A while back I wrote a blog about being overweight, and how it made me feel. In that blog I wrote that being an overeater is similar to being a drug addict - a claim that was dismissed by someone in the comments. That thought has stuck with me since then, and coloured my view of how I go about my day, so, in a shocking act of narcissism, I wanted to explore it more deeply.
Now, I’ve never been a drug addict - I’ve never so much as seen anything stronger than a bit of weed - so all of this is based on what I’ve read over the years, and what I’ve seen dramatised on TV and in films. If you’ve been a drug addict, please feel free to comment, anonymously if you’d rather, underneath, because I’d be interested in your views.
When I eat outside of normal meal times I know I’m doing wrong. If I do snack then I inevitably beat myself up for it. I keep quiet, hoping that no one will learn what a disgusting, undisciplined mess I am. Snacking on the way home from work half an hour before I eat dinner becomes my guilty secret.
I used to have a bike, so my journey to work went by in a ten minute blur. I didn’t take my lock to work, because I left it safely in the warehouse, so I had no way of stopping to buy food. Besides, what would be the point? I’d be home in ten minutes. When I had my bike, I had no problems, life was good. Then my bike got stolen, and suddenly I’m walking to work - a half hour journey that takes me past no fewer than six shops that I might potentially pop into to buy snacks. It takes an enormous amount of willpower to focus on the path in front of me and ignore temptation. The mornings aren’t so bad. I can cope in the morning. The evenings, however…
When I finish work I’m tired. I’m a bit hungry because I’ve been on Dust all day. For those who don’t know, Dust is a colloquial term for meal replacement powders that mix into shakes or soups. They’re worth 200 calories each, the idea being that you have three a day which provide you with all the nutrients you need, while putting your body into ketosis in order for it to eat the fat supply that it has. It’s a sound plan, and one that I largely stuck to for two months, helping me to lose about 35lbs. Things have been a bit tight since I moved house though, so I’ve not really been able to afford to buy more dust, leading to me ekeing out what’s left until the next pay day. As such, I’ve been having two shakes/soups a day, followed by a (relatively) sensible meal. Now, in theory this should work.
In practice, it does not.
Back to when I leave work… So I’m tired and a bit hungry. Not starving, just hungry enough to be looking forward to dinner when I get home, and, like someone who’s quit smoking, I need something to do with my hands. I pop into one of three shops along a small parade and buy a pre-packaged samosa and often a bar of chocolate. My brain is telling me I’m a wanker, but I still do it. If I have money in my pocket, I don’t feel like I can walk past. Every day I choose a different shop because I don’t want to give the shop keeper the chance to recognise me as the guy who comes in every day to buy snacks.
I walk out of the shop, I’ve paid for the snack so I can’t waste it. I’m now resigned to having to eat it, because it’s there. So I do. I hate every bitter mouthful, but there I am, chewing it, knowing that the meat inside a 90p chicken samosa is going to be pretty much the worst bits of chickens arseholes. But I’ve bought it, there’s no way I’m going to let it go to waste. I have to get my money’s worth. A dear friend of mine once told me that it’s my choice what I eat, that the only person who decides is me, and that I need to take control of that, but I don’t know whether I believe that any more. I don’t know how to stop myself.
I couldn’t just walk past the shop, because I’m not capable of it. In the morning I manage, and I feel kind of smug about myself. I walk past a little Sainsbury’s, knowing that in the morning they’re likely to have fresh pastries. I manage to resist the lure of the fresh pastries because today is a New Day and a Fresh Start. Every day is a Fresh Start. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve drawn a line under the previous week’s excesses in order to start again. Today is no exception. Today is another Fresh Start. In fact, it is *the* Fresh Start, because it’s a Monday.
I’ve taken to leaving my wallet at home so that I can’t buy anything even if I wanted to. I’m 33 years old, and I have to force myself to do this. Even as I’m walking out of the door in the morning, wallet safely on the side in the kitchen, my brain is screaming at me to go back and get it, because I’m going to NEED that shitty samosa, or wrap, or pasty, and god knows what I’ll do if I can’t buy a chocolate bar…
I’m guessing you’ve read this far and are trying to rationalise my behaviour, but you can’t; it’s entirely irrational. There’s nothing to stop me walking by the shops, head held high. Nothing but my own subconscious which appears hell-bent on killing me.
So, I eat a lot of shit, and here’s where the parallels with drug addiction come in.
I hide the habit from everyone.
As far as my girlfriend was concerned I was doing pretty well with the diet. My colleagues at work who are incredibly supportive of my quest to lose weight, they even went as far as to not buy me a cake on my birthday, even though everyone gets a cake. They got me a present instead. They didn’t know about my disgusting habit. Eating in the car becomes the norm, because no one can see you doing it. You dispose of the packaging when you get out, so that no one can question you.
I recently told my girlfriend what I’d been up to, and felt the relief washing over me that I’d finally put it out in the open. It wasn’t my dirty secret anymore! We learnt that the first stage of beating an addiction is to accept it. By telling Hayley, I had surely accepted it? Of course, all it did was legitimise my over eating, because I’d told her so as far as I was concerned she now had lower expectations of me.
Last night I was considering the way I used to sneak food as a kid. The way I had routines and plans that allowed me to sneak into the kitchen and grab a few biscuits without my mum knowing. It made me realise just how deep-seated the problem is. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, how the hell do I change?
Genuinely, how do I change? Because I want to, and I’m feeling pretty fucking desperate right now.