Name Your Vice

When we use the word addiction, the first that come to mind are drugs, alcohol, smoking, sex or gambling. These are the ones we perceive to have the obvious stronghold, the forbidden stigma and unsavory consequences.

There are however, so many other addictions that are considered to be nothing more than a vice. In most cases they are seen as a somewhat forbidden “habit” that are typically brought up in an offhanded way when asked about our guiltiest pleasures.

We proclaim “I am a chocoholic” “ I am a sugar fiend” or “I love fried chicken” Since they are part of everyday living and not typically done in a crack house or a dark alley, they are somehow viewed as more acceptable. It is a way we all connect to one another because everyone has something, right?

What is interesting is that we rarely like to attach the concept of addiction to these vices. When we think of issues related to food in general, it typically takes on a less serious connotation. It seems more manageable and nothing a good diet plan and some discipline can’t solve.

The reality is that food can have the same grip on us as pills or alcohol. It is a classically subtle coping mechanism. It acts as self-medication used to blunt the edges when our thinking takes us to dark places. The same way a good stiff cocktail can take away the stress of a hectic day, a painful breakup or distant thoughts of past mistakes. Food can do the same.

This state of being addicted and out of control when it comes to food and overeating can be a difficult one to wrap our heads around.  It can feel overwhelming to realize that the way we fuel out bodies has not only veered off course, but has taken on a life of it’s own. After all, eating is not something we can quit, entirely anyway. We can’t just hop on the wagon and swear if off for good.

So we get to a point of crisis, much like a drug addict does when bottoming out. However, in a strange way, those dependent on drugs could actually have a bit of a strange advantage. They requested the epidural well before the baby arrived. Their substance of choice typically offers up the ultimate pain suppressant and can mute the feelings of plummeting self-esteem and self loathing for the short term anyway. 

The overeater on the other hand, feels and sees the results of their actions in painfully sharp focus every day. They experience it with the intensity of a freight train any time they look in the mirror, try on a bathing suit or walk up a flight of stairs. The feeling of disconnect that comes from mind altering substances would actually be a welcomed trap door for the overeater to escape the insecurities they can experience with such intensity.

So the breaking point typically comes in the form of an immediate need to do something about the way we ‘look’ or feel about ourselves. The problem is that we try to apply a quick fix to a problem by creating a diet or rulebook for ourselves to follow. This is our first mistake.

By looking for more discipline, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We create a punitive environment where feelings of deprivation thrive and the margin for error becomes very small. For those of us who are already beating ourselves up about everything under the sun, this approach is a recipe for disaster. Excuse the pun.

In order to face the problem head on and to ensure that the behavior change is sustainable, a recovery process of sorts needs to take place. Treating overeating the same you would treat other addictions is the only way to beat it. This involves looking at the thoughts that drive the behavior and setting up an environment that is conducive to success.

There are so many diets and plans out there that claim to help us feel and look better. The point that is missed is the incredibly powerful link between body and mind. Without awareness of how one drives the other, and a deep look into the cause behind the addiction, all the diets in the world are not going to make us thinner or happier with ourselves. 

Noelle Van Coaching



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