The following story illustrates one of two huge reasons why it’s hard to change our eating habits:
- We talk ourselves into believing we are addicted to them.
- We actually are physically addicted to them.
In this blog post, I am going to address #1. I’ll address #2 in a future blog post.
Food is an easy comfort.
All we do is reach for it and consume it.
Food becomes a reward we give ourselves for putting up with, and making it through, yet another dissatisfying day.
it’s the same attachment that some of us have with alcohol and drugs.
To ask ourselves to give up our eating habits is asking us to give up the one pleasure that we allow ourselves.
We are so attached to that addiction that we actually tell ourselves that our eating habit is our choice, and we actually embrace the addiction.
We release the struggle for a better way, and we accept — for better and for worse — the way we have.
I want to tell you a story.
It is a terrible story.
Last week, a man I know lost his girlfriend to heart disease.
She was not obese. She was not “obviously” ill.
She was relatively young, she was financially successful, and she died — shockingly and instantly — in her lover’s arms.
Let me fill in the details.
I’m going to change the names. We’ll call him Paul. We’ll call her Joyce.
Paul is 43 years old. He is an acquaintance.
He is in the “acquaintance” camp because he’s kind of unbearable.
He’s judgmental. He makes ugly jokes that are designed to hurt, then he says he didn’t mean anything by it.
He’s sneaky. If he can get away with manipulating a situation to his benefit, he will.
He talks about people behind their back, and then when that person is in front of him, he will shower that person with praise.
We all have our stories…
He has a story about that. He suffered abuse at the hands of an ex-spouse, who took everything – his money, his child, his dignity – and moved to another state.
Since then, he’s become a bit unbearable.
Don’t get me wrong. I am sympathetic. However, that doesn’t mean that I am willing to suffer his abuse.
So I don’t.
About two years ago, Paul re-met an old lover of his from his college years, Joyce.
Joyce had her own story.
She was smart – too smart for her life choices.
She had once worked as an editor for her local newspaper. The newspaper was purchased and went in a direction in which she didn’t agree, so she moved on.
Eventually, she got a job that paid very well but was extremely unrewarding. She was the director of a bunch of managers at a company whose mission she disagreed with.
She made a lot of money but was never satisfied with her life.
She had had long-term lovers but never married. She was sensitive about what people thought about her, but she didn’t hesitate to tell others what she thought they were doing wrong with their lives.
If you tried to engage her in discussion, she accused you of being insulting. If you tried to respond to one of her criticisms, she told you that you were being defensive.
Joyce and Paul had one thing in common. Food.
They each had allergies. He has allergies to dairy and wheat. She had allergies to nuts and legumes. For their allergies, they listened to their respective doctors and were on a great deal of many different drugs.
They also both hated vegetables and they both loved sugar.
So, they spent a great deal of their time and energy together searching for and sharing sugary, starchy foods that met their allergic profiles. When they ate meat, it was processed meat, as cheap as they could find.
That’s actually quite a niche, isn’t it? That’s not easy – finding sugary, starchy foods that are dairy free, wheat free, nut free, and legume free, while at the same time avoiding fresh vegetables. That takes effort!
Neither smoked; that’s one good thing.
However, neither exercised. They didn’t even like to walk around the neighborhood. They drove to the corner store.
They complained of this ache and that ache, of this or that trip to the doctor.
They complained that the doctor could never “find anything,” and would take the pain killers that were prescribed.
But, whenever I tried to tentatively suggest natural, lifestyle changes in answer to Paul’s complaints, he would chuckle at me and say, “I know that’s what you do for a living, but I don’t want to be bothered; and sorry, but I just don’t believe in that stuff.”
So, we didn’t see much of Paul after he started dating Joyce. When they were together at a party or a function, we chatted politely for a few minutes and moved on.
On the few times we saw Paul when they weren’t together, Paul would grumble about Joyce.
He would complain and tell unflattering stories about her habits. Afterward, he would declare, “Well, it doesn’t matter. She’s as good as I’m getting. But I’m sure as hell never getting married again. She can forget that!”
It is difficult being close to people like that. It is not emotionally rewarding.
Time went on.
I haven’t seen Paul – or Joyce – for the better part of a year.
Last week, it was reported to me that Paul and Joyce were in the kitchen, putting together a meal. According to Paul, they were having an argument. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” he reported. “We were just pecking at each other, you know,” when she stopped short and grabbed her chest.
He ran to her and caught her in his arms, just as she was falling. They both tumbled to the floor.
She died in his arms.
She was 42.
Friends say that Paul is a wreck right now.
The last thing I understand he said to a group of people he visited was, “I wasn’t very nice to her. I wish I had treated her better.”
Was it her eating habits that killed her?
Given that she had seen doctors on multiple occasions to get evaluated for “serious diseases,” I could guess yes.
But I would hazard a more nuanced guess that her eating habits were only part of the story.
You see, food habits, like any habit that hurts us, are symptoms of bigger problems.
Those problems are inside. They require self-reflection and a willingness to see oneself honestly.
So, the way we relate to food is often a reflection of the way we feel about the way we live.
You never know when the result of a life not-well-lived it’s going to happen. But in retrospect, you can always say that you saw it coming.
You never know when you’re going to die, but you can often have a direct influence on its length and quality by intentionally living well.
I am 51. These things are becoming very clear to me in my own life.
As Claire Fitzpatrick, private citizen, I have been to too many funerals of forty- and fifty-something friends and acquaintances to not notice these patterns.
As a chiropractor and nutritionist
I have seen people turn themselves around.
It is the most gratifying thing in the world to know that I have been a small part of their successes.
However, when I have a patient in my office who wants something I don’t offer – a “quick fix” – someone I can’t reach, someone who is a lot like Paul or Joyce, I shake my head and sadly move on.
I can’t help anyone who doesn’t really want help.
I can’t “walk the walk” for them.
Sometimes, the patient isn’t like Paul or Joyce.
Sometimes, the patient is someone who lives with, and takes abuse from, people like Paul and Joyce — someone who has no kind, loving support.
Sometimes, the patient is sweet, giving, lovely, shy, and lonely. Food is their intimate friend.
Sometimes, the patient is sad, depressed, anxious, and suspicious; someone who want to believe in themselves but ultimately sabotages themselves with excessive food (and, very often, with drink).
Sometimes, they want something better for themselves, but they don’t try.
Or, when they do try, when it becomes emotionally difficult to sustain the effort (as it always does), they lack the will to continue and they quit.
These are the cases that break my heart.
I have all kinds of tools to give. I can show how to use them.
For instance, as of this writing, I am hosting a 28-Day Rapid Reset Challenge (click here for details).
But ultimately, any tool I offer will fail if it is not used.
I’m not a psychologist.
I am a chiropractor. I’m sort of a “neuropsychologist” for the body.
However, I do work with psychologists, and I recommend them often. We tend to see a lot of the same people.
You know, I have seen this over and over: Physical pain is worse when we have emotional pain.
Pain — physical and emotional — is frightening and isolating, and so it often becomes part of one’s self-identity.
Physical discomfort is easier to manage and eliminate if one has faith in oneself.
I wish I could reach into your heart and fill you with self-love and belief.
We walk beside you as you heal; but ultimately, we all walk the inner road by ourselves.
The best I can do is be here, continue to tell you how much I believe in you; and that, when you’re ready, I am honored to help.