Would you eat worms? A rat buffet? Hamburger Helper? If so, you’re well on your way to a three-thousand calorie day.
My favorite childhood memories? Me and Mom munching crazy dishes: gizzards, livers, and cow tongues. Even Papa joined the charade, chomping snake meat, frog legs, and other crawlies. To this day, Papa boasts watching a show about a nine-course rat buffet.
But once, Mom brought me a bowl of writhing worms. Memories of a documentary on tapeworms reeled in my skull. Mom whispered, “I’ll tell you what it is after.” When I humbly handed back a barely eaten plate, Mom let on, “It’s cow gut.” I could’ve stomached guts, brains, bees—but not worms.
Later, as a young adult, I came to live with Mom, my bones visible. So, Mom fattened me. She cheered when I gulped liters of chocolate milk in one swallow. She clapped when I ate not seconds, but third helpings of roast beef dinner. Yes, I felt that mother-daughter foody bond. But I ballooned, gaining up to seven pounds in a single month.
Later, Mom shooed me out of her house. A grandchild needed her love more. “Your weight will level off,” Mom reassured. But in my new home, I ballooned bigger. I’d open my fridge every five minutes, wolfing foods I hated. Kraft Dinner. Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Hamburger Helper.
One morning, my weight tipped 180. I screamed, cried, paced. Twenty-four hours later, I changed my world. I started swimming backstrokes, a hundred laps each day. I filled my plates half full. I timed my chewing to the second hand of the clock.
Half a year later, I lost forty pounds. But then I turned anorexic. Then super fit. Then fat. Then skinny. Then sickly. All during a twenty-year timespan.
Since then, I stumbled on how to stay fit without starving: no sugar, no flour—and daily exercise. Vera Tarman, MD, and Philip Werdell show how to halt food addiction in their book Food Junkies: The Truth about Food Addiction.
- Why worry about food addiction? “Late-stage food addicts finally realize they have no control over food, although many die before they reach this stage …. But a small number ‘get it’ before the downward spiral happens” (p. 107).
- The cure for food addiction? “Stop eating sugar, flour, and processed foods and … stop drinking soda” (p. 159). In sum, “eliminate the major addictive foods, such as sugar, flour, excess fat, and caffeine” (p. 169).
- What! No sugar? “No amount of willpower … can withstand the powerful addictive impulses … sparked by … sugars and starches” (p. 158).
- And no flour? “While many understand that sugar is toxic, people are less likely to identify flour, especially in its ‘healthy’ disguises, such as whole-wheat pasta or multi-grain breads, as a danger” (p. 159).
- No wheat! Wheat fosters food addicts: “Some clinicians … claim that the gluten in wheat promotes an opiate-like response in the brain” (p. 160).
- Cut out bad fats, too: “Many fatty foods are addictive … [B]e selective about which fats are eliminated … such as trans fats and some saturated fats” (p. 160).
- No caffeine, no artificial sweeteners, no salt: “Another substance that recovered food addicts avoid is salt” (p. 160). Plus, they “remove artificial sweeteners and caffeine completely from their diets” (p. 162).
- What should you eat? “Our proposed diet [is] of green and brown vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats” (p. 169).
- And record every calorie. Food addicts “constantly underestimate their food intake. Unless asked to keep a food diary, they forget about their daily cola and morning bagel slathered with jam” (p. 107).
- Measure everything you eat: “Food … addicts need the discipline of using a food scale or a set of measuring cups and spoons to measure portions of food” (p. 164). Cart your weigh scale to restaurants.
- And never cheat: “Cheating by having a bite here or a spoonful there is also an excellent way to suffer withdrawal in perpetuity” (p. 169).
Yes, gone are my dreams of barbecued worms, gophers, and bees. Now, sugar-free, I feel sickened by the scent of cookies; enlightened by the stench of freshly cracked cans of kidney beans.