I lived several decades of my life believing that I could never control my hunger. That I would literally DIE hungry because it was THAT impossible for me to ever satisfy my voracious appetite. The appetite that owned me. That walked me around like a dog on a leash. The appetite that never shut up. Not day or night. That simmered down during a binge but quickly started harassing me the second I put down the fork.
Year after year I got larger and larger. Trying to feed the beast within that never gave me a moment of peace. I bowed down to its demands over and over to the point that I could barely walk. I tried to fight it with every ounce of my strength but all it did was laugh in my face. I was never a match for its overwhelming power. So I fed it day and night. Even in the middle of the night. Having to keep food under my pillow even for those moments when it would wake me insisting that I eat again. I lived my life in a tug of war filled with exhaustion and defeat. I tried endlessly to find ways to fill my hunger. To satisfy it. Yet still my appetite raged on.
I walked through year after year of obesity unable to fit in chairs, go to events, walk without pain or even spend a single hour of my life without a relentless hunger that interfered with every single aspect of my existence. I could barely hold a conversation with someone without thoughts of food interrupting my train of thought. Almost no second of my life was not consumed with trying to figure out a way to get to food or stay away from it. Food ruled me. My appetite was a bottomless pit. And all I could do was wait for the inevitable death that would take me once my body finally gave up the fight and food won once and for all.
And still with an overly filled stomach, I was sure that my tombstone would read
“Here lies a hungry woman”
Because that is what I was. HUNGRY. All the time. Every day.
And that surprises people I think. At just how truly hungry an obese person may be. Because you would assume we are the least hungry of all. Right? I mean how can a person who weighs 417 pounds actually be hungry?
Well I was. All the time. I suffered the consequences of being obese while getting none of the benefits that overeating should provide. I lived with the drawbacks of being overweight while constantly starving to death on the inside never being free from thoughts of food.
What kind of a bad deal is that? If I am going to be forced to go through life breaking chairs and being shut out of life events because I can’t ‘stand for that long’ or I can’t ‘fit in that booth’ then at the VERY LEAST I should get the benefits from having eaten that much food. The benefit of not being hungry 24 hours a day. You would think there would be a trade off here, right??
“Yes I’m big. But at least I’m not hungry.”
But that never was the case. I had all the consequences and none of the rewards that overfeeding should bring. The reward you would assume feeding that unyielding appetite should give you. It made its demands and I fed them. It wanted food. I got the food. And yet still it would never let up. Just a giant prank. Just a set up. A joke that was played on me. Because the appetite would never be satisfied. The hunger would never stop.
But it would get worse. Always always worse.
That much I could count on.
Try living life like THAT every day. So big you can barely walk. And yet starving every second of the day.
And then I got free.
For the first time in my life. FREE of the beast.
Finally NOT HUNGRY every second of the day. And then just like that—I walked right back into the spider web. It has taken me almost a year and a half to get out. A year and a half holding back a flood gate of hunger that I believed had “returned for me” out of no where. But it was NOT out of no where.
Because it happened the same way it always has happened.
With that first bite of sugar.
Once it is running through your veins, you are it’s prisoner once again.
I used to believe I was born hungry. That it was part of my make up. My DNA. My genetic code. I was born hungry and I’d die hungry. There was just something wrong with me. And I’d have to accept my fate.
But we were not born faulty. We were not born hungry. None of us have this relentless appetite that we believe we have.
Somehow genetically predisposed to cupcakes.
It isn’t ME. It isn’t YOU. It isn’t some inborn trait that makes our stomach ten times the size of anyone else’s.
I can say that for a fact because even after having my stomach surgically altered— the hunger did not stop! Even with 80% of it being removed I was still susceptible to the relentless hunger inside of me because it was not the size of my stomach that was the problem!! It was the effect that sugar produced in me.
I wasn’t born with an unusually large stomach. I wasn’t born with an unusually large appetite. I used to believe that with every fiber of my being. But it wasn’t true. It wasn’t the size of my brain either. I’m not just ‘stupid’ or ‘morally inept’ as so many people choose to believe about the obese! That we just have less ‘character’. Less ‘willpower’. Less ‘mental fortitude’ or ‘inner strength’
Nope. It was none of that. None of that at all.
