Once upon a time… long, long ago… I can remember going to the grocery and buying a 4-pack of coffee drinks. I’d bring them into the house, not let anyone know I bought them and hide them in my bedroom.
They wouldn’t last throughout the whole day. I’d even say that they probably didn’t last a few hours. I’d rip open the wrapper, pour it into my mouth – even swirl it around a little bit – and then guzzle it down… feeling it pass over my tongue and allow me to bliss out. Yes. Blissing out is real.
In fact, writing that gives me chills. I can distinctly remember that feeling that I got from guzzling down those super sweet, super caffeinated and super creamy drinks… but I’m so disconnected from the woman who used to bliss out on ’em. I’m so disconnected from that person who hid food from people so that they wouldn’t know what I was eating or chide me for how fast I was eating it. The shame I felt for doing what I was doing – now, in hindsight, it resembles a form of addiction – and my need to do it without intervention… it gives me goosebumps.
It’s hard to write this, really. I feel for my old self. I was sucked into a cycle that I didn’t understand, that my mother had never experienced and that her mother never really participated in. It snuck up on us all.
My room was a junk food hoarder’s haven. I had drawers full of coffee drinks, cupcakes, cheesecake slices, twizzlers… I never had anything like cookies or hard candies – that felt like “too much” to me – in there, but you wold definitely find “uppity junk food.” Stuff that definitely counted as crap, but was never the typical “crap” that you associate with that “OMG THIS IS HEAVEN OM NOM NOM” feeling. I liked my junk salty and fatty. Maybe a tinge of sweet.
I always felt this immense guilt whenever I ate in front of my Mother. She hated to see me eat anything. Anything.
Okay, I’m overexaggerating a bit. She always caught me with my hand in the cookie jar (literally), and would tell me something to the effect of “You know, you shouldn’t be eating that…” and even though she was right, it only pushed me to hide my food in my room. There, I wouldn’t have to hear her mouth. There, I could go unchecked. Unquestioned. Uninterrupted. I could eat what the hell I wanted… and feel good afterwards.
But then, I didn’t. The feeling never lasted… which was why the entire 4-pack of drinks would never last longer than a few hours. It’s why the entire pack of twizzlers – y’know, the huge pull-n-peel bag? yeah, that one – never lasted longer than a day. It was literally like a junkie (junk-ie… see what I did there?) keeping a stash on hand, and then crashing… and then hunting around for her next high.
Was this a component of my sugar addiction? Perhaps. To recap:
When sugar is ingested, it immediately hits the blood stream and once the brain registers the sugar in the system, it releases the same opioids as it would if you were snorting something. Opioids are chemicals in the brain that cause us to be more tolerant of pain or even decrease our awareness of pain as well as increases feelings of pleasure and euphoria. The pleasureful feelings are the high we all experience. This, in my mind, is the cornerstone of emotional eating. The high relieves us from the pain we’re feeling and allows us to experience euphoria – a safe haven from our daily stresses. It also explains the withdrawal feelings:
“Recent behavioral tests in rats further back the idea of an overlap between sweets and drugs. Drug addiction often includes three steps. A person will increase his intake of the drug, experience withdrawal symptoms when access to the drug is cut off and then face an urge to relapse back into drug use. Rats on sugar have similar experiences. Researchers withheld food for 12 hours and then gave rats food plus sugar water. This created a cycle of binging where the animals increased their daily sugar intake until it doubled. When researchers either stopped the diet or administered an opioid blocker the rats showed signs common to drug withdrawal, such as teeth-chattering and the shakes. Early findings also indicate signs of relapse. Rats weaned off sugar repeatedly pressed a lever that previously dispensed the sweet solution.” [source]
Excerpted from: What Is Sugar Addiction? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
This… is “blissing out.” Please remember it – there are commercials that use “blissing out” as a selling point.
For me, hiding food was my way of self-enabling a habit that I didn’t really understand. I was just “doing what felt good,” and no amount of “self-checking” could convince me to look at that habit and question whether or not it was helpful or harmful. It just didn’t exist. It never happened. I never did it… that is, until it was time to do it.
How did I stop? It all came together for me when I realized that the food was “engineered” for me to fail. It was “manufactured” in a fashion that is supposed to cause me to lose my self-control. It was intended for me to not be able to maintain moderate portions. Once I started cutting those foods out, my ability to control myself returned… and I value that ability enough now to know that if I encounter a food that encourages that “bliss” feeling that I associate with my former sugar addiction… I know that I can’t be around that food regularly, and that I need to limit access to it.
I know now that I have to play the role of protector of myself and my emotions. I can’t enable myself into cheating myself out of enjoying life…. by sinking back into only enjoying food and forgetting that there are pleasures to be had elsewhere. Knowing that gave me everything I needed to avoid even creeping down those aisles of the grocery store, and that was the first and last step in kicking my “food hiding” habit. If I don’t have it in the house, I don’t have to worry about repeatedly telling myself I can’t have it. That battle is already won, and I save myself the struggle of fighting it.