pyromaniac to work as a firefighter! Food addicts in control of other food addicts food intake is dangerous, scary and even has the potential of being deadly!

So yes, I’m going to speak out against the dangerous insanity of Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis! I’m going to proclaim “freedom to those held captive” by the superstition of cabrohydrate phobia and to indiviudals who have been emotinoally and spiritually abused by the people who promote one or another version of the dangerous Gray Sheet Food Plan (regardless of the name it goes by in a particular fellowship or 12 Step group).

Occasionally I receive comments from readers of OveractiveFork that suggest I really have an “anger problem” based on the content of some of my posts.  Really…a food addict with “anger issues”?  How could that be? During the time I’ve spent in active addiction I’ve done my best to swallow my anger and faked being a “nice guy” (“Nice” = No Boundaries = People Pleaser = Doormat To Be Walked On). After all, doesn’t EVERYbody just love (not to mention) like anger-free people?  And surely in my active addiction I’ve been as hungry for love as I have been for Onion Rings!

So YES, in recovery, I darn well DO have anger. In recovery I experience a whole set of feelings that were numbed out during active addiction. So yes, I feel anger today.

I say GOOD for me having anger. Sometimes anger is a VERY APPROPRIATE emotion to have. I happen to believe that ALL people with any degree of SANE recovery will feel anger from time to time. How dare you (or me) expect me to be anything less than fully human? Yes, being angry IS part of the human experience!

Just for today my recovery allows me to have enough clarity so that I no longer confuse anger with other issues and emotions…

  • Anger is not the same thing as resentment. Feeling anger is therefore NOT the same thing as “re-feeling” it.
  • Anger is not always accompanied by hatred for the object of one’s anger.
  • I can feel BOTH anger AND love at the SAME time for the object of my anger.

Even Jesus Christ was known to get angry. Even the BIble says, “Be angry but sin not…” (Ephesians 4:26)…which, it seems to me, infers that it IS possible to be angry and NOT sin.  The same passage of Scripture also adds, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”, which tells me that healthy anger does not last forever.

Anger is not a bad thing, despite what one co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote about it in one sentence of the thousands of sentences he wrote in that fellowship’s literature. I’ have much respect for the wisdom found in the writing of Bill W., but he is not God and his opinion (speaking for myself as a Christian) is not a higher authority than Sacred Scripture.

Just for today, I refuse to be shamed for my anger. Just for today, I refused to allow other addicts shame me into silence about what I’m feeling angry about. Just for today, I respect my right to feel and constructively express my anger.

I don’t to speak on behalf of other addicts, but I believe that if I don’t “face my stuff, I’m going to stuff my face”.  So facing and expressing and  working on my anger is a whole lot healthier than “stuffing it down” with excess food, let alone a whole lot wiser than trying to “numb” my anger though avoiding doing physical movement.

It takes courage for me to face and feel my anger. It takes discipline to use the 12 Steps to work through my anger (working  through it sure beats “overeating over it”!) so I don’t remain stuck in it.

It’s been around seven months since I’ve posted to OveractiveFork. I would not be surprised if the judgmental types — especially the carbohydrate-phobic addicts — who read my blog have assumed that I’ve been in relapse during my silence.  I’m pleased to disappoint them: thanks for your “concern”, but I’ve been doing great.

In fact, I’ve released 9 more pounds since my most recent previous entry! Some self-hating food addicts would put down my “rate of weight loss” over the past seven months, but the fact is, was and will forever be: my rate of weight loss is NONE of their business.  🙂  I’ve noticed many times that the addicts with the most negative attitudes toward my recovery effort either have little or no recovery to show for themselves. Yet they never miss an opportunity to criticize those of us who DO have some degree of recovery.

With 110 pounds now released, I feel more than a little overwhelmed when I think about the remaining ### pounds that I still have to release before reaching an ideal body weight. How does my “recovery process” help me deal with “the numbers” that on many occasions have driven me crazy?

  • I really only have ONE pound to loose at any given time. One Pound At A Time (O.P.A.A.T.) then is how I release my excess body weight. Therefore I will keep my focus on JUST THE NEXT ONE POUND that I want to loose. Thankfully one pound is not overwhelming!
  • I now see my weight loss as the “fruit” of my recovery effort/journey INSTEAD OF the REASON WHY I’m addressing this aspect of my health and well-being in the first place. In other words, I’m NOT loosing weight in order to “be acceptable”. Instead I’m loosing weight BECAUSE I ALREADY AM acceptable, loving and worthwhile as a person. So whatever my weight does (increase or decrease) is NOT the sum total of my value as a precious child of God.
  • Now that I’ve reached the milestone of having released 110 pounds, Weight Watchers encourages me to set my next weight release goal — this means I don’t have to be concerned about loosing another XXX pounds (which I can choose to make my ultimate goal). Instead I can have an “interim goal”, which feels much less overwhelming than my ultimate goal. Interim weight loss goals remind me that I still have “work to do”, but NOT so much that the thought of it leaves me feeling overwhelmed.

