Dr. Kivette Parkes
A very personal insight to the psychology of an addict
We live in a culture of plenty. As a society, we increasingly reinforce the idea of having bigger, better and more of everything that is considered good. With the growth of technology and increased access to jobs, money and having the world at our fingertips, people living in 2009 are positioned to take advantage of the best that life has to offer in terms of transportation, education, housing, fashion and of course food. Gone are the days when we had to raise life stock for meat or spend all day in the fields planting and harvesting crops for food. No longer do we spend hours preparing a meal using fresh produce slowly cooked over a natural wood fire. Nowadays, the average person has no time or interest in eating wholesome natural foods. Preparing time-consuming meals for the family, instead delicious alternatives in the form of fast food, restaurants, bakeries, microwavable meals, cakes and snacks provide a time effective solution. It works well for many people, but the lack of emphasis on good nutrition has had grave effects on our health. The incidence of obesity, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular issues have all dramatically increased despite the advent of new drugs and major strides in health care. One culprit that has sparked many lifestyle conditions, particularly obesity, is the little known disorder, food addiction.
This is the story of Paula. Her story provides some insight into food addiction and how she managed it naturally.
Paula a twenty-nine year-old, wife and mother of two children, ages 4 and 2, has always had trouble keeping her weight in a normal range. She is smart, sophisticated, well educated and seems to balance all her responsibilities well. She works as a Bank Manger and enjoys her job very much. She is active in her church and has a vibrant family and social life. She goes out to social gatherings often and exercises regularly and tries her best to eat well. Paula’s biggest problem is that she really likes sweet, sugary food and tends to consume large amounts of it almost unintentionally. At 5’4″, she weighed 238 pounds. She made the decision to find out why she was so overweight in order to reverse the problem once and for all. She read many books and followed all the latest fad diets in the past, but she never had any significant or lasting success. Under my advice, she started a journal and these are some excerpts from her writings.
“The kids are asleep, my husband is away on a business trip and I am alone, just sitting here watching t.v. it seems like the perfect time to relax and unwind, but all I can think of is eating a slice of that stupid strawberry cheese cake that is sitting in the refrigerator. I am not hungry, I had dinner about an hour ago but I feel I must have it… . I just ate it, not just one slice but three, I don’t know what is wrong with me. I know its bad for me and I feel crappy now that that I have had it. Actually, I felt crappy before I had it, now the guilt is overwhelming, I can’t live like this. And now thinking about it makes me sick.”
“Today was bad. I went to dinner lunch with a few friends and the restaurant offered a buffet and every one was enjoying it. I was enjoying too because they had all my favorite foods. I felt like everyone was watching me, because they know I am supposed to be on this new diet but I couldn’t help myself, I just kept eating and eating long after I was full. My friend Julie only ate a plate of salad with grilled chicken, but she is skinny. She can do that, I am much bigger so I need to eat more to sustain myself. But I knew they were watching me and I felt so bad… But I can’t help it that I need more food.”
“It was my son’s birthday today and we had a little party at the house. I was so sad and disappointed with myself because I kept sneaking a slice of the cake whenever I was alone in the kitchen then to make matters worst, my neighbors’ son came into the kitchen and caught me, and I lied to him. He asked what I was eating and I said nothing and I didn’t know how the frosting got on my cheek. I lied to a 4 year old. Why did I lie to a four year old? I lie to my husband about food, I lie to my doctor, I lie to everyone. I know what’s wrong with me, I am a liar. Just a big fat liar.”
“Seriously, God made me fat and that is just how I am. I tried to wear my grey pants today and they didn’t fit. I go to the gym and work out 3 times a week, sometimes more but it’s not working. I eat healthy sometimes but I just have a weakness for junk food. I don’t know why some people can eat all day long and never gain weight and I indulge a little once in a while and I gain a ton. Life is unfair. I hate this. And this stupid diet is not working. I haven’t really cheated that much and I have been eating salads and fruits and I drink lots of water but I just don’t see any change. I still get cravings and I feel so guilty, like a big fat failure.”
A New Approach
Now after analyzing Paula’s journal entries, I decided to try a unique approach to her treatment because I realized that her issues were more mental-emotional than physical. I told her to forget about dieting and working out for a month. She was free to do anything she wanted. She could eat anything and only had to exercise if she really wanted. The only rule I gave to her was to take a minute before meals to relax and imagine that everything she ate was filled with good nutrients that will help her lose the weight and protect her body from disease. She was also instructed to make sure she felt good about every choice because every choice was good and in keeping with our new plan. She was a little hesitant and looked at me wide eyed when I told her she could eat absolutely anything she desired, even cheesecake! She returned a month later, and this excerpt from her journal sums up her experience with the new program.
