Underexercising


Dave: I’m a food addict — powerless over the dual-addiction of overeating and underexercising — and my problem is Dave!
Reader: Hi, Dave and welcome back!

Yes, I have “un-lurked” after a few years and writing again in this space known as OveractiveFork! It is my blog, right?  🙂

<soap box mode = “ON”>
With the death of my mother in January 2009 I got away from working on this blog and got into working on a blog related to problems in the nursing home industry. I believe that pathetic nursing home care contributed to my mother’s death. Resentful? Yes. I’m also hopeful that as I carry the message of nursing home reform and work with others (sounds kind of 12 Step, huh?) involved in the fight that nursing home care can improve and that corporate greed will not have the last word. The battle to reform the nursing home industry is far from being over. My recovery from codependency and food addiction has taught me that all of these “outside issues” can be faced in a health way that doesn’t have to threaten my recovery.
<soap box mode = “OFF”>

So yeah, I’m still working a program of recovery for what I identify as my “double-sided addiction” of overeating and underexercising. I’m making progress — one day and one pound at a time — which is how we addicts recover, isn’t it?

As I’ve experienced recovery, and the weight loss that goes with it, I’ve gone through some changes involving my spirituality and sexuality. More about those changes in future blog entries…except to quote a male friend in Overeaters Anonymous who shared that he noticed a “connection” between his appetite for sex and his appetite for food. He created a couple of “art objects” to illustrate this realtionship. One item he came up with was a patchwork quit consisting of condom packages AND condiment packages. The name for his masterpiece was, “Some Days I Just Don’t Know What To Put On My Hot Dog!”  🙂 When I think of hot dogs of course I see two sexual references — one has to do with the MEAT and the other has to do with the BUN that goes with it! <blush>

I’ll be redesigning OveractiveFork over the next few weeks, adding some new pages and deleting at least one. You’ll also notice a new feature with each blog entry I call “Chew On This”, in which I share my thought on recovery reading that I’ve recently “consumed.” Wow. You mean we can take in knowledge and inspiration like we can food? What a concept!

CHEW ON THIS…

— It is said that “The newcomer is the most important person at any (12 Step) meeting.

— 12 Step meetings/groups exist in order to “Carry the Message” to the “still-suffering addict”, regardless of how long the one who is suffering has been around 12 Step fellowships (oldtimers, newcomers and everyone in-between can experience stuggles and pain. I want to be here for them…in giving to them of my experience, strength and hope, I’m renewed in my commitment to “keep coming back, one day at a time”.  That sounds great, but when it comes down to it, what is the “message” being carried by/presented to the still-suffering addict? If all they do not find hope and mostly find excuses and negativity they wont find a reason to keep coming back and the group/meeting will eventually go out of existence.

— “We carry the message, not the addict.” True. It isn’t my job to work their program and they have a Higher Power who is NOT me. I share my experience, strength and hope and then I LET IT GO! I do not nag or preach at my fellow addicts. Healthy, loving sharing is NOT the same as judging, preaching or nagging.

 

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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.

Dave: I‘m an addict and my problem is Dave!  My drugs of choice are food addiction and exercise avoidance. I abuse my body with food in order to numb painful emotions (especially fear and rage) and avoid exercise because I lack the discipline to take good care of my body and because I’ve elevated lazyness to an artform. I’m grateful to be experiencing the gift of recovery from both sides of my addiction today — just for today — one day at a time!

Reader Responds: Hi Dave and welcome!!!

spilledicecreamconeAs an addict who has a long history of abusing my body with food, for today I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done some crazy stuff when it comes to acting out with my drugs of choice — especially food.  My insane behaviors with food include, but are not limited to…

— Picking up food that I’ve dropped on the floor and then eating it.
— Picking up food that I’ve dropped on the sidewalk or even parking lot and then eating it.
— Eating food that is still half-frozen.
— Eating food that is partially stale.
— Eating food so fast that I don’t even hardly taste what I’m  eating.
— Eating food (which includes drinking beverages) so fast that I nearly choke on it.
— Eating so much food that it leaves me over-stuffed and short of breath.
— Eating so much food that it leaves me so lethargic that you would think I was on dope.
— Circa 1984: At one meal eating 19 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken, along with all sorts of sides (e.g., mashed potatoes and gravy, slaw, biscuits, baked beans, etc.) while INSISTING on drinking ONLY Diet Coke! My justification was that “real food addicts would have ate 20 pieces of friend chicken, while I _only_ ate 19 pieces!

Other than these things, my behavior with food over the years has been reasonable sane.  HA!!! 😀

So I was on my way to shop at my neighborhood Walgreen’s last night and I noticed a gentleman that I assumed to be a Nicotine Addict toss his cigarette (which he didn’t extinguish) on the SIDEWALK in front of the store, only to emerge from said store a few minutes later and proceed to PICK UP AND PLACE IN HIS MOUTH his still-burning cigarette!  Honest!!!

