Perhaps it's time to grow up

Yesterday I ended six weeks of continual passive motion (CPM) therapy for a knee repair that I had back on June 3rd. Nothing has ever pushed my buttons of frustration more than this unexpected time of rehab, and I’ve experienced a lot of frustrating and stressful moments in my life up to this point. Perhaps it was because I felt well, and lying on my back with a leg strapped to a machine for that long during nice weather just felt so unnatural and claustrophobic. Perhaps I didn’t like being dependant upon others; or isolated from society; or unable to cook, clean, pull weeds, or do laundry the way I like. For whatever reason, the volcano of frustration increased with each passing day, and last week it erupted. Big time.

baby and pacifierSo I took off for the kitchen. 

I had no idea what I was going after, but I was determined to find something. 

After opening the cupboard doors and spotting a canister of cocoa powder I found my drug of choice. Now mind you, there’s absolutely nothing unhealthy about cocoa powder, but I wasn’t going after nutrients to nourish my body. I wasn’t hungry whatsoever. 

I was mad. 

I was frustrated AND desperately wanted a quick fix to soothe and pacify my frazzled nerves.

First I dumped a bunch of cocoa in with frozen bananas and made a scrumptious chocolate dessert. After that vanished I dumped a bunch more into some hot oatmeal.  Ahhhh.  I was soothed.

Or so I thought. 

That was, until the next morning when I woke up. I had created not only a toxic headache, but stirred up even more frustrations so I headed straight back to the kitchen. This time I dumped at least twice as much of the powdery stuff into a frozen banana dessert and bowl of oatmeal. As I was in the process of bingeing, I gasped slightly at the amount of cocoa that I was putting into my body, but it didn’t bother me enough to quit.

However afterwards, when I came to my senses, I couldn’t believe that I had this much “attack” still left in me after almost three years of overcoming many emotional eating hurdles. Then the light bulb turned on.  Have you ever misplaced an infant or toddler’s favorite pacifier or blanket? Watch out.

Immediately after that revelation I had absolutely no desire whatsoever to go after the cocoa powder. Why the change? 

We all know that most everyone turns to food (and/or drinks) to celebrate happy occasions.  Likewise, for years I’d viewed eating as a normal response to life’s stress, because it seemed like most everyone also turned to food as an acceptable drug of choice when frustrated too. Now I view it for what it truly is; silly and immature behavior, an out-of-control temper tantrum that only adds more stress. 

I never had a pacifier, but I clearly remember the day my favorite blanket named “Pinky” was put on the burn pile. (I grew up on a farm.) I was six or seven-years-old and the blanket was in shambles. The time had come for me to let go of it; it was time for me to grow up.

Perhaps pacifying emotions through unhealthy eating behaviors is something that many of us need to let go of. Perhaps it’s time to grow up.  


image credit:  flickr by ff137        


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Comments (23) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
patty - July 15, 2011 8:38 AM

Thanks for sharing this Emily! There's a saying in AA..."while you were getting sober, your addiction was in the corner doing push-ups"...just waiting for you to come back and will be stronger than when you left it. Scary things, these addictions. Sounds like you were not only doing push-ups but lots of weight lifting too!!

Geoffrey Levens - July 15, 2011 8:46 AM

Great post Emily! Amazing how those old old patterns we thought were gone and buried can sneak back from the crypt and blind side us when the stressors get big enough. But "the truth CAN set you free!" And I believe that after having fought and finally won that particular battle, you will forever be a little stronger, quite possibly in many ways.

Dorothy Pollock - July 15, 2011 8:55 AM

I think this is proof of the power of toxic food addictions and how a lifetime of them can linger and pop up under stressful moments. It is also a great example of how being on a healthy plant based diet allows one to stop a binge that in the past would have caused weeks or maybe months of poor eating and ultimate weight gain.
Thanks for the reminders and the look at a new mindset;=)

Bill - July 15, 2011 9:13 AM

Wow,wow,wow! Emily, this is what happens to each of us at times and yet it's hard to come out and speak about it. It not the end but rather a awakening to our addictions and inner emotions. You offer such strength and honesty for everyone who reads this. If I eat bad, I usually beat myself up and attempt to move on. I thought I was alone. Seems we all hit a wall now and then. Fir me, my past habits come haunting me. Still I move forward try to learn, staying the course just feels better and my body responds and that keeps me on track.