“I am still a little shocked by the simplicity of what I am doing. All I do is eat whatever I want. I don’t care about calories or what everybody thinks. This is crazy. It’s almost a month and I stepped on the scale today, and I have lost 12 pounds. I don’t understand it. But I feel great! I haven’t felt this free in years. It’s like someone had lifted a burden off my shoulders and all I have to do is nothing. I know I don’t have to exercise or anything but I have been walking almost everyday for the past two weeks. I go down to the park and while the children play for about an hour or so, I walk around just observing nature and the different plants.”
On our visit we talked at length about how she was feeling emotionally and I introduced her to a technique for positive thinking, self-reflection and meditation. We also analyzed her daily schedule and came up with a nutritional plan to continue her weight loss. The plan entailed eating mostly fruits and vegetables and healthy meat and fish. She was also put on dietary supplements, which included a whole food supplement, B.complex and fish oil.
Here is a sample day of the plan:
Breakfast 7:00 a.m: 1 protein smoothie with blended fruits.
Snack 10 a.m: 1 apple and a few grapes with 1 tbsp. almond butter
Lunch 12:30 p.m: Grilled chicken wrap with garden salad
Snack 3:30 p.m: 1 cup of mixed nuts with raisins and carrot juice
Dinner 7:00 p.m.: Baked Red Snapper, Brown rice, Steamed cabbage with mushrooms and carrots
Throughout the day � 8 glasses of water and 1 cup of herbal tea.
I concluded that Paula’s issue with food was largely attributed to the sense of restriction. She grew up in a large middle class family where food was usually enough, however since she was one of the younger siblings, had to sneak food in order to prevent her older brothers from taking it. Her parents were very strict and prevented the children from indulging in candy and other sweets, therefore Paula learned from an early age to skillfully attain and devour these items without detection. She started gaining weight as a result of this and developed a very negative view of herself and the foods she loves so much. If she felt the item was off limits, especially an item that she like very much such as cake, she would have a great desire to consume that item often, and in large amounts. This behavior was mostly due to her naturally rebellious nature and fear that she will be unable to consume anymore of it in the future. The key to her recovery was to remove the feelings of restrictions by allowing her to eat absolutely anything she desired.
After a few weeks of having the ability to eat without restrictions, Paula no longer felt compelled to consume large amounts of her favorite foods because there was no need to do that. She had unlimited access to eat it whenever she wanted, there was no rush, no rules and just that psychological mindset allowed her to eat a lot less than she normally would. She also discovered a way of including exercise in her everyday life because she wasn’t restricted to going to the gym or doing a particular routine. She did something she enjoyed instead and ended up exercising more than usual. I also gave her educational materials on the different food groups and showed her how excess sweets and sugar-filled foods can cause her to gain weight. We agreed on starting a visualization exercise that involved her only eating small amounts of sweets when she desired and imagining the sugar in the food as tiny little parasites going through her stomach and attaching to her internal organs draining them of their nutrients and vitality causing them to wither and shrink making her feel sick. I encouraged her to conjure up different visual images for good foods imagining them attacking the sugar parasites and providing good nutrients to all her organs causing them to thrive and make her feel good overall.
After 8 months of adapting to the new eating plan without restrictions and the freedom to chose, Paula reached her goal weight of 145 pounds and has kept if off for the past 2 years. She continues journaling and we meet three to four times per year to talk about her journey and continued wellness path. Her journal entries have been very upbeat, positive and not entered around food, in fact I have to sometimes, skip though weeks at a time before encountering a single reference to food of any kind.
Do you have a food additction?
Food addiction is just as real as any other addiction. It affects as many people as drugs or alcohol. It doesn’t always present itself the same way in everyone, but it is important to find and treat the cause just like every other disorder of the body.
Is food Addiction the cause of your weigh issues?
Take the Quiz – 1 point each yes; 0 points for no
- Do you think about food very often?
- Do you have strong desires that seem hard to control?
- Do you feel guilty after indulging?
- Do you feel like people are judging you based on the food you eat?
- Are you unhappy with your food decisions?
- Have you ever lied about not eating food when you really did?
- Do you ever keep eating even after you feel full?
- Do you obsess about meals and constantly wonder what you can eat next?
- Do you hide and eat food?
- Do you sneak or steal food you feel is bad for you?
1-3 = You are not a food addict.
4-5 = You have a problem with the way you feel about food.
6 or greater = You are most likely a food addict and you should seek a reliable professional to work with you on the road to a more health lifestyle.
If you have questions or need help with weight management please call to schedule a complementary consultation.
Dr. Kivette Parkes
Carolinas Natural Health Center
1126 Sam Newell Rd., Suite A
Matthews, NC 28105