I am a fixer. If it’s broken, I fix it. If I’m sick, I get a doctor to fix it. Everything can be fixed. That’s how I approach life. When my weight was out of control ten years ago I had bariatric surgery and fixed it. Today I am a healthy weight and no I’m not going to share. Because that’s not the point. Even though I have had surgery, I still battle with an overwhelming desire to eat food that calls to me. I have been told by three different doctors that I have an addiction to food, specifically to carbohydrates. I have been told that I should steer clear of carbs just like a recovering alcoholic avoids liquor. And yet, knowing that, just made my desire worse.
Who doesn’t overeat the night before their alleged diet begins? You have to cram it all in because you’ll never have it again. But you see, you do have it again. Eventually. And the cycle begins anew. What surprises me is with all this talk of addiction no one, until recently, suggested I read any material from Alcoholics Anonymous. Perhaps because I do not have an addiction to alcohol. Perhaps that’s why the obvious was consistently overlooked by my physicians and by me. Addiction is addiction. It just takes a different delivery system for different people.
And so I was turned on to the AA paragraph on acceptance. Here it is: “It’s from Page 449 (first 3 editions, pg. 417 in the 4th edition) of Alcoholics Anonymous or The Big Book as it is widely known:
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
For me, serenity began when I learned to distinguish between those things that I could change and those I could not. When I admitted that there were people, places, things, and situations over which I was totally powerless, those things began to lose their power over me. I learned that everyone has the right to make their own mistakes, and learn from them, without my interference, judgement, or assistance!
The key to my serenity is acceptance. But “acceptance” does not mean that I have to like it, condone it, or even ignore it. What it does mean is I am powerless to do anything about it… and I have to accept that fact.
Nor does it mean that I have to accept “unacceptable behavoir.” Today I have choices. I no longer have to accept abuse in any form. I can choose to walk away, even if it means stepping out into the unknown. I no longer have to fear “change” or the unknown. I can merely accept it as part of the journey.
I spent years trying to change things in my life over which I was powerless, but did not know it. I threatened, scolded, manipulated, coerced, pleaded, begged, pouted, bribed and generally tried everything I could to make the situation better — only watch as things always got progressively worse.
I spent so much time trying to change the things I could not change, it never once occurred to me to simply accept them as they were.
Now when things in my life are not going the way I planned them, or downright bad things happen, I can remind myself that whatever is going on is not happening by accident. There’s a reason for it and it is not always meant for me to know what that reason is.
That change in attitude has been the key to happiness for me. I know I am not the only who has found that serenity.”
You don’t have to be an alcoholic, or even believe in God, to get what these sentences mean. For me it was a classic a-ha moment. Because I am a fixer, I was always trying to change things. Always. I have spent the last ten years trying to cure myself of an overwhelming desire for food. A desire that only a true addict can understand. It eats away at the inside of you. You know if you just have that one thing, everything else will be better. Until you do have it, and then the remorse sets in. Remorse is a bitch.
So what am I doing to change things since I have seen the light of these few lines from AA’s Big Book? I’ve realized I will always be addicted to these foods. That’s not going to stop. It is just one more bit of guidance to help me think why am I eating whatever it is I am eating. For a bariatric patient, the path is quite clear. Eat your protein first and get 60 grams of protein in every day–at the very minimum. I don’t have to wonder if I should eat a pretzel or a bite of hot, delicious, buttery roll. I shouldn’t. Ever. Not even on my birthday. Not. Ever. No good will come of it.
By reading the paragraphs on acceptance it reminds me that even though I will always be a food addict, I do have the power to control myself. I do not have to give in to emotional eating. I just don’t. The emotions will pass. I don’t have to ruin my health by stress-eating. Or boredom-eating. Or it’s-delicious eating. I can control it.
It puts the power back in my hands. Accept there is a desire and choose not to give in. Accept that desire will never disappear, but its hold upon you should lessen over time. Accept that you can change if you want to. Accept that you’re not broken. Accept that an entire bowl of popcorn will not make you happy. Ever. That’s a whole lot of acceptance to take in at once. I know. But it’s a start.