Boundaries Keep Us Free from Addiction

Emotional eating and food addiction not only ruin health, but relationships as well, because both addictions have the potential to cause irrational thinking and behaviors. 

  • In the throes of my addictions I stole my children's Easter candies, Halloween treats, Christmas cookies; carefully making it look like nothing was missing, of course. 
  • I ate my husband's leftover birthday pie our first year of marriage, and when he found out he was shocked and furious! I even ate the top tier of our wedding cake that was intended for our first year anniversary celebration.
  • I ate out of the trash can; especially after a party when half-eaten Sloppy Joes and pieces of discarded birthday cake were calling my name. I would wait until the guests had gone home, and my family was sound asleep before the raid.  I loved the paper plates loaded with leftover cake and frosting flowers stuck to them the best.  
  • Besides my favorite, burnt edges of lasagna straight from the pan, one time I even ate salty, hardened hamburger grease that was sitting on the kitchen counter in a container - now that's the humdinger of addiction!

And to be totally honest, the 100 lbs of fat that I’d gained as a result of emotional eating and food addiction wasn’t nearly as painful as the inner turmoil and shame that it created within. The addictions consumed my thoughts, actions and moods; and both ruined precious relationships along the way. However, I overcame them by establishing a clear boundary line and made the steadfast decision to stay within it. Impulsive slip-ups happened from time to time, but I refused to let them derail my decision to stay 100% committed to be free from addiction and get my health back.   

That may sound too simplistic to be true, but it worked. 

Within four days of making the commitment to carefully follow Eat to Live, my teenage son with Type I diabetes ate a 2# bag of M & M’s, and he didn’t inject himself with insulin to cover it.  Suddenly, I was thrust into a tumultuous medical crisis that lasted the better part of three months. I wasn’t able to focus on books or programs to unravel the reasons behind my emotional eating. I didn’t have time to analyze every morsel of food that went into my mouth. During that time of crisis I couldn’t dig up past wounds to contemplate those who had wrongfully hurt me, or that I had hurt. My thoughts were consumed with saving my child’s life, and nothing else mattered.        

Thankfully, I had copied the Six-Week Plan, that’s outlined on p. 216 of Eat to Live, onto several 3x5 cards and had them laminated at an office supply store.  Those cards were my “boundary line” at all times.  I kept one in my purse, one in a book, one in the car, and attached one to the front of the refrigerator with a magnet. Those cards made all decisions for me, regardless of the turmoil that engulfed me.

I also worked on a daily piece of art anytime that I was tempted to eat. I carried 4"x4" squares of Bristol board, and colorful markers and pencils with me everywhere I went. I focused on creating art instead of eating food; and many times it was just doodling with colors in a hospital room. That was a tremendous tool to help divert my frustrations and anguish, and the resulting cravings to eat.

After three months the numbers on the scale were down 40 lbs, but more importantly, both emotional eating and addictive cravings for unhealthy food had significantly subsided.  I actually craved green vegetables instead of bacon, cheese, and peanut butter!

I've had episodes of emotional eating since then, but they have been short lived. For example, the following year during another diabetic crisis involving my son, I was pouring cocoa powder into bowls of oatmeal and banana ice-creams like crazy. (More like I was dumping it on!) Dr. Fuhrman told me to "Stop. Stop immediately, and don't use anymore cocoa powder for two weeks." That was my boundary line. Sure, I still nearly drowned in raging emotions that were all over the place, but I clung to the safety of the boundary line throughout the ordeaI and overcame both emotional eating and addiction to cocoa powder as a result.   

Then this past summer I was extremely sleep deprived and experienced PTSD symptoms from a sudden, tragic event in my life.  I craved dopamine producing, high calorie, low-nutrient, “healthy” foods over high-nutrient choices.  Dr. Fuhrman instructed me to focus on shopping and preparing delicious tasting, high-nutrient foods; and to focus on getting deep sleep every night by darkening my bedroom windows. Again, that was my boundary line. Within a few weeks the PTSD symptoms subsided, I desired high-nutrient foods again, and my sleep cycles were restored.


If we want emotional, psychological and physiological freedom from addictions, we must establish a clear boundary line and stay within it no matter what. 


It may seem scrupulous, but it has to be.

 

Some will think it is extreme, but so is addiction. 