Karen Harris - July 15, 2011 10:35 AM

Congratulations on learning the lesson behind the behavior - and for sharing it with us. Yesterday someone posted something unkind on their FaceBook page - one of those dumb articles attacking the psychological stability of a certain political party's constituents. I was frustrated, as with the looming election I knew we were in for another round of divisive and intolerant speech and behavior. That we would be made pawns of the politicians and pundits, believing their hateful sound bites. As I contemplated posting my rebuttal, I stomped into the kitchen, got a container of black olives out of the frig and began stuffing them into my mouth. Whoa! Thankfully I stopped myself after the 8th olive and realized what I was doing! (and I posted a reasoned response asking people to be respectful of each other)

Elisa Rodriguez - July 15, 2011 10:42 AM

Awesome post Emily! Thanks for sharing your moments of vulnerability and these enlightening realizations that followed - that's growth and that's gooood ;-)

Emily Boller - July 15, 2011 11:08 AM


That's a good point about AA to bring up, but let's all reconsider the "while you were getting sober, your addiction was in the corner doing push-ups" teachings of organizations such as AA. I understand that concept when physical cravings have not been eradicated from one's life, but when physical cravings are gone, AA may need to reconsider their teachings.

When one has been consistently eating a high-nutrient, plant based diet for an extended period of time, physiological cravings for toxic, destructive SAD foods subside and eventually go away (over time). It has nothing to do with willpower or emotional well-being, but everything to do with the physical cravings for those particular foods leave.

If AA teachings were true then I would've easily binged on SAD foods also and gone hog wild, big time. A couple of frozen bananas and bowl of oatmeal with cocoa powder is absolutely nothing in comparison to what I used to take out frustrations with prior to Eat to Live.

My cocoa powder binge was an immature emotional behavior that obviously had to be dealt with; but because I'm not addicted to SAD foods anymore, the damage to my health was miniscule in comparison. The addiction monster within has lost lots of muscle; it hasn't been in the corner doing push-ups whatsoever in my opinion.

As Dorothy stated above, "It is a great example of how being on a healthy plant based diet allows one to stop a binge that in the past would have caused weeks or maybe months of poor eating and ultimate weight gain."

Everyone, let's dialogue about addiction growing bigger during sobriety topic that AA teaches. Anyone have any thoughts based on their ETL experiences?

Patti - July 15, 2011 11:32 AM

Excellent! Thank you!

mike crosby - July 15, 2011 1:17 PM

As an aside, I did not know cocoa powder is OK to eat.

Generally, my diet can be boring at times, for instance when I eat salads, I use no dressing.

The cocoa powder and bananas sounds delicious. Can you please tell me how to make a shake with that?

Emily Boller - July 15, 2011 2:03 PM

Let bananas ripen (or stock up on ripe bananas when they go on clearance). Remove their peelings and freeze for at least 24 hours. Put 2 or 3 bananas in the Vita Mix with about 1-2 T. of raw cocoa powder and mix until smoothe. Viola, chocolate ice-cream! If you don't have cocoa powder on hand, throw in a handful of walnuts w/ bananas for a Walnut Ice-Cream. (Use wisdom though . . . .make sure you eat a green salad or cooked greens first with a meal beforehand as the nuts increase the absorption of nutrients ten times!) Also, equal amounts of frozen, sweet cherries to frozen pineapple chunks makes a wonderful sorbet. OR 4 c. of diced canteloupe, 2 c. ice, and six dates for a wonderful canteloupe slushie.

There are lots of nut based salad dressings that can be made with various combinations of nuts, seeds, fruits, vinegars, and spices. Dr. Fuhrman has recipes for various salad dressings in his books, and there are lots of recipes on the member center also.

For a quick Ranch Dressing, in a Vita Mix or high speed blender, combine 1 1/2 c. of soymilk, 1 avocado, 2 T. nutritional yeast, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 T onion powder & a pinch of black pepper. Afterwards stir in 3 chopped chives.

If you like Ceasar Salad Dressing, in a high speed blender blend 2 raw cloves of garlic, 1 c. soymilk, 1/2 c. cashew butter, 2 T. nutritional yeast, 2 T. lemon juice, 1 T. Dijon mustard and 1/8 t. black pepper.

If you don't have time or the desire to make your own, you can also buy gourmet vinegars and nut based salad dressings from


DebbieSLP - July 15, 2011 2:41 PM

Addiction to food has definitely waned each time I have abstained. It sat in the corner getting smaller and smaller each time I neglected it, and even if I feed it a little once in a while, it is never enough to bring it back to its former glory.

I do occasionally choose to eat a SAD food. (Occasionally means a few times a year, not a few times a week BTW!) I am always reminded within hours why I do not do so regularly - upset stomach, fatigue, poor sleep and other symptoms are quick to occur now that I am "clean" and well nourished. Knowing I can expect more uncomfortable feelings if I have a little more the next day, it is easy to ignore those pesky toxic hunger pangs.

