A is for….. Addiction (among other things)

It was my intent from the very beginning for A to be for Admitting You Need Help. It was the first ABC’s of T graphic that I made. It was the thought that got all of the juices flowing.

And then I started to think about what it was I need help with and why it was so hard to admit it.

Hi! I’m T, and I’m a processed food addict. Like the famous Lay’s slogan, I can’t eat just one…of anything…EVER.

I fought the addict label for so long. How could food be addictive? Wasn’t it just a case of me have the weakest of all will power known to human kind? If I say I am a food addict, am I down-playing the seriousness of the “real” addictions others struggle with? Just toughen up, T!

It wasn’t until I was willing to admit that processed food addiction was real, and that I was in the grasp of it’s clutches, that I started to make progress on the merry-go-round that was my diet and weight loss/weight gain cycles. And even then, it took me a long time to come to understand what I know and believe now about the power of chemicals in so-called foods to enslave us to unhealthy behaviors. Just claiming the label, I was able to start taking a stand for my own health and well being—both with myself and with others.

It became easier to turn down inappropriate food when I could tell someone, “I’m in recovery for a food addiction. Eating that will may cause me to relapse.” Whether people believe that one can be addicted to processed food or not, it put things in a context that they understood and that made it easier for me to advocate for my own sobriety.

I still don’t love the label. But I’m grateful for it.

A is also for admitting you need help. Believe me, I have tried for years to overcome my issues with food. I was embarrassed by what appeared to simply be a lack of will power. You don’t get to be 360 pounds without having a string of unfortunate incidents and uncomfortable conversations, sometimes even with total strangers. These incidents compounded and over time left me in a place where I was so ashamed and embarrassed about my situation that the last thing I was willing to do was be vulnerable enough to ask for help—whether the potential help was from a program, a doctor, a professional or even those I loved and trusted. I just couldn’t put myself in a place where I would have to open up and be honest about where I really was physically, emotionally, or spiritually. And I certainly couldn’t admit that I needed someone or something to help me battle a freaking bag of Oreos. How weak was I?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but admitting I need help is not one of my strong points. Why is that? I don’t believe others get through their lives and all of the hard things that come their way without having to rely on others–why should I be any different? Why have I put the unrealistic expectation on myself that I should just be able to handle whatever comes my way without needing help from anyone else, or even from God?

This is particularly true when it comes to health and fitness. Somewhere in my mind, I got myself into this situation and I should be able to get myself out. I wouldn’t hold any other obese person to that standard, so why would I do that to myself?

I think part of it comes down to a fear of letting others in. If I ask someone for help or admit that I have a problem, then I have to let them in and trust them with the dark underbelly of my soul–which isn’t really that dark, but I’m just afraid that if someone really knows me they won’t like me. After all, I spent decades not liking myself, so how could I expect anything different from others.

I have been battling obesity, depression, and self-doubt for almost three decades. I have had moments where I have been really focused and I’ve lost a lot of weight (up to 88 pounds multiple times previous to now). I have done this a variety of ways–Weight Watchers, Phen/Fen, a couple of programs that were offered through work and many many more. I’ve read books. I’ve gone to conferences. In each of these attempts there has been an element of admitting that I needed help, and yet with each of them there has also been that giant wall that I put up trying to protect my already bruised and broken ego and heart. I set limits on what I was willing to admit I needed help with and how much I would let those willing to help see of me and my struggle.

It’s no wonder those other times didn’t work. I wasn’t all in. When things got hard—which they inevitably did—I would use it as proof that the program was wrong, that the time wasn’t right, or that I wasn’t cut out to be anything other than “the fat friend” in the story of my own life.

This time is different because I am willing to admit that I am an addict and that I need help. I’m willing to be vulnerable and let people I admire see that I have struggles and that I am weak. Being open, really open, is still a huge struggle. It’s uncomfortable and makes me want to run away and hide. Sometimes I still do. But I’m making progress.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, I urge you to take a look at your life. What are you willing to admit? Do you need some help? You are stronger than you know. People love you more than you think. Reach out! And when it gets scary and you want to run and hide, be brave! You’ve got this!

Any guesses which letter/word will be next?

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