So my current “interim goal” is to release 35 pounds. How will I release this excess weight?  Just O.P.A.A.T.. while I work my program of recovery just O.D.A.A.T. (One Day At A Time)!  🙂

As always, the rate of my weight loss is NONE of my business or your business (as a fellow addict). Only the opinions of God and the health care professionals who care for me count on any of the issues involved in my recovery.

Several years ago, I shared at a 12 Step meeting that I “never cope well” with rejection…to which a fellow member honestly responded to my lament with a question, “Who does deal well with rejection?”  Duh!  I wouldn’t be feeling my feelings if I didn’t feel pain immediately after (and for a long time to follow) being rejected by some other person.

So rejection will likely always hurt. This is an undeniable and unavoidable fact of life. Thanks to what I’ve learned over the years through my recovery efforts, HOW I (yes, me) choose to deal with the pain of rejection is where I have found that I have (to some degree) freedom to make the best of a painful situation.

What I’ve learned about coping with rejection from fellow addicts and others over the years includes…

— As an addict, when my commitment to my recovery is weak, then I tend to “handle” rejection by rejecting myself.  My self-rejection is acted out in many ways, including acting out with my drugs of choice and doing a poor job of self-care (self-care includes simple things like bathing, wearing clean clothes, shaving, keeping my apartment and vehicle tidy, etc.).
— Overeating (or acting out with other self-destructive addictions) can NOT (for any signifcant period of time) relieve me of the pain of rejection.
— “The only thing you get for sitting on the (Self-)Pity Pot is a ring around your butt!”
— Writing helps release the pain.
— I can forgive myself for making mistakes that may have contributed to another person’s rejection — and then learn from them so I don’t repeat them.
— Loving someone doesn’t mean I must give them the power to destroy my self-esteem.
— Loving someone doesn’t mean I must give them the power to reduce the level of  my self-esteem.
— I’m powerless over others,  so if other people want to stay stuck in their resentment against me, that is their choice and (after I make amends, if I believe amends is appropriate) then I just need to move on.
— I can choose to focus on the many people who love and accept me and IGNORE the relatively few people who have rejected me.
— I have a RIGHT to ME!!!  So if I must pretend to be someone I’m not in order to prevent being rejected by them, then I’m better off WITHOUT that person in my life.

The bottom line about rejection is that I recover from it’s devistation (as well as recover from other issues in my life that cause me pain) the same way I experience recovery from my self-destructive addictive behaviors: (no more than) One Day At A Time!  And if need be, Just Five Minutes At A Time!

I’m an addict and my problem is Dave!!!

Reader Responds: Hi Dave and Welcome!!!

In addiction to ingesting excessive amounts of food, avoiding physical exercise at all costs (along with a few dozen other substances and behaviors), several years ago I discovered that I’m also addicted to misery!

I can relate to the following dictionary definitions of misery: great mental or emotional distress; extreme unhappiness. One dictionary entry I found noted that in previous generations the word misery was often used to describe/identify a pain (e.g., “I’m experiencing a misery in my left side”).

Another dictionary entry that caught my eye claims that often times emotional misery is directly connected to our expectations and perceptions. If this is true (and I think it is) then maybe I/we addicts is/are at least a little (or a lot) responsible for my/our own misery?  Ya’ think!?!

DISCLAIMER: I also believe that sometime I get hooked in a state of misery because of clinical depression.  I would never accuse myself or others of choosing to be depressed. I believe depression is a disease and we don’t choose to experience.  BUT I do believe that we need to be (as much as humanly possible) for reaching out for help (professional and otherwise) when we are afflicted with depression.  Staying stuck in our depression — assuming that it is possible to overcome it with assistance — is truly a sad choice to make.

