Monday, October 24, 2011
Is Your Food "Addiction" Making You Fat?
I am accustomed to dealing with skeptics in my line of work, but one particular client always stands out in my mind. Donna was a pretty, hard working, middle-aged woman. She was about thirty pounds overweight. At our first appointment, she told me she already knew she was wasting her time. I would never be able to help her. She had tried every single diet on the planet over the past few years and never lost a pound. She was angry, fed up and "destined to be fat for the rest of her life". She was gonna be a tough one. I took a deep, cleansing breath and inquired as to why she believed she was 'destined to be fat'.
"I am a bread addict!" she confessed.
"Why do you think you are addicted to bread?"
"I can't stop eating it," she responded. "I must have bread at every meal. I can eat a whole loaf all by myself. My husband and I eat out alot and when that bread basket arrives to the table, I just keep eating and eating until it's all gone. It's like I am possessed!"
"Have you always been so obsessed with bread?"
"No, that's the funny part," she said. " It's something that just sort of happened over the past two years and I've put so much weight! LOOK AT ME!"
I asked her to share what had been going on in her life over the past few years. Here is what she told me:
In the course of two years, she lost both of her parents.
Her husband lost his job.
They were forced to sell their home because they could no longer afford the mortgage.
They were currently renting an apartment with a very small kitchen and no dining room.
She was currently working two jobs while her husband continued to look for work.
Family dinners and gathering at her house came to a screeching halt after her parents passed away.
Her husband couldn't even boil water, so they ate the majority of their meals and even holiday dinners at restaurants because she was too tired, too stressed, and too depressed to cook.
She went on to say how important family dinners and gatherings always were to her. She recalled all the great meals they used to have together. She loved getting up early on Sunday mornings to put on a big pot of tomato sauce for pasta.
"My dad went to the bakery every Sunday to pick up loaves of fresh Italian bread. We would gather in the kitchen and dip the bread into the sauce as it simmered. We put some in oven with butter and chopped garlic, " she said. "We would pile bread in a big basket and pass it around the table. Oh, that bread was so good. I have such memories of laughter and love."
Donna just didn't have the time and energy, the finances, or the extra space in her home to host those dinners any more. She missed her parents and now that they were both gone, nothing was the same. She was sad because everyone seemed to be going their separate ways and she felt like she was disconnected from everything and everyone. The tough skeptic who sat across from me with arms folded across her chest, began to cry.
"Donna," I said. "I don't believe you're addicted to bread. You're addicted to the feeling that the bread gives you! Every time you see a basket filled with bread you eat too much of it because you are trying to fill a void in your life. You miss a family ritual that's obviously a very important part of who you are. Eating all the bread is a temporary fix to replace all those good feelings you had during your family dinners!"
I knew this was going to go one of two ways. She would either write me off a total crack-pot or sit up and pay attention.
She sat up and paid attention so I went right on talking.
"Why don't you try to get the family together for dinner at your place? Have everyone bring something so the whole burden and expense doesn't rest on you. If you don't have the time to make homemade sauce, buy a few jars of the best tomato sauce you can find instead. Nobody cares if you cooked it yourself or not. What really matters is that you are all together eating Sunday pasta, passing the breadbasket around the table, remembering your parents and making some new memories!"
"That's it?" she asked when I indicated our session was over. "No diet plan or list of forbidden foods?"
"Eat what you want," I said. "Your only assignment is to have a family dinner within the next two weeks, call me when you have it all set, and then come back and tell me about it after."
A few days later, Donna called to tell me she had arranged a family dinner at her apartment that Sunday. But now she was in a bit of panic because she had no idea where to put everyone.
"You'll figure it out!" I told her.
Two weeks later, Donna returned to my office with a different attitude. She had Sunday dinner at her home since I'd seen her last. She moved some of her furniture out of the living room and set up a big folding table so everyone could sit and eat together. She really didn't want to use sauce from a jar, so she set time aside the day before to prepare it. Not only that, but she also had the whole family over again on a Friday night for fried fish and green bean casserole, just like they used to do when her folks were still alive. Everyone had contributed something: salad, appetizers, fresh bread from the bakery, dessert.
"How are you doing with your bread addiction?" I asked.
"I still love my bread. I went out to my favorite restaurant right before our appointment tonight and had two big slices of bread with butter while waiting for the waitress to take my order." she said. "But I ordered a salad instead of an appetizer and I took one more piece of bread to eat with it. When my dinner arrived, I told the waitress to take the bread basket away."
"That' s great!" I told her. "You've made some very positive changes in a very short time. Keep going and come back to see me in two weeks."
"You're not gonna yell at me about the bread I ate at dinner?" she asked. "What about the butter? Isn't butter bad for me?"
"Donna, you're a big girl. If you want to eat bread with butter, go ahead! Eat it and enjoy!"
She arrived to her next appointment proudly announcing that she had hosted two Sunday dinners, another Friday night fish-fry, and was certain she lost some weight but was afraid to actually step on a scale and possibly "jinx it".
"I don't understand this," she said. "I'm not really doing anything different but yet my clothes are starting to feel loose! And my sister thinks she is losing weight, too!"
"And your bread addiction?" I asked.
"Well, the other day I ordered a huge salad for dinner at my favorite restaurant. It was loaded with lot of fresh veggies, sliced turkey breast, cubed cheese. It came with soup and two bread sticks. I ate the bread sticks." She paused for a moment. "I never touched the bread in the breadbasket! Oh. My.God! I didn't eat the bread!"
I smiled. "You didn't need the bread, Donna."
Donna continued on as my client for six months. In that time, she lost over thirty pounds. Sunday dinner at her house became a weekly ritual. One Friday night a month, she and her family gathered together for a fish-fry and a movie. She joined a gym for $20 a month. She still ate out at restaurants very often and occasionally enjoyed a piece of bread or two with butter. Sometimes, she didn't reach into the bread basket at all. I never told Donna that she couldn't or shouldn't eat bread. She simply didn''t need to have it any more.
I helped Donna with a lifestyle change. It never included a particular diet plan or list of forbidden foods. We simply identified her cravings and replaced them with food for the soul. In her case, she lost so much in a very short period of time: her parents, her home, her husband's income, the safety net of family and loved ones at all those big dinners. Once she realized she was relying on bread to provide of those loving, secure feelings and replaced the bread with what she really needed, she was "cured" of her addiction. End result: weight loss!
Are family dinners the answer to your weight issues? I don't know. Maybe. You could be packing on the pounds for different reasons. Stress. Boredom. Menopause. The typical American Diet!
If you are frustrated, depressed and tired of the diet roller coaster ride, contact me and let's chat.
One chat could change your life.
And this is my Daily Cyn.......