Being led astray

They say that misery loves company. And sometimes, so do over-eaters!

How many times have you been led astray by someone else? Perhaps they were about to tuck into a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, or maybe a packet of Hobnobs, and they persuaded you to join them.

They didn’t want to binge eat on their own, because – you know – it looks bad, and they’ll feel guilty about it. But if you can be persuaded into eating with them, then it’s somehow OK.

And depending upon how fragile you are feeling, it might only take only the smallest suggestion to break your resolve.

It must be an eternal struggle for those who are trying to do Slimming World healthy eating in a house full of people who are not. Temptation (and tempters) would be around every corner.

In a way it’s easier if everyone is doing Slimming World together, as you can encourage each other, and hold each other to account. You can also avoid having bad foods in the house at all. However, with two or more people who are over-eaters in the same house, there is the potential for one person falling off-plan to bring the rest with them.

Short-term vs long-term thinking for food addicts

Don’t they look amazing? I want them all!

Many decisions in life have short-term and long-term impacts upon us.

If I decide not to study for my exams tonight, then the short-term impact is that I have more time to relax or party, but the long-term impact is that I might fail my exams!

The same kind of short-term vs. long-term thinking often applies to weight loss as well. If I decide to eat a tray of donuts, then the short-term impact is that I feel great, but the long-term impact is that I gain weight which then impacts my health.

And so, most of the time we try to focus on the long-term goal in order to make better decisions. We prioritise the long-term weight loss over the short-term pleasure of the donuts. 

The nature of addiction

Unfortunately addicts (of whatever form – drugs, alcohol, gambling, or food) often have a distorted balance when it comes to short-term and long-term thinking. They find it harder to focus on the long-term goal, and end up giving in to short-term cravings.

An alcoholic knows that their drinking has an impact on their health, relationships, family, work, and quality of life – but the short-term release or euphoria they get from drinking overrides the long-term impacts.

It’s the same with people that have a food addiction. Ask any overweight or obese person, and they’ll tell you that they know that their overeating is bad for them, but the short-term pleasure they get from consuming the food or drink takes precedence.

I think that only by recognising and acknowledging that overeating is a food addiction can we hope to tackle the problem.

Education is not the answer

Educating people on healthy eating is not the way to tackle a food addiction. Just as educating alcoholics that being sober is good for them doesn’t stop them drinking.

I’ve known that fruit, vegetables, and lean meat are the road to a healthy diet for my full adult life, but it hasn’t stopped me eating my own body weight in chocolate and crisps!

I remember being in hospital a couple of years ago, and my consultant (having noticed my obese frame) had arrange for a dietitian to come and talk to me. But she wasn’t able to tell me anything I didn’t already know.

It wasn’t that I was eating loads of chocolate because I was ignorant of its effects on me. Like a smoker who knows that it’s bad for them, I know what healthy eating looks like, and I still don’t do it!

So what is the answer?

Well there are many things that can spark an addiction – and most of them stem from someone being unhappy about something in their past or current life. Their own private addiction is often their means of escape; their way to forget about their problems, even for just a few minutes.

And so, to me, the way to tackle this addiction cannot be just telling them to refrain from whatever they are addicted to. We need to get to the heart of the problems they are trying to drown out – and hopefully give them coping mechanisms to deal with those problems without resorting to bad short-term decisions.

I should probably point out that I’m not a psychologist, and I have no direct experience of treating or studying addiction. This is just my personal theory, based on my personal experience with food addiction. Your mileage may vary. But do feel free to comment on this post to let me know what you think.   

Food addictions

When you’re doing Slimming World, there are loads of foods that you can eat freely.

You can have as much as you want of those lovely  ‘speed’ vegetables and fruit. I also find it good to pack in a good amount lean protein, as it keeps me feeling full all day.  And in theory, you are allowed as much of the non-speed free foods (such as potatoes, pasta and rice) as you like – although I find that I sometimes need to moderate these, or I won’t get the loss I’m seeking.

And then there’s all the Healthy Extra and Syns that you need to measure and weigh. When it comes to some of these foods, I find it easier not to have them at all!

Take bread for example. I love bread. I love to eat loads of bread. I could eat an entire French stick in one sitting and still be craving toast to follow. But I find that the Healthy Extra B allowance too restrictive. I don’t want just one slice of bread. I want several. And so I don’t have any. Because if I got the taste for it, I’d eat it in large quantities, and before you know it, I’d be using all my syns on bread.

Alcohol is another example. I like a drink, but there’s not a lot of point having just one. If I’m going to have a glass of wine, then I’d prefer to share a bottle with my wife. But half a bottle of wine is far too many syns. And so it’s easier not to drink at all.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that there are certain foods and drinks that I have an abusive relationship with, and crave quantities of them well above what would be considered normal. It doesn’t happen with all foods. If I look at a banana, I don’t feel the need to eat a whole bunch. But for many sweet and savoury foods, I’m not content with just a normal quantity. I feel the need to eat them to excess.

And so, like any addict, it’s easier for me to avoid them altogether.