If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you are probably familiar with the term “food addict.”
For a pretty long while I’ve been very comfortable using that term to describe myself, or more accurately, using the term “processed food addict.”
But I’ve witnessed many people in the community who are very bothered by these terms. At first, I kind of blew off their opinions, but recently I’ve had a chance to really think about their reservations.
I started to toy with the idea of dropping the label for myself, based on some reading that I’ve been doing (Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth) and working with the concept of The Law of Attraction (inspired by our work in the HGK private book club with the book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution by Dave Andrews and Jack Canfield).
I’m not saying that I have the answers, I’m just saying that I think this is a conversation I need to be engaged in.
A few days ago I received the following e-mail:
“Your thoughts on dropping the food addict label resonate with me as does the idea of finding my own food balance. I am paying more attention to how I feel with certain foods and basing my limits on that. Mentally, I feel like I am setting myself up when I impose super strict rules around my eating. I feel like I may get into the all or nothing thinking that I am so good at. Lately, I have been more ‘easy’ with myself. Of course, the things that I know, for certain, are triggers, I will stay away from. I am noticing that the potatoes are really heavy for me and I feel better with quinoa and wild rice. I will try millet and other grains just to see. The more awareness that I have the better I am at navigating everything. Thanks!”
I can’t tell you the number of people that have near violent reactions to labeling themselves a food (or sugar) addict. So it really got me thinking, is it helpful to label yourself a “food addict” or more accurately a “processed food addict?”
I began to really implement the law of attraction into my life after taking a weekend long life coaching course with The Handel Group. They didn’t use the words, “Law of Attraction,” but they had us write down our dreams for different areas of our life. One thing that I wrote down, that ended up becoming a personal mantra for me, was “I am an athlete and a yoga goddess.”
Now, at the time, I was NOT an athlete, nor was I a yoga goddess. But they encouraged us to read our dreams to ourselves every day, and I quickly figured out that if I said those words to myself (silently, in my head, of course) as I practiced yoga, that my postures became better and I could do poses differently than when I didn’t say those words to myself.
I quickly became much stronger, more balanced and I had a lot more stamina.
So my thoughts really were creating my reality.
And this wasn’t a one time yoga experience. I continue to see real progress daily as I show up on my mat and use the principles of The Law of Attraction. I am healing old injuries by repeating to myself, “I breathe in healing in my hip” or “I breathe out healing in my hamstring.” I’ve got some old, lingering injuries and I’m finally starting to make this mind body connection to my ability to heal myself.
But back to the “food addict” label.
If I am saying to myself, “I am a food addict,” then it stands to reason that I will behave exactly as a food addict does-I will act in an out of control way around hyper palatable foods, or maybe even perfectly healthy foods. Overeating, binge eating, sneak eating. The list goes on and on. I’m aware of multiple folks who are binging on potatoes and broccoli. And NOBODY wants that, certainly not me.
If I label myself as a food addict, and I eat food that I have determined is not on my food plan du jour, I might even feel bad, as if I have fallen off of the wagon the way a drug addict or alcoholic might, and then I need to “start over” from scratch with my food sobriety. This cycle of beating myself up might even promote my eating more unfavorable foods as I get myself into a negative head space that is more often than not relieved by using my drug of choice (food).
So maybe calling myself a food addict isn’t such a good thing after all.
But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, because having a sense of boundaries with foods that don’t promote my health just might be essential to improving my health.
So recently I’ve toyed with the idea of holding space in my mind and body with two thoughts at one time:
Thought Number 1: There is nothing wrong with me. I am not broken. I am not a project that needs fixing. I love myself. I am perfect as I am. (Hence, dropping the addict label.)
Thought Number 2: Eating sugar and flour (or oil or salt or whatever it is that I suspect is (a) making me crazy and bloated or (b) causing my health to suffer) is not in my best interest as evidenced by how my mind and body reacted to those substances in the past. And I want to act in my best interest as often as I can, within reason (progress, not perfection, is the magic). So, I want to stay away from sugar and flour as much as I am able to, because that is a way that I can honor myself.
Can both of these things be true all at once? Can I be perfect as I am right now and still not be able to eat from all that life offers up in front of me?
I’m going to say that I believe they can. I believe that this is a very mature way of approaching the dilemma.
Now, IF labeling yourself a “food addict,” a “sugar addict,” or a “processed, food addict” is helpful to you, because it reminds you to stay clear of processed foods AND this does not cause you unnecessary emotional distress, then by all means, FLY YOUR FOOD ADDICT FLAG.
I often do, but in a rather lighthearted kind of way! Like when people offer me food that I don’t want to eat and I announce jokingly, “If I ate one of those I’d eat the whole box, I’m a sugar addict!” This easily gets me off the hook to trying the sugary concoction and I’m okay with that.
But, on the other hand, if using terminology like “food addict” with myself plants an impression in my mind that I am not in control of my food decisions and that there is a force outside of myself that makes me eat food that is not in my best interest, that may not be a healthy label for me.
It’s really important to surround yourself with things that uplift you, not labels that bring you down. Do I NEED this label in order to make progress with my health goals?
So here’s my conclusion:
Only use this label if it helps you, because if it doesn’t, it’s frankly a waste of your valuable energy and is not only unnecessary but harmful.
I think for now, I’m going to stick with my experiment of dropping the label, and believing in the power of my own healthy mind.
I wish you positive movement toward your health goals. I wish you peace with food.
And of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!