But it WAS something. And that something was this—
A DRUG CALLED SUGAR
So NO—you are not weak. You are not faulty. You are not defective. Other people aren’t stronger than you. Better than you. Or more self controlled than you. They just aren’t on drugs like you! And if they were—they’d be JUST as hungry as you!
You came into this world just like I did. With an internal system that lets us know when we need to eat and when we need to stop. I mean it’s hard to believe after spending a lifetime fighting off thoughts of food and hunger 24 hours a day. But it’s true. Our bodies were created to know when to eat and when to stop. And they were not created to ruin our lives with a relentless appetite.
Other people were not born somehow ‘new and improved’ while we got stuck with the defective model. Our body was born just as it was supposed to be. Until WE infected it with sugar. And maybe it wasn’t even us that did it. Maybe our parents fed it to us when we were very young. Maybe we were so young the first time that sugar started running through our veins that we didn’t even realize what had happened.
But however it got into us—it did. And if you’re sensitive to sugar, it went to work. Like a virus that infects perfectly good software. It ran through your body and did exactly as it was “programmed to do”. As the chemically altered sugar that is in most of our food today is manipulated in a lab to do! Create inside of you a ravenous hunger that could not ever be quieted. A thirst for food that would never be quenched. Not until the IV was yanked out of your arm and the drug ruining your life was removed.
But if you weren’t the one who put the needle in–how were you to know it needed to be pulled??
What if sugar began its work on you before you knew any better? What if you were just a child when it first infected you?
All of my life I struggled with the uncontrollable urge to eat. Not just eat but devour the food I had been told that I should be able to eat in moderation. I can still remember as a child being tormented by the images of what laid behind the pantry doors. Sneaking down the hallway late at night was something I became skilled at.
“Leave my door open“, I’d say to my Mom as she kissed me goodnight. It seemed a normal request for a child. Maybe I was afraid of the dark they might think. But the real reason was the sound. The sound that my door might make as I opened it to sneak towards the kitchen.
And I couldn’t risk that sound.
It was already hard enough to creep down the hallway without a creak of any kind emanating towards listening ears. So I asked for my door to remain open. An effort to make my challenging trek towards the pantry easier.
From my bedroom door at one end of the hallway, I could see the light peering out from under my parent’s door at the other end. It meant they were still awake. Sometimes I would sit right there by my door waiting. I can remember playing with the carpet fabric. Moving my finger along the carpet to form shapes and letters to pass the time. The glow of the television flashed. And I could hear the sound of “The Rockford Files” playing.
Come on Rockford, I’d think—solve this mystery already. I’ve got a mission too you know!
And then finally their light would go off. The sign that my parents had decided to go to sleep. Just a few more minutes now I’d think. Just a little bit longer until it was safe to begin my journey towards the pantry.
My cat was usually there in the hallway. Watching me as I lay by the door waiting for my time to move. She understood I was on the prowl and her eyes would glow in the dark from mid hallway where she stood watching me. Like a soldier crawling through the trenches, I crawled my way down the hallway that led to the kitchen. Carefully ensuring with every movement that no sound was made. Getting there wasn’t too difficult but the hard part was opening the pantry without making a sound. The pantry was in the hallway still. Right outside of the kitchen. And still too close to my parents bedroom in my opinion. If I had just gone on into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, it would have been much quieter. But I couldn’t. Because it was the pantry that held what I was after. It was in there that I would find the cereal, granola bars, and snack items.
You see my mother was really good at not bringing “junk” into the house. She knew I struggled with my weight. But STILL, I would find where the sugar lay dormant. Quietly hiding inside of whatever seemingly healthy snack had been bought. Granola bars were supposed to be healthy. So mom would buy them instead of other things. At that age, I had no knowledge of nutritional ingredients. No clue that sugar was addictive. And so I did not go for certain types of food intentionally. But sugar knows where sugar lies. Once it is inside of you, it draws more of itself in.