Even after seven years on ETL, toxic hunger can happen -- toxic foods create toxic feelings, including the pseudo-hunger. Simple biological cause and effect. However, I now understand what the craving is (and isn't), and that allows me to make a conscious decision. And the power of the craving is much less than it was when I was first starting ETL. That makes it easier too.

For those starting out, it does get easier, and then easier, and then easier still.

Mary - July 15, 2011 3:56 PM

Thank you for this, Emily. A similar situation happened to me at around the same time - on June 7th. I had to lie around because of my knee injury. I followed Eat To Live for 10 days and lost 4 pounds, but then my addictions took over when I gained a quarter of a pound from not being able to move or exercise. I am so discouraged. But just think if you had had "toxic" food in the house when your "setback" occurred, how much more damaging this could have been. It's a lesson to be learned from you not to have the wrong foods in the house when temptation sets in. Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing! I'm still continuing my struggle. It's very hard living in the world who doesn't eat this way. I am waiting for the Dr. Fuhrman package of info I won for contributing to the PBS station he was on, and it's been 6 weeks now. I wish it would get here, to help me out.

Bennyb - July 16, 2011 2:13 PM

Woah!!! Thanks for all the dressing recipes... Wooooooo Hooooooooo

susanNM - July 16, 2011 2:21 PM

I think that AA deals with the fact that when a recovering alcoholic has a slip, she may never be able to stop again. Facing that reality, it doesn't make sense to make light of slips.

In AA meetings you hear from people who had some years of sobriety and then they weren't sober any more. It's not uncommon for them to say that they were able to drink "normally" for a short period of time, but then the addiction seemed to pick up where it left off. Of course there are other people who come back to tell that they were completely in thrall from the first sip.

After you hear enough of these "reports from the battlefield", you might become convinced that the only sensible thing to do is abstain.

There's no AA publication that I know of that says "one slip and you're automatically going to fall completely apart that very day."

Jennifer B - July 16, 2011 6:13 PM

This dialog about AA teachings and food addiction interests me. There is a lot to be said and I am not sure that a response in a comments section can touch it. The teachings of OA and AA and all their counterparts are much about personal contact, sponsorship, and fellowship. Isolating one phrase from that fellowship and debating its merits outside of the program may not make much sense. The phrase about "your addiction is doing pushups in the corner" comes from the idea of progression. AA/OA/NA view addiction as a disease with no cure that can be arrested by abstaining from the addictive substance. The idea here is that the addictive substance can never be safely used. With food this can get tricky. I would venture to say that Dr. Furhmans 6 week plan is a very safe way to eat for a food addict (omitting all flour products, he already omits all sugars). Food addiction is complicated. For some people the very act of overeating, even on healthy foods is an addictive issue. The goal of the OA program is to identify what triggers you and abstain from it. You are only "safe" when you avoid the addictive substance.

There is evidence that people who have abstained from there addictive substance and then relapse back into it seem to rapidly get worse. That is called progression. The disease is incurable and when its is reactivated by the addictive substance the sick person is worse off than ever.

That is not the sum total of the conversation by any means but a brief summary of what I have come to understand. My observation and experience have given me very strong pause to ever consider eating flour and sugar again.

278 days since eating flour or sugar.
113 days following 6 week plan.
I've lost 52.5 lbs total!


Hawar - July 16, 2011 6:17 PM

Hey Emily, thank you for sharing. I have a question about the soy milk. Do you make it at home or is it store bought (plain soy without any added sugar)?

Emily Boller - July 16, 2011 7:28 PM

Hawar, I've never made soymilk, and yes, I buy it plain without any added sugar.

Great dialogue everyone!

I'm just throwing the following question out there . . . .so if unhealthy eating / overeating is truly a disease as OA wants one to believe, wouldn't it be impossible then to eradicate it from one's life?

Since I've eradicated the physical, addictive drive to consume unhealthy foods, I've eaten wedding cake at two different weddings, but they weren't that big of a deal to me. I didn't actually enjoy the pieces of cakes as much as I would've a fruit & green smoothie. I also attended an event that I would've loved to have eaten something of the SAD choices just to be polite, but in all truthfulness, there was not one thing that appealed to me to take even one bite. One could set a double stuffed cheese crust & meatlovers pizza in front of me; or a plate of lasagna or slices of cheddar cheese; a bag of corn chips or Oreos; a bowl of frosted shredded wheat & milk; or grilled chicken breasts and steaks wtih scalloped potatoes & sour cream . . .all favorites prior to ETL . . . and I have absolutely no desire to eat such stuff now. In fact, all of the forementioned sound repulsive to me (and would make me very sick!) And for those rare SAD foods that I could be tempted with such as Reece peanut butter eggs or iced Christmas cookies, I don't keep them around. [I'm addicted to the sentimental memories of those particular foods at holidays than the actual food itself.]

