A close friend of mine, Joe (not his real name) recently returned from an eating disorder residential treatment facility. He finally admitted himself (at the advice of his therapist) for a compulsive eating problem that’s plagued him for over 20 years. Joe’s not a small guy but he’s not as large as you might expect because he’s also a compulsive exerciser…his solution to all that eating. During a typical day he’d eat like everyone else until he got home in the evening. Then, from 6-10 PM he’d spend most of his time in and out of the kitchen. After a restless night’s sleep, he’d get up at 4:30 so he could spend an hour and a half in the gym before heading to work.
Unfortunately, weight and age caught up to Joe. The calories burned were no longer keeping up with the calories consumed. As his waistline grew, he found himself medicated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He also started suffering from sleep apnea. It seemed like his life was falling apart and he was motivated to change the pattern but whenever he tried to eat less, he got anxious…unbearably anxious. He once confessed to me, “Food is my mistress. I love her. I can’t wait to get home to see her. She makes me so happy. I can’t break up with her. It’s impossible. I can’t.”
Well, 28 days of residential treatment later, Joe’s a very different guy. We went to lunch yesterday and he asked for a “to go” box when his giant sandwich arrived. Before eating, he put half of it in the box explaining to me that restaurants generally give us 2 to 3 times more than a healthy portion so he brings half of it home. For the first time in his entire life, Joe knows what portion sizes are supposed to look like. Four weeks of being forced to eat and exercise normally has also helped him break away from his addictions. He explained that for the first time since he can remember his mind is free to think of something other than food. He feels empowered. He’s happy.
He said, “Wendy, there’s a big difference between can’t and haven’t yet. I learned that I can.”
So can you.