A Story of Weight Loss Transformation: Becky Field
How My Relationship With Food Changed in Recovery
“It’s nothing to do with food!”
Isn’t it amazing how one sentence can change your whole way of thinking or wake you up into a state of awareness? A little like ‘You need never drink again’, which was spoken at my very first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, on 16 September 2005. When I was six months sober, and in treatment from ‘substance abuse’ (the pretty, flowery name given to alcoholism), my mum died suddenly. Even then, they said ‘Whatever happens Becky, don’t drink‘.“It’s nothing to do with food, You’re addicted to dopamine”.
I love everything to do with food, planning it, shopping for it, eating it… Does this sound familiar? I still constantly think about food, only today I know I am addicted to dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s a key factor in motivation, productivity, and focus. It boosts our drive, focus, and concentration and it enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals.
I found out about my addiction to dopamine during 1-1 life coaching, where I really wanted to get to the route of why food played a major part in my life. I have always enjoyed food and many memories of childhood revolved around the food I ate, cottage pie at primary, hot pot at high school, Friday night chippy tea and iced buns after shopping on a Saturday. Ask me about any of the people I met during these years I couldn’t give you as much detail as I could in the meals I ate as a child or adolescent. I am sure I am not alone in this but I started to associate food with times of happiness and families and then life changed, the family changed and I clung onto these memories like a warm comfort blanket.
When I started drinking at 18, alcohol replaced food. However, all the same behaviours of excitement remained. I loved everything about it: the planning, the mixing of drinks, the camaraderie it talks about in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I loved it until it stopped loving me. I loved food until it stopped being exciting and became a weapon of self-loathing, the same was true for drinking.
I have been sober, thanks to AA and a God of my understanding, for 11 years. During this time, I have gained weight and lost weight twice. I am determined that knowing that it’s not about the food means that now I am a ‘goal’ I will stay there. Over these years, however, I have had to read and learn a lot about myself and my relationship with me. Not just the physical me as Danny Crosby so beautifully out it in his written piece.
My drinking behaviour was dissected in treatment. I felt a great sense of shame and remorse. I know that that was when I started to turn the love of food into a weapon of self-harm. Hidden by the excuse of no time, or inclination, or eat sugar-from the Living Sober book-I started to gain weight rapidly. I know that during my recovery years where I gained and lost weight, that the weight gain was a protective layer. When I was larger, I did not get unwanted attention and, therefore, I could trust myself to behave appropriately. I felt so wretched about myself that it was a fulfilling prophecy that I wasn’t worth thinking about. So I hid. I hid behind 4 stone of excessiveness which wrapped itself around me, protecting me, securing me whilst I dipped and peaked through anxiety and depression.
Then I lost it. Then I got attention. Then I enjoyed the attention. Then I gained it.
By the time I was told it was nothing about food, I was ready to love myself better. I had a confidence in myself and a secure footing in the AA programme that I knew I was in the best spiritual and mental state that I had ever been in my recovery, and I absolutely, 100%, believed I was worth it.
My life took a fantastic turn in November 2013, at 8 years sober. An emotional breakdown meant the necessity to change many things in my life and simplify it. I shook off demons and friendships that no longer nurtured the recovered me and I began to see myself and my life as deserving better.
“When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically’ Alcoholics Anonymous page 64.”
After going through the 12 steps again, I chose to live well in all aspects. Now I know this may seem contradictory, as it wasn’t about the food, but I joined Weight Watchers. My food choices were still attached to comfort-probably always will be-so I wanted to learn how to use food to fuel my body and mind, rather than to eat emotionally. I suffer from an emotional illness and I would continue to travel with emotional eating unless I could learn positive behaviours in the choices I made with food.
I went to Weight Watchers with the aim of making the food work for me and not to be controlled by it any more. It is a program of action and until I had the willingness to approach the program with an open mind