 

Addicts cannot afford compromise. Addicts cannot turn back. If we do, we will be undone, because the addiction will recover strength and take over our lives.  



 You may also be interested in reading The Powerful Snare of Compromise” and

“Food Addiction is Just as Powerful as Drug Addiction”

 

 

image credit: “Death by Dumpster Diving” © 2012 by Emily Boller




 

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Comments (23) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Orsi - September 6, 2012 11:31 AM

Wow, so very inspiring. I found the section on not having time to read books / dwell on causes really impressive. It made me think that the self-help reading that I do is just a way to procrastinate from just doing it.

Michelle - September 6, 2012 11:31 AM

Emily, your courage in sharing your experiences will no doubt save lives. Thank you. And what a fascinating paradox that boundaries can create freedom.

Emily Boller - September 6, 2012 12:18 PM

Clarification: Someone asked on Facebook if cocoa powder was unhealthy. The answer is no, in small amounts. However, that was not the case with me in a time of crisis. I was literally dumping it into a bowl of oatmeal or bananan ice-cream as a stress reliever; thus, preventing me from desiring high-nutrient foods.

Especially during times of intense stress & crisis we should be pampering our bodies with the best quality foods possible.

Carol Whitaker - September 6, 2012 1:30 PM

Emotional eating has been my nemesis. To this day I have to make conscious choices to stay inside a boundary. Thank you for sharing your journey with us Emily..... I'm buoyed up by your words and guidance. We can do this!

Marci - September 6, 2012 3:17 PM

Emily, Thank you for your honesty about the lapses & hard times. I had formed the idea that you were just an incredibly strong person once you'd broken the addiction to food, & I knew I wasn't that strong. Your sharing about boundaries is really encouraging!

Dennis - September 6, 2012 4:14 PM

Thanks for sharing your story! It is so inspiring to know you're not the only one dealing with and overcoming something as difficult as food addiction.

Sandy - September 7, 2012 11:48 AM

Copied from the above blog:
I wasn’t able to focus on books or programs to unravel the reasons behind my emotional eating. I didn’t have time to analyze every morsel of food that went into my mouth. During that time of crisis I couldn’t dig up past wounds to contemplate those who had wrongfully hurt me, or that I had hurt. My thoughts were consumed with saving my child’s life, and nothing else mattered.

Well said.

If we only knew how strong we really are...

Susan - September 7, 2012 4:14 PM

Emily, thank you for your honesty. I think I need to stop using cocoa powder, too. 5 Tablespoons in my morning smoothie (along with my 10 oz of veggies) is obviously too much! I have eaten my husbands "thank you bouquet" of chocolate chip cookies before he even got one because he wasn't eating them fast enough to suit me and I believe I have eaten out of the garbage can before at home when the trash was "clean". I feel so much better following the nutritarian diet. Stories like these make me want to do better. Thank you. 70 pounds gone and 6 dress sizes later I am so grateful for Dr. F!

Susan - September 7, 2012 4:14 PM

Emily, thank you for your honesty. I think I need to stop using cocoa powder, too. 5 Tablespoons in my morning smoothie (along with my 10 oz of veggies) is obviously too much! I have eaten my husbands "thank you bouquet" of chocolate chip cookies before he even got one because he wasn't eating them fast enough to suit me and I believe I have eaten out of the garbage can before at home when the trash was "clean". I feel so much better following the nutritarian diet. Stories like these make me want to do better. Thank you. 70 pounds gone and 6 dress sizes later I am so grateful for Dr. F!

m - September 8, 2012 11:20 AM

This post could not have come at a better time for me. I plan to reread it in times in the coming months when I'm sure to need it. I'm so sorry to hear you experienced a tragic event this summer, Emily. Your words are nonetheless couragous and inspiring.

Meredith - September 8, 2012 7:59 PM

This is so helpful to me. Thank you so much Emily. So sorry to read about the pain in your life this summer. We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a death in the family and this reminder is going to help buoy me.

Joanne - September 10, 2012 10:56 AM

Emily, your posts & articles are always a comfort & an inspiration! So sorry for your personal tragedy this past summer, I hope you & your family are ok, please keep writing & sharing!