Disease or no disease, something has significantly changed within me since getting rid of the physical cravings for the standard American diet fare. Last week I still had immature emtional behaviors that led to taking out my frustrations on an anger binge, but it had nothing to do with physical cravings. Behaviors (bad habits) that are repeated get worse, of course, but I wouldn't necessarily call a negative behavior a disease . . . anymore than I would call a screaming toddler who wants his/her pacifier a disease.

It's great to have some open dialogue on the topic from various perspectives and experiences.

Pam - July 16, 2011 11:56 PM

Thank you, all, for this conversation; it's extremely interesting to me. One thing that I've been struggling with for YEARS about ETL is that I just can't eat *that* many vegetables and that few starches. I'm much more physically and psychologically comfortable with a diet that's closer to half veg and half whole starches -- like an Esselstyn diet or a veg-heavy McDougall diet. When I try to shift the balance more towards veg than that, I flip out and binge on SAD food. But I don't know if the kind of diet I can live with will get me to the non-addicted place that Emily describes above, which is where I need and want to be. I feel caught between the 6-week plan being impossible for me to *start*, and anything else may be impossible for me to *stay* on forever, free of food addiction. If anybody has any thoughts to offer on this, I would love to hear them.

Thanks. Pam

Emily Boller - July 17, 2011 5:55 AM

Pam, are you including plenty of beans, nuts & seeds, (and fresh fruit) with your meals? Beans are a preferred carbohydrate; an important component of the eating plan as they are a resistant starch that promote a sensation of fullness, plus they stablize blood sugars. Also eating an ounce of raw, unsalted nuts/seeds per day helps to prevent overeating. Don't exclude either from your meals. (And always eat the nuts/seeds with your greens to increase the absorption of micronutrients.)

You didn't mention how many days you follow ETL before you flip out and binge on SAD foods. Most likely you are experiencing detoxification at that point and cravings are just a normal part of the withdrawal process. For most there's a threshhold; a "hitting the wall" (flipping out) time of toxic withdrawal. You must hang on during that phase as there are no shortcuts to bypass it; but once it passes, you will be totally satisfied with high-nutrient foods. In fact, you will begin to crave high-nutrient foods over SAD foods. It really does happen.

Toxic hunger is an addictive withdrawal, and it is only temporary . . .hang on during it . . . it will eventually pass if you don't go back to toxic SAD foods, and then you'll be free from the overwhelming urges and cravings to flip out on SAD foods. [Dr. Fuhrman calls it toxic hunger and writes extensively about it in his books.]

Make sure you have a support system such as the member center or a local ETL meet-up group during toxic withdrawal (and beyond) - that will help you succeed also!

MANY have overcome toxic hunger and I know you can also ~ stick with the plan; no matter what. That's the only way to overcome toxic hunger.

Keep us posted on your progress.

All the best to you!

All the best of great health to everyone!

Emily Boller - July 17, 2011 6:31 AM


A dear friend of mine expressed recently that not only is eating the standard American diet [and throwing temper tantrums with food] socially acceptable drug of choice, and an expected form of indulging, or an acceptable form of pacifying emotions . . .we who want to eat healthy & be free from it are many times criticized and made fun of for desiring & living in the freedom it brings.

Bottom line . . . this entire topic of freedom from food addiction and the freedom to choose great health . . . . ANYTHING that works for you is great!

Dustin Rudolph - July 17, 2011 8:05 PM

It's really amazing how vulnerable we are when frustrated and angry. I admire you sharing this about yourself Emily. Emotions can be so short sighted sometimes. I remember going after soda pops when I was younger whenever having a bad moment or day. It kind of makes everything disappear for a while. I would have to call it a quick fix cover up though. I've tried to do more yoga or meditation in recent times when frustrated. It's not easy at first especially for someone who multitasks constantly but practice makes perfect right?! :)

Brian L - July 18, 2011 4:34 PM


Thank you so much for posting this Emily. I would like to reach Jennifer B, or anybody else in the OA program. I live in southern CA and cannot find anybody in the meetings who are familiar with this way of eating, or even open to it. I have tried unsuccesfully to keep it up on my own. I know if I had some support, I could do it. It doesn't matter where you live. I just need some people that I can check in with, and who can check in with me. Obviously, it's an anoymous program, so it can be difficult, but I'm desperate. Out here, they all want you to eat at El Pollo Loco every day. I'm totally serious! They've got the flour and sugar thing down, but that's as far as it goes for most people here. Please, anybody that's in the program (or even if you're not and you're doing this plan) contact me at Thank you!

Pam - July 18, 2011 5:46 PM

Thanks for responding, Emily. I really appreciate it. I'll try again. I'm sure I can get through those first few days if I know it's going to get better. :)

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