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Just another addict

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

One of the most memorable interviews I did sprang from the days I spent at a drug rehabilitation center. Specifically, the clients there were trying to beat heroin addiction.

At the time, I was in the process of writing a five-part series on heroin addiction after two local heroin-related deaths and a dearth of drug arrests in the area. Heroin had hit home and many local families were anguished over a loved one's addiction.

The rehab center said I was welcome to come and attend classes and was free to talk to any of the clients who were willing to share their stories, provided no real names were used.

In one class, the addicts agreed I could ask them any questions if they could do the same thing with me.

"Are you an addict?" asked one fellow.

I glibly told him the only addiction I suffered from was food addiction. I'll never forget his response.

"Then you're in worse shape that I am," he said. "I can stay away from my heroin addiction just by avoiding certain people and staying out of certain places. You can't avoid your addiction because food is everywhere."

How right he is.

It's almost impossible to avoid the temptation of food because the social fabric of our lives is built around food.

For me, that's especially true. When friends call and ask to get together, someone usually suggests going out for dinner. Every weekend seems to include at least one or two dinner dates with various friends. And when you sit around a table relaxing and chatting with friends, you eat far more than you would on your own.

Then there's my favorite club - the local kayak club that meets every Wednesday night. Business meetings are over in 15 minutes, followed by our revered weekly tradition - going on to dinner.

We go to a different restaurant every week but each one has the same challenge for me eating something healthy. Worse yet, while we're all sitting around the table waiting for dinner, homemade garlic rolls are placed on the table. The rolls are just like potato chips - it's hard to eat just one, especially when everyone around you is chowing down.

I just read that two of those rolls contain as many calories as a big meal. Combine the rolls with a lovely glass of wine with friends and you just hit the ball out of the park for diet sabotage.

Week after week I struggle. I sit there sipping a glass of water with lemon, forsaking the Sangria wine I enjoy. I take one warm roll from the breadbasket, saying I'm only going to take a bite or two. But two hours is a long time to endure temptation and by the end of the meal, I've eaten the roll and everything else, feeling like that's how I will leave the restaurant - I'll roll out.

Even my physical activities have a big food component to them.

I belong to a wonderful Friday biking group that offers rewarding friendships along with the exercise. We bike to a different scenic location each week and I look forward to those trips.

Part of the trip includes going on to breakfast. At home, I never eat eggs with meat and potatoes for breakfast. But I do there.

I also belong to a wonderful exercise group at the local YWCA. In addition to taking exercise classes, we get together once a month to exercise our forks. We all love our luncheons and it's the only chance to share what's going on in our lives.

But why, oh, why do many social activities have to revolve around food?

I've concluded that heroin addict was right. It's harder to stay away from food because it's everywhere.

I read a health publication today with a headline that called out for my attention: "Food Addict."

According to the article, science has only recently validated that some people are addicted to food. Certain foods trigger food cravings and some people have a physiological disposition toward food addiction.

Addiction to food, especially to sugar, carbohydrates and any food with a high fat content, affects up to 200 million Americans, according to the Refined Food Addiction Research Associates.

Weight Watchers advises its members to think about what foods they crave. These are the foods which usually trigger out of control eating.

To answer that question, I wrote down potato chips and pasta. My idea of one serving of potato chips is the size of the bag.

I've watched some people eat chips, taking a few then resealing the bag and putting it away. I don't have that control. So I stay away from them completely.

The same is true of pasta. I can only eat it when I have company, lots of company, so I don't eat it all myself.

I'm fighting hard to beat this addiction to food by making wise food choices and eating a health-centered diet. It's working.

Last night, we went to Outback with six friends. Everyone sat around the table feasting on the bloomin' onion, complete with sauce, and the freshly baked loaf of bread, along with glasses of wine. I sat there nursing a cold glass of water with lemon, not feeling in the least bit deprived.

I might not win my war with food, but at least I'm winning some battles.

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