How Food Ritual Leads To Wreckage

How Food Ritual Leads To Disease

My food addiction …

How did it start?

My parents split when I was three. When I turned four, my dad decided to move us to Joshua Tree, two hours from where I had grown up in Orange County (OC). My mom stayed in OC and for the next 11 years, my parents drove me back and forth every weekend for shared custody. It was an odd arrangement. I missed many birthday parties and normal weekend kid stuff because my parents thought it was a good idea to have a kid in a car for two hours or more every weekend. They were doing their best, I guess, but those crucial, formative years are when habits are getting hard-wired into a little kid’s brain.

In the 80s and early-90s when all of this was going on, fast food was the norm.

Nowadays, if I suggested stopping at a fast food joint for lunch to any of my friends, they would look at me like I just asked them to slam some heroine. So when we began our two-hour journey from San Bernardino County to Orange County (or vice versa), my mom would often roll through a drive-thru to get us sodas. She would order a Diet Coke, which was relatively new in the 80s. he thought it was a harmless beverage. No calories right? What harm could it do? It did a lot of harm, but we’ll come back to that.

Besides health issues, I got used to always getting a soft drink or a snack in order to get from Point A to Point B. I’m now in my late thirties and currently living in Orange County. I frequently have to go to LA (at least once a week usually), but can’t get on the freeway without a getting a drink (and sometimes a snack). When I’m being good, I get a plain iced tea with extra ice from Starbucks and add some Stevia. When I’m being really good, I’ll get a bottle of water from Starbucks and pour it into a Venti cup full of ice. Why spend the money on the bottle of water? Well, it’s the ritual, I guess, of going somewhere and getting that drink before hitting the road.

I hate drive-thrus; I wish they didn’t exist. But I’m in them almost every day. In my 20s, I started having major leg issues, or so I thought. I’d have days where I could barely walk or not walk at all. Eventually, the doctors showed me that my hips were like those of an 80 year old man. They each had to be replaced. I had fucking hip replacements in my 20s! I was also diagnosed with arthritis, which was starting to affect my other joints.

Then in my late 20s, I started to experience stabbing stomach pains. They were so bad that it would take my breath away. They diagnosed it as Crohn’s. I won’t detail the many surgeries I’ve had (about 10 now) or the hours upon hours of doctors appointments, testing/lab work, physical therapy, acupuncture, etc. But I will point out that I had many evenings, weekends, and holidays spent in bed. Typically on my back, unable to do anything, I decided to read book after book on holistic, natural healing. I became thoroughly convinced that soda, dairy, and gluten were the main culprits behind my health issues.

As started to experiment here and there with removing certain ingredients from my diet, I saw improvement. But to be honest, I can’t get myself to eliminating them completely from my diet. And even though I feel that sugar, soy, and all animal protein cause inflammation, I can’t get myself to remove them from my diet either. In January of this year, I had one of my worse episodes. I was out of work for four weeks.

I had a tube put down my nose and pushed down to my stomach. The process was bad, but having it in for seven days was even worse; it felt like I had someone’s finger in my throat for days. Oh, and I had abdominal surgery, again, to remove a foot of intestinal tract. There were many complications that followed, including an infection, etc. It was a nightmare. I had a form of PTSD afterwards.

I have a life coach, a personal chef who makes me vegan meals, a trainer, and I still can’t get myself to eat 100% well. Is this self-destructive behavior reversible? What would it take to stop it? I just started seeing a psychotherapist who specializes in food addiction, but of course, she feels it’s going to take multiple sessions of digging in the attic of my mind to make progress.

I’ve noticed that when I hang out with friends who are healthy, I fall into line and eat healthy. I sometimes eat good things when I’m alone, too, but I definitely am at my best when I’m around healthy people. Even if it’s for days on end, I’ll continue to eat healthily so long as I have positive influences around me. If I had a partner who was healthy and by my side, most days, then I guess I would eat healthier, but I don’t have that. I’ve got to do this for myself and I need to love and care for myself in order to avoid more major health problems.

I’ve had friends ask, “If you know these foods are bad for you, why do you keep eating and drinking them?” My only answer is in the form of a question: ”Have you ever seen a smoker smoking a cigarette with the help of an oxygen tank?” Well, that’s me.

Full print interview in UNDO MAG: Issue 7 

Writer: Bryan Brisslon
Artist: Brian Tampol

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