Laurie McCullough - September 10, 2012 12:33 PM

Emily, I think what you accomplished shows incredible strength, and the effectiveness of having clear boundaries. Your daily piece of artwork must also have been an enormous help to you. I'm wondering to myself what other people might use to provide meaningful distraction in all sorts of situations. Art is such a big part of your life --- somehow it seems way on beyond a Sudoku puzzle. I'm puzzling over this one... (what might help others the most)

Laurie

Emily Boller - September 10, 2012 1:45 PM

Any creative distraction would possibly be ideal . . . .

a puzzle sounds like a good distraction; or playing the piano, (although it would be hard to carry around a piano in one's bag :)), knitting, crochet, embroidery, etc.

It's nice to have an "end product" to visually see and enjoy.

My potpouri of colorful Bristol boards are some of my most treasured works of art now. They each have a history and tell a story.

Naturegirl - September 11, 2012 12:13 PM

Hi Emily,

After having a good degree of success on ETL I hit a plateau and have never quite recovered. If anything I have relapsed on both my eating and my exercise. I know I need to set a new boundary and when I approach doing that my mind plays tricks on my and I get worse than ever. This resistance to drawing a line in the sand has got to stop! I will print out the plan for myself and begin again. It is interesting to note that I haven't gained weight back probably because I have maintained much of what I learned from Dr. Fuhrman. I just need to learn more and push through to my goal. Addiction is cunning and lies to me. I've got to quit falling for the lies, rationalizations and excuses! I'm sooo far off my healthy routine. I feel positively aweful...my immune resistance is way low. I can't believe I traded looking good and feeling great for this! This is wretched!

Julianne Rowland - September 13, 2012 10:04 AM

Thanks for the inspiration, Emily. I so enjoy your posts! Once again, your words have helped many on their journey.

Sandy Reeves - August 14, 2013 2:14 PM

Hi Emily,

Thank you for your story. Reading your story/bulleted items was like looking in a mirror. You have inspired me to again read the book and set boundaries. I've done it with other addictions. I so deperately need to with food addiction.

Nadaa Taiyab - August 14, 2013 3:58 PM

This was fascinating, Emily. Thank you for sharing.

Toni - August 14, 2013 8:26 PM

I also got distracted and stopped losing. Although I am still eating Nutritarian style, I have added back a few low calorie chocolate Vita cakes & Weight Watchers low fat snack size ice cream bars. GUILTY! I don't want to feel deprived for fear of a binge. I love the idea of boundaries. Although I have not eaten out of the trash, I do remember eating all of the leftover cake from several parties.(So it wouldn't go to waste)Maybe I am addictid to cookies, candy and cake. I will know if I restrict them. This story was an eye opener.
Thank you.

Pauline - August 15, 2013 12:20 AM

Emily, you probably just opened some doors for others and serve as an inspiration and comfot.I hope you continue with this positive journey and share about it!
This hits home for me-the loss of my mom, a few close friends and fiance'- having a history of addictions, which started with binge-starve cycles and escilated to narcotics, I have found the way to stay happy, binge-free, well and healthy is eat clean, exercise and also spirituality (for me it is church and prayer).I took a peanut butter jar out of my neighbors recycle that was half full- and it was like a drug frenzy, sweat and all....
Food addiction is an aweful feeling and each time I feel worse but that keeps me from slipping more. When you realize how good it feels to nurture your body and seek healthy food life seems sooo much more enjoyable :)

Sandy - August 15, 2013 8:37 AM

I appreciate your candidness. I also followed the link at the bottom of this blog post to the one about compromise.

After reading both of them I have a visual in my mind of walking along a path, lined with a white picket fence, full of lovely colorful whole foods. This path includes energy, health and a clear mind as well as the ability to deal with life's challenges as they come up. On the other side of the fence is SAD land with it's illness, fatigue, doughnuts, cookies, chips, and big clothes and trying to cover up life's challenges instead of dealing.

The part about compromise in your other blog really hit home for me. I am a master compromiser and it is an asset. However, in this situation the compromises must happen within the boundaries. Like maybe I'll have an apple instead of a pear. Instead of I'll have some ice cream instead of a pear. You know what I mean?

Thanks for your insights.

Monique - August 15, 2013 10:18 AM

What a great story! Thanks a bunch. I am day three of trying to reverse an eating disorder through Eat to Live...staying nourished and exercising goes a LONG way.

HealthMacher - August 20, 2013 5:38 PM

Can anyone suggest a good self-help book on food addiction AND/OR emotional eating?

Thanks Emily, your an inspiration to us all.

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