Monday, April 6, 2009

Food Addiction

This post is also available on my writing blog

In conference this weekend, Elder Robert D. Hales mentioned food addiction in relation to debt. I was so interested that he would recognize food addiction in the long list of other addictions like drugs or money. Here is what he said:

Today, I speak to all whose freedom to choose has been diminished by effects of ill-advised choices of the past. I speak specifically of choices that have led to excessive debt and addictions to food, drugs, pornography and other patterns of thought and action that diminished one's sense of self-worth.
I've been thinking about food addiction and what it is and what it looks like. To me, food addiction looks like a never-ending obsession with food. Where can I get it? How can I get it? How much of it can I consume? What is the soonest possible moment I can consume it? When can I eat again?

Addiction is an ugly monster to house in your closet. It is scary and overwhelming and feels very, very complex.

In seeking to overcome debt and addictive behaviors, we should remember the addiction is a craving of the natural man and can never be satisfied. It is insatiable as an appetite. When we are addicted we seek those worldly possessions or physical pleasures that seem to entice us. But as a child of God our deepest hunger and what we should be seeking for is what the Lord alone can provide: his love, his sense of worth, his security, his confidence, his hope in the future and assurance of his love which brings us eternal joy.
In my life, I've found that food addiction is certainly insatiable. There are so many food triggers that set up a craving that is insatiable. How many times have you opened a bag of chips and not been able to put them down until the whole bag is gone? What about baking a batch of cookies? Did you eat every last one? Have you ever dreamed about a food so intensely that you had to make it and eat as soon as possible?

I don't think it is wrong to dream about food, enjoy food, celebrate food and even immerse ourselves in food and feasting at times. I do know though that addictive eating does not usually come with celebration or joy. Addictive eating for me has occurred most often in secret and most often alone. Addictive eating is caused by and sets off a powerful brew of chemical and biological warfare in your body that feels insurmountable.

I've spent so much of my life wishing to be filled and never quite reaching that place. Have you ever had a full-to-bursting stomach and yet you were still hungry? I have. It is the common predicament in our society of being undernourished but overfed. There is too much food that is simply empty of nutrition but filled with white flour, white sugar and saturated fats. Which one of the many food items you purchase each week is filled with one of those items? For me, it has been too many.

The hopeful thing that I would want to share about food addiction is that I believe it is often misunderstood. I think people who suffer from food addiction know that something very powerful is happening in their bodies but have no idea what set it off or how to shut it down.

That's how I felt at least.

I've had a lead balloon feeling in my stomach from too much food and yet I can't stop my brain from thinking about the next thing I'm going to eat.

I've also had the opposite occur when I ate a whole bunch of broccoli that had been roasted with olive oil and pine nuts. After several bites, I suddenly felt very profoundly full, a condition which was just the opposite of my overfed and undernourished where I was instead fed well and nourished well.

Learning how to nourish the body, feed the soul and shut down the addiction--this has been the scariest, hardest journey in my life.

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