Recently during a coaching session I was asked to name the one thing that helped me the most toward my recovery from food addiction. Without doubt the one intellectual idea I’ve learned that helped me the most is that food addiction is an extremely powerful force. When people want to escape other addictions in our culture, they can get help. There exists a social safety net for people who recognize the harm of continuing to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, take drugs, gamble, shop or even have sex compulsively. But there’s no help for food addiction recovery. There might be some lip service given to the problem as it relates to hard core, heavy weight (literally) compulsives, but if you really understand what garden variety food addiction is and go looking for help, you soon realize that nobody’s REALLY tackling it, and I mean NOBODY. Even so called food-addiction experts are themselves food addicts in irretrievable denial.
Added to that is the fact that addiction to food is every bit as physiologically-centered and physically damaging as any other addiction. It might take 30-50 years to kill a person, typically, but it does kill. It needs to be taken seriously, and its power needs to be respected. The consequences of not doing so are what causes so many raw fooders to fail. People think that getting over harmful life-long eating habits is just a matter of ‘will power’, and that it can be approached like any other problem – in the head first, then followed through in practice. The problem is, it’s the extremely rare person who can recognize all his/her dietary issues at once and then get rid of them overnight or even quickly. In fact, it’s impossible, particularly for those who attempt dietary improvement in their 30s and beyond. The longer bad habits are in place, the slower they are to change. Virtually everyone who fails to recognize these facts and tries to change too quickly not only meets with failure, but a great deal of psychological demoralization and self-recrimination as well.
When overnight change is attempted, people not only typically fail, but in practical terms, they become confused and lose their sense of direction. They feel that they can’t move forward, but they can’t go all the way back to their previous eating habits either. Feeling stuck and trapped, they sometimes end up wishing they’d never even learned about raw food or the power of the body to heal itself. From this vantage point, it’s easy to feel deprived and envious of “normal” people who obliviously abuse themselves and get lots of support and sympathy for the consequences that follow.
Slow transitional changes, on the other hand, give people something to fall back on at each stage, if/when they realize a little compromise is needed. This allows gradual, gentle and graceful forward progress.
The challenge of slow improvement, however, is that you have to learn how to deal with the conflict that arises from not instituting ALL the changes at once that you know are necessary to enjoy peak health. In other words, self-forgiveness.
Self forgiveness is the biggest challenge by far for the type of people that the low fat high fruit lifestyle seems to attract (Type “A”s, perfectionists), and it’s the one that most people don’t manage to pull off. Instead they go too fast, then they backslide, then they make that same mistake over and over. It happens much more in the high fruit camp than among the high fat crowd, because people in the latter group tend to go much slower. I don’t think they realize it necessarily, but they have the tools to take their addictions seriously – namely, foods that allow a certain amount of healing (by virtue of the improvement they represent) and also keep them emotionally satisfied. Unfortunately people using that approach tend to stay in transitionland forever, not realizing that just eating 100% raw is not the finish line.
For some reason, high fruit eaters tend to be very competitive. They regard the high fat, complicated-recipe approach to dietary transition to be indulgent and less self-disciplined. In reality, both approaches can lead a person to a kind of health purgatory, where forward movement is either restrained or nonexistent, and the need for compromise is either overindulged or completely denied. In high fat raw fooders, it means eating the same miscombined and questionable transition foods forever. In high fruit eaters, it means bouncing back and forth between “optimal” and the old way of eating, or close to it, regardless of what that was.
There’s a way to transition that offers the best of both worlds, and at its foundation is an UNDERSTANDING of the incredible power of the foe we’re all up against: food addiction. No military strategist ever won a battle by underestimating the enemy, and the same goes for transitioning raw fooders.
To your health,
3 thoughts on “Recognizing the Power of Food Addiction”
The first time I heard about food addiction was when I first started on my raw food journey. Victoria Boutenko wrote a book, “the 12 steps to raw food”. Even though I “intellectually” knew about it, I sure didn’t understand the depth of the problem. This is a big help: just to be continually aware and recognizing the existence of our addiction to food. Thank you for this blog.
This was just beautiful. Thank you so much. We need to hear more of this. You are a wonderful writer. Thank you!!
Yes, self-forgiveness is crucial. We should also practice acceptance of others within our online raw food communities so that people feel it is OK to self-forgive. A more relaxed attitude is a better approach in the long term for sure. Great article.
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