A special note to the Compulsive OverREADERS in our audience who regularly experience the compulsion to own every self-help book ever printed: I know of only one book on the twin topics of misery and addiction that I would encourage you to read. Addicted to Misery: The Other Side of Co-Dependency, by Robert A. Becker is long ago out-of-print, but you can find new and used copies for sale on Amazon.com, with used copies starting at under $4.00! If you must act out with your overREADING addiction, at least be a “value shopper”! 😀

Truly I could devote several paragraphs to discussing what I believe to be the many causes for the emotional misery that I have struggled with over the course of my life. But the fact of the matter is that whether it is “just a tendency” or is an outright addiction, I think that my frequent struggles with misery make it very difficult for me (at least at time) to experience FUN. Even during those periods of my life when I’m experiencing a decent amount of physical, emotional and spriritual recovery from my various addictions figuring out how to “have fun” can be a major challenge.

Why is HAVING FUN important?  Why is LEARNING HOW TO HAVE FUN an important skill to work at while in recovery?  Several years ago I met a guy who worked as a “recreation therapist” in an addiction treatment center.  For some reason I just had to ask him “why” addicts in treatment were in need of his expertise…Why do recovering addicts need to learn how to have fun, let alone be sure to have fun on a regular basis?

As best I can recall, my recreation therapist pal explained that addicts who, in their recovery, regularly took part in activities that they found to be “fun” were more likely to stay sober.  In part, he believed, it was a matter than we addicts must replace “self-destructive, insane addictions” with “healthy, sane addictions” in order to stay sober.

For some addicts the “fun stuff” includes physical activities (e.g., including physical exercise) that many us greatly overweight addicts are physically INcapable of doing. Yet physical limitations and disability issue are NOT a valid excuse to keep from having fun.  Even addicts with major limitations on their physical mobility CAN find things to do that they enjoy!  It may take a while to figure out/discover what we enjoy doing (other than acting out with our drug(s) of choice), but my experience is that it is worth the effort to figure out (and then participate in on a regular basis) hobbies and activities that we find to be FUN.

I enjoy Legos and can play with them for hours!  In fact, several years ago I invested $20.00 (they ain’t as cheap as they used to be) in a large box of this popular toy.  I still have to remind myself to play with my Legos, but at least I have identified something other than food that I enjoy spending time doing.  I suppose it would be ideal for me to find some forms of recreation that I can enjoy in the company of others (actually I do: board games, card games and taking in live entertainment, etc.), but the beuty of Legos is that I can enjoy them all by myself…and sometimes I just enjoy doing things (other than overeat) all by myself.

So to my fellow addicts who are reading: Please post a comment to let me know what you do for FUN!  Our other other readers and myself might benefit from knowing what you do to have FUN. It may be something our “terminally serious” selves might also enjoy doing, but never have considered it.

Quick! Somebody contact Cindy Lauper and ask her to record a song sure to be a hit with every recovering addict seeking freedom from misery: Addicts Just Wanna’ Have Fun

That’s all we addicts really want:
Some fun!
When the working day is done,
addicts – we want to have fun!
Oh addicts just want to have fun!

As an addict, I struggle to overcome self-centeredness in all of it’s forms. One area where my self-centeredness manifests itself is in the area of fear. Two of my biggest fears are that others will  reject me and will shame me in a toxic manner by unloading mountains of harsh criticism on me.

Because of these fear issues — and for other possibly good reasons — I’ve avoided posting to OveractiveFork specific details about my food intake and exercise effort.  I’m not ashamed of what I eat and how much I exercise most days, but I fear that those addicts who demonize carbohydrates and exercise bulimics for whom NO amount of exercise is ever “good enough” would surely overwhelm me with criticism if they only knew what I was eating and much (or how little — depending on one’s perspective) that I exercise. So I ask: Why put myself through the potential of being sent abusive e-mail messages from fellow addicts who 1) are NOT my sponsor and 2) are NOT any sort of health care professional? Answer: I don’t need to put myself through such harsh judgementalness that the posting of food intake and exercise data would surely generate.

The other reason I wont post such personal information on OveractiveFork is because I would never want the specifics of my food and exercise plans to be followed by the readers of this blog.  I’m NOT a dietician or exercise physiologist so I would hope that I NEVER prescribe food or exercise plans for fellow addicts.  And I would not want any addict reading my blog to follow my plans becuase they were too lazy, fearful or arrogant to seek out the advice on such matters that I believe should ONLY come from a health care professional.

I do write down what I eat and how much I exercise on a regular basis.  But that information will be shared ONLY with professionals who are in a position to offer me sound advice and appropriate feedback when such information is shared with them.  I may also choose to share this information privately with fellow addicts, but NOT in order to obtain feedback and/or advice that should only come from a professional.

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