Before I could cope a totally judgmental attitude toward this smoking stranger, I remembered some of the INSANE things I’d done with food (see my Short List above) and realized that I was in NO position to judge the man who did the SAME behavior with a lit cigarette that I had done with food…even when I’m NOT overeating I have been known to place food in my mouth that has landed on the floor, a sidewalk or parking lot. “There but for the grace of God go I”, eh?

Why be so open about my checkered history with food?  Because I learned a long time ago that I/we addicts are only as sick as our worst secrets. Also, when I share my sickest secrets I am much LESS likely to repeat them! To get them “out in the open” also reduces the weight of my guilt and shame that these sick secrets have caused me.  In recovery I am afforded many opportunities to come out of secrecy and into the light of honesty.

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!

So far I’m pleased to report that I’m having a GREAT day today! Specifically…

  • I’m not obsessing about food to the point of overeating, which means that following the POINTS food plan has been fairly easy.
  • I’ve already exercised for over 25 minutes (between walking and doing upper-body exercises with one of the Sweatin’ To The Oldies videos).
  • I attended my regular weekly Weight Watchers meeting today, which provided me with good information.
  • I also faced my fear and weighed-in twice today!  After church I weighed in at a local health club and then later at my WW meeting. The results of my two weigh-ins are none of my business. What is my business is that I faced my fear and weighed in twice today.
  • I’ve felt a really connection to God today. Having fairly few distractions in my life today has likely helped me find the grace to eat sanely and exercise moderately.
  • Outside of Weight Watchers I’ve connected with another addict to share (and receive) experience, strength and hope.

I don’t want to make it sound like I haven’t had any negative emotions, stress or unpleasantness in my life today. But where I have encountered these things, I’ve found the grace to NOT overeat over them and to NOT use them as an excuse to avoid physical exercise.

I don’t like to give public feedback to what folks publicly write in response to my blog. I’d rather respond privately for fear of embarrassing anyone. But embarrass or not, I just gotta’ respond to the dear lady who shared about being part of Compulsive Eaters Anonymous – H.O.W. fellowship (her comments are posted elsewhere on OveractiveFork) and trying to avoid foods with refined carbohydrates (as is required by this and some other 12 Step groups that deal with food addiction).

We Don't Need Judgmental 12 Steppers Any More Than We Need Judgmental "Earth People"

"People Who Judge Don't Matter. People Who Matter Don't Judge."

First, I beg you to GET AWAY FROM (and get away from) AS FAST AS YOU CAN) any 12 Step group that would attempt to dictate your food plan!!! This should ONLY be done by a health care professional and NEVER done by a fellow addict, a groups of fellow addicts or even a whole fellowship of fellow addicts!!!

When it comes to 12 Step groups that demand you ONLY share “positive thoughts”? What a crock! In authentic 12 Step recovery we get honest about/face/embrace and then release our pain and suffering. Sharing ONLY “positive” things in meetings is NOT being REAL about the anguish that our disease causes us! The reality is that many moments during our recovery process will be less than “positive”! Authentic recovery requires CHANGE and change can be PAINFUL (though it is usually far LESS painful than our addiction).

We abused ourselves enough through acting out our food addiction (and for some of us, also through acting out our exercise avoidance addiction). I do not need any 12 Step group (or group member[s]) to abuse me anymore than I’ve already abused myself!  IMHO, these carbohydrate-phobic groups (and the individuals who can’t seem to find recovery without them) are DANGEROUS to our wellbeing. They are BAD news, through and through!

I could go on and on about the dangers of these groups and the harm that their approach to recovery poses to those who adhere to their brand of insanity. But to “cut to the chase”, let me just say that if you can’t find someone in one of these groups that has long-lasting recovery (e.g., two years or more of consecutive recovery), that alone should serve as a testimony to the FACT that what they offer is bogus, toxic and totally BAD news!

My experience around these carb-phobic folks is that it is rare to find anyone who has more than three to six months continuous recovery in these groups. You might find some impressive weight loss among some of these individuals, but the majority maintain any weiight loss for only a short amount of time — just like we experienced with dieting.  I don’t know about you, but I’m wanting a substantially BETTER result than I had with dieting!  Dieting is NO way to have to live.

Since I stated in a previous post that I do NOT believe that food is something to be “feared” by us addicts  (either in terms of seeing it, smelling it or (gasp!) even thinking about it), I’d like to discuss the issue of when and if it is ever approriate for a food addict to avoid food.

What I’m sharing about this (like hopefully most everything I discuss on OveractiveFork) is based on my experience, strength and hope. This means that what I’m about to share is based on real life experience and is not some sort of intellectual theory that has not been tested in my own life.

Fact 1: We DO have to deal with food in the “real world”. It surrounds us everyday and everywhere. 

