Before I realized I was a food addict, I’d been doing some reading on and off about the condition. The major sticking point for me was the same as some people’s responses in my post, which were, “Can you really be addicted to something that is essential to survive?” After all, we never hear about oxygen addicts. “That Bob, he just can’t get enough air! I wish he’d just hold his breath once in awhile.” I wondered if there were better terms for the condition, like “compulsive overeater” or “binge eater” or “Piggy McEatsalot.”
Ultimately, I decided the name doesn’t matter. A name is just a box we put ideas in. What matters is that I understand my relationship with food. Then I can start figuring out the consequences my environment, my thoughts, and my actions have on that relationship and make plans to manipulate these things to my best advantage. I don’t know what the official definition of addiction is, though I could look it up on dictionary.com or the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I don’t know if what happens in my brain when there is leftover cake in the break room is the same thing that happens when an alcoholic is inside a liquor store or a smoker is inhaling second-hand smoke at a bar. It would be interesting to know, but I doubt it matters unless you’re working on a cure for addiction. Right now I’m just trying to cope with the way I am. Giving my problems a name seems less relevant than managing them.
It’s nice to have the name, for sure. Then you can popularize the term and it makes it easier to explain it to other people. You can say, “I’m an alcoholic” and people instantly understand what you mean. It would be nice to have scientific proof too because then you can point to the studies and the fancy medical speak and explain to people why you are the way you are. That would make them stop jabbering on about willpower and calorie counting and stop them wondering why these silly fat people can’t stop eating so much already. Once people see that there is a biological reason for the way you are, they get much more understanding and stop blaming you for a character flaw.
So, addict, compulsive overeater, or Lady Piggy McEatsalot, I don’t care what you call me, but at least I know what I am.