My name is Scott, and I'm an alcoholic.

I don't mean that statement literally. I almost never drink alcoholic beverages. Maybe five times in my life have I taken a sip. (Reading about the world of colorful and exotic and fun alcoholic drinks that I miss out on is what inspired the recurring Celebrity Goo Drinking Game.)

I mean that statement in the sense that plain, simple addiction is how I've come to think about my eating disorder. I used to think that I just loved food, and associated it with feeling of happiness and security from my childhood, and dieting was a struggle because it's hard to stay away from the thing you love.

But on the rare times now that I break diet, I realize that food doesn't actually give me any pleasure. I indulge in the junk food and comfort foods of my younger days, and get no fun or enjoyment from them. What I do get, for a few hours anyway, is some relief from the endless drumbeat in my head saying, "Eat! Eat! Eat!"

I think about food all the time. I get such strong cravings for particular sandwiches or casseroles that I can taste them in my mouth, and smell them, and hear the crackle of the crusty bread as I take a bite. After a small meal on diet, no sooner do I take the final bite before I immediately crave a way to "plus" it: Have some fruit, my brain says. Buy a bag of pretzels from the vending machine. Hell, just go make a second meal. It will be delicious. I'll make sure to think about exactly how delicious it will be in vivid detail for the next several hours.

Recently, Kelly drove out of town for six days, leaving me alone in the house. I had planned to go off diet anyway -- it's always easier when I know in advance and can plan to resume the diet at a specific time -- but a curious thing happened. I found myself eating to check out of the world. I would turn on some show on Netflix and make a big heaping plate of whatever and gorge myself, and tune out of the world. My whole universe became the screen, the couch, the empty bowl in front of me, and the feeling that my belly was going to burst. Countless episodes would scroll by until I realized it was after midnight, and I would lumber off to bed in the dark, groaning like a zombie and muttering incoherently to myself.

I was drunk. The same way that I would drink booze to escape the world and the pressure of being conscious if I were an alcoholic, I was using copious servings of food to blast away the world until I didn't feel anything. It didn't matter what the food was: I could have eaten fresh or packaged, healthy or junk, homemade or take-out, as long as it was a large enough portion to obliterate me and finally quiet those cravings for a while.

Knowing this helps. Seeing myself "drunk" on food really illuminated my relationship with it. Knowing that I get zero actual pleasure from eating helps me to resist the endless cravings. And knowing that the cravings are the root of the problem helps me to fight the battle against my weight. I wish there was a safe and effective treatment for the cravings themselves, because everything else (dieting, exercise, surgery, therapy) seems like leaving the root cause of my weight untreated.

For anybody wondering: I am still dieting and still losing weight, down 80 pounds since last summer when I gave up on Atkins and returned to the low-calorie diet that works better for me. The belt keeps getting looser, I get more of a spring in my step every week, and it's a good feeling. But the urges to cram food in my face never, ever stop, except on rare occasions when I take a break from the diet, and then only briefly. The cravings torture me, and I hate them.


One Reply to Appetite for Destruction

Lori Lancaster | May 12, 2013
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