I used to think that it was ME. That I was the one that craved that food. That I was the one that wanted the sugar. But it was never me. It was the sugar itself. It’s the sugar craving more sugar. Not you. Not your weak moral character or lack of good decision making skills. It is just the substance calling for more of the substance. Because when it isn’t in you anymore, you don’t crave it.
Sugar instinctually knew where it would find more of itself. For it was hidden even in those things that proclaimed to be healthy. And while my mother did her best to never fill the house with things that were bad for me—that addictive substance was still there. Maple Sugar granola bars. Oat and Honey. All of them worked. And I was on a mission to get one.
Granola bars are so hard to eat without making a sound. It’s almost as if they were made to intentionally sabotage your mission to sneak something. But inside those granola bars was sugar. Enough to hit the spot. And so I would sneak that granola bar back to the room with me. And eat it with delight. Making sure to eat it over the trash can in my room, though, as it was hard to see every crumb in the dark. I could leave no trace. It was already going to be hard enough to explain the missing granola bar to watchful eyes. So I had to be careful.
It was a rare occasion that Pop Tarts would make it into the house but when they did they would be the first thing I’d go for. Wherever the sugar was my body knew how to find it. Because that is the truth about sugar addicts. The body knows what you’re looking for. And it will let you know when you’ve found it. You may not know WHY you crave certain types of food. You may actually believe they are your favorites and that’s why. But if they are your favorites, it’s not because of taste most likely. It’s because of what they’ve put in it. What they’ve injected into it. Make no mistake. You’re drawn to it for a reason. And it really is no mystery. Sugar is highly addictive. And for some of us out there, it’s impossible to resist.
Once something has owned you, it will never give up wanting to own you again. Sugar is that way for me. It’s something I can never stop being wary of. I can’t believe that I am stronger than it because I’m not. But that doesn’t make me weak. It makes me realistic.
Should I also be expected to hold back hurricanes and tornados? Should I be able to exert my willpower over an army of warriors with just my own strength to hold them back?
Sugar is a drug. A powerful drug that is like a hurricane in your life. It will sneak in quietly and then tear down everything that is precious to you. It will produce an insatiable hunger in you that promises to be silenced with just one more bite but delivers nothing more than an endless life of misery seeking satisfaction that will never come to pass.
I’m not even sure how I got back on sugar. I just know I did. And it took me a year and a half to break free again.
It’s been a month and a half now that I’m off sugar. My sanity has returned. Almost 20 pounds are gone. And suddenly I can remember…
It’s not ME
I’m not weak. Defective. Or just a really hungry person by nature
But I am susceptible to what sugar can do. It’s already powerful enough for me even in its natural form if I overdo it. But what’s been chemically altered in a lab and injected into our food is no match for most humans. I could spend the rest of my life in therapy trying to work through the emotional reasons why I choose food for comfort but it still wouldn’t do a thing to control my appetite if I don’t stop eating sugar. I could have 3 more weight loss surgeries and it wouldn’t matter if sugar is still running through my veins. I could hypnotize myself. Pray 24 hours a day. Work out like crazy. Lift weights. And go to every 12 step group known to man. But if I eat sugar—it’s over. I’ve lost the fight in the first round.
I can see now so clearly why I regained weight and struggled for so long. When sugar is not in me, I am free. And I want for others to be free too. Because it’s time we stop beating ourselves up for not being able to resist what almost no person can. A lab created drug that was meant to imprison us. It’s hell getting away from its grip. But the hell ends. It won’t last forever. Not if you keep going. Not if you keep fighting. Not if you refuse to feed it.
Because the lie that it can be satisfied is the worst one of all. The more you feed it the worse it gets. Get rid of the sugar. And it dies.
That’s when the real YOU rises to the surface. The YOU that was there all along. The one that IS strong, self controlled and full of inner strength.
She was just hidden under a pile of sugar. So dust off the powdered beast and get back to living!