Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Food is my drug

For many of us, it begins in childhood...maybe even as early as when we are toddlers.  When we are hurt or sad...disappointed or angry, we are taught that food...a treat...will make us feel better.  Time and time again we are taught that food makes everything better.  It's not like our parents sit us down and tell us that food will make us feel better.  We are slowly conditioned over time to learn this, and then it's reinforced over and over and over.  It was done to me, and I in turn did it to my children early on.  It wasn't conscious at the time but I think back and realize how natural it is to do this.

I remember when my oldest was 1 and I got her ears pierced.  She started to cry and what did I do?  I gave her a lollipop and it was like magic.  She became so fixated on the treat that she immediately stopped crying.  I was training her and me at the same time.  As I write this, I think back to how many times one of my kids has had a bad day and I ask them if they want to go for ice cream.  I don't ever think about it when I'm doing it.  I just think that as parents, many times we do what we know works and because our intention is never to harm...we don't think about the possible bad we could be doing.

I've never done an illegal drug in my life, but I know first hand what it feels like to be addicted.  It's something I've struggled with since adolescence.  Food has always been my drug.  When I'm sad, I eat.  When I'm stressed, I eat.  When I'm mad, I eat.  And you know what?  It really DOES make me feel better.  Just like any other drug, it numbs the pain and dissipates the frustration.  But just like any other drug, the effect is temporary.  And when it's effects wear off, the problem or stresses that created the need in the first place are still there and the desire for more grows.

A drug addict can stay away from situations and people that will tempt them or make it easy for them to use, but I can't avoid food.  It's around me every day and I need it to survive.  I've spent the better part of my life having a love/hate relationship with food.  It's my best friend and my worst enemy.  It wasn't until I hit a very low point in my life that I found an alternative.
I was raising 3 small children with a husband that worked long hours to provide well for us.  I spent many hours alone or with no adult companionship.  My whole life was about caring for others and I never made time for me and things were happening personally that left me feeling unloved and worthless.  Some days food was all I had to keep me company...to console me...to "love" me and make me feel better.  And just like any other drug, my addiction became worse until I could no longer control it and spiraled into a very deep depression...so deep it required an anti depressant.

As I started to feel better from the medication, I started to realize that food was not the answer.  I had been so depressed that I was physically fatigued and never worked out.  Once I started to get some relief from the symptoms of depression, I began working out.  I found a new "high" and a new way to live.  I began noticing that when my stress was building, a workout relieved the symptoms just life food had before...only I was not only making myself feel better, I was improving my appearance and health at the same time.  I found a sense of inner strength that I had lost when I let food and depression take over my life.

As hard as that time was, I wouldn't trade it for all the money in the world.  It made me who I am and taught me things I wouldn't have learned otherwise.  It helped me become a better parent and a more understanding person.  I still remember the day my daughter wanted to skip swim team practice because she was sad and had had a bad day.  I promised her that if she went and worked out as hard as she could, she would feel better.  She didn't believe me but went and came out smiling an hour later excited to tell me that I was right and she felt better.

Remember this.  Remember when you are sad or frustrated or stressed.  Avoid what comes natural or easy.  Don't console yourself with food.  Make yourself better.  Workout.  Think of it as a gift to yourself...time for just you to get away and make yourself feel better.  Food may be the most abused anxiety drug and exercise may be the most underutilized antidepressant, but it doesn't have to be that way.  You know better.  Now go do better and set an example for others as you do!



  1. What a great post! What you said is true. I have a 1-year old and you have reminded me not to offer food as a reward. I'm so glad I am a parent now rather than when I was in my 20s, when all I ate was fast food and rarely cooked. Now I cook for my little family every day. It is hard for me to get motivated to workout, however. I think today before I get home from work I will go for a run. I am running a zombie 5K in October and need to prepare! Thanks for your post.

  2. So, so, true Marsha. Great post!

  3. Been missing your posts!! Thanks for the read and I can absolutely relate! Thank you!