Fact 2: We really SHOULD have to eat some food each in order to survive. So “avoiding” food entirely isn’t a sane option.

The plate may be empty, but the head is oh so full!!!Considering the two facts presented above, why is it that some food addicts expect 12 Step recovery — recovery intended to help us overcome our addiction, One Day At A Time — to play into, encourage or enable the fear of facing food?  Authentic recovery, IMHO, recogizes that food is not our problem!!! Our “problem” is the addiction to overeating (and, for many us, we also have an addiction that leads us to avoid physical exercise at all costs). Treating our addiction — not devising schemes to avoid food — is the proper focus of my recovery efforts.

Yes, Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous begins, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol…”, but it does NOT state that we are powerless over our elbows, our mouths or making choices that will ultimately enhance our recovery. We addicts ARE powerless, to be sure, but we are NOT hopeless!

Does that mean I go out of my way to “test my recovery”?  Not at all. My recovery from my addiction is a precious gift. My recovery is not a game to be played with. So I do not go out of my way to tempt myself to overeat (or underexercise). Likewise I would never encourage any other addict to play games with their recovery, nor would I encourage them to fear food or take “heroic measures” to avoid it.

My experience in meetings of Overeaters Anonymous over the years has given me exposure to some fellowship members who need to avoid even the thought of food. IMHO, this is more about trying to control the behavior of other members than it is about working their own program of recovery. So if attend an OA meeting where someone states that the mere mention of food is NOT allowed, please find a DIFFERENT meeting to attend!!!!  Telling a member that they can’t mention food by it’s actual, specific name is nothing less than flamingly co-dependent behavior!

I’ve personally checked (on a number of occasions over the years) with Overeaters Anonymous World Service Office (www.oa.org), OA’s Regional Trustees and other trusted servants of the OA fellowship and ALL of them have stated to me that NO official (or even suggested) rule exists about prohibiting (or even discouraging) the mention of food during meetings. To the best of my investigating, it appears that this is yet another crock of crap that has come about thanks to the anti-carbohydrate fanaticists known as the dreded “H.O.W. Movement”. To says the least, these “sugar-and-flour-phobics” do not represent the besting thinking found within the Overeaters Anonymous fellowship!

Find me a H.O.W. Movement devotee who has long-term recovery from weight loss — I just dare you to find even one!  Yes, you can find some who have lost lots of excess weight, but find me one who has been at goal weight for more than a year or two?  They just can’t be found! NObody can follow their food plan (rigid, perfectionistic and unbalanced as it is).  That food plan is one of the most extremely dangerous forms of a diet (NOT a “food plan” in the healthy sense, but a “diet” in the worst sense of that word) that has ever existed.

If you know about the history of Overeaters Anonymous, then you know that the original writer of the “Grey Sheet food plan” (which has been mal-adapted by numorous H.O.W. cultists over the years) was written by an OA member who wasn’t even a dieticician! I don’t know about y’all, but I’d trust another addict to write my food plan as much as I’d trust a pyromaniac to be a fireman! –> In other words, It is NOT a good idea!!!

Now that I’ve warned y’all about the H.O.W. Movement, I want to share that — based on my experience, strength and hope — that working and living the 12 Steps (O.D.A.A.T.) is the best way I’ve found to rob food of it’s power to control my thinking, let alone my choices when it comes to what and how much I eat.

Working and living the 12 Steps — over and over, O.D.A.A.T. — relieves me of guilt, shame, fear and a whole host of other negativity that kept me both in bondage to food and yet also fearful of it. The 12 Steps have allowed me to overcome (O.D.A.A.T. — it doesn’t usually happen overnight!) my co-dependency issues that kept tangled in UNhealthy relationships with toxic individuals. I no longer have to stay involved in (or stuck in woundedness from) UNhealthy relationships that only fed into my addiction to OVEReat.

Do I ever “avoid” persons, places and/or situations where I would likely find it only too easy to overeat?  Yes, from time to time (even as recently as this past Sunday) I do avoid such situations…BUT NOT because they can “magically force” me to overeat. Rather I stay away from this persons, places and/or situations because I (stated positively) make choices today that enhance the quality of my life and my recovery. Hanging out around “food pushers” only adds to my stress level. They can’t “force” me to overeat, but why hang out with people who almost certainly get on my nerves? It just doesn’t make sense.

Just for today, I don’t choose to keep certain foods near me (in my kitchen) because I know “my history” with those foods. Why place myself in constant temptation to overeat? Thankfully I’m following a nutritionally-sane food plan that allows me to choose from a wide variety of foods, so I don’t get bored just because I choose to stay away from certain foods. But I’m NOT staying away from any food because I’m afraid of it. I simply respect my history with it and don’t choose to repeat it. I seem to recall that someone once said“Those who can’t remember the past are destined to repeat it”.

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