I’m a workaholic. I have a hard time slowing down and unplugging from work obligations, especially when I have a lot to do. There’s a sort of adrenlin-rush that comes from busy-ness and activity and a bit of anxiety that comes over me when there’s nothing going on. I always feel like I should be “doing something”. I actually have to make a concerted effort to rest when work is calling. Crazy, huh? But they say that recognizing you have a problem is the first step towards finding a solution, so I suppose I’m halfway there!
Of course, knowing what to do is a lot harder than doing what you know. In today’s “Revamp Monday” Tanzy reveals her own struggle in “Confessions of an Abuser,” but I don’t mean for you to esteem her struggle in contrast to mine. You should see them as one and the same, for they both have one crucially common component: our health. My penchant for busy too often pushes me to the brink. I suffer from migraines, high blood pressure runs in my family, heart attacks and strokes are common risk factors. We both have to take seriously the lure of our addictions–even those that seem, on the surface, to be a good thing!
It was a stressful day. Caseload at work was epic and I had paperwork to last hours. There was a mountain of laundry begging for my attention and a sink full of dishes that had been woefully neglected. My stress levels were climbing towards 7.9 on the rector scale, So I did what had become so natural to me. I pulled into the drive through at my favorite burger joint and ordered my usual sedative: a number 6 with a root beer and extra sauce. Only 5 minutes into my meal and I felt blissful stress relief come over me.
Later that night after rushing through homework, laundry, dinner time, bath time and bed time, a wave of overwhelming fatigue took hold and I reached to the cupboard for my rescue: a bar of chocolate that soothed my suffering. I repeated this pattern regularly. For years, but not just in hard times, in good times also. After completing that project at work that consumed many weekends, I decided a celebration was in order. Reservations at my favorite pasta restaurant. Appetizers, entrée, soda and dessert! In fact, eating became my answer to many emotional callings:
The practice of eating was closely integrated into every life experience. Every emotion. Every occasion. Food was my best friend. Like a toxic lover, my addiction lured me and always delivered the relief I needed–rich, high-calorie foods with little nutritional value, excess sugar, starch and fat–they were good to me, but not good for me. They made me feel better, but not without consequences. Years into the co-dependent relationship, it bore fruit: weight gain, splotchy skin, worsening asthma, chronic fatigue, digestive upset, a sedentary lifestyle, insecurity and low self-esteem. While I had been exercising consistently I wasn’t addressing my diet in the way I needed to, and the mere thought of facing it, made me fearful! Food had become my best friend and confidant, my “blankey”, my “binki,” my counselor, my consoler, my relief, my medication. I was terrified to fix it!
The relationship we had was twisted, toxic and abusive. I was both the abused and the abuser. I was the victim and the offender. I was in the right and also in the wrong. We all need food to fuel our body, but I was using it to fuel my emotions.
The effort it would take to rectify this complicated relationship would be constant and intense. It requires moment by moment mindfulness, regular prayer and accountability. It means learning to embrace the full weight of my emotions whether positive or negative. It requires finding alternatives for celebrating and mourning. It means going through crippling periods of withdrawal. It requires learning the ugly nutritional truths of man-made food, but also being enlightened by the glorious nutritional truths of God-made food. And it will likely take a lifetime to heal the bond between me and food–a lifetime to put food in its rightful place.
But it’s worth it. For the sake of my mental health, my children and grandchildren, an extended life expectancy and an improved quality of life. It’s worth it. Everything we put into our bodies is fuel. Either fuel for disease or fuel for good health. I no longer want to indulge in things that rob me of the abundant life available to me. I want to live my life to the fullest. After all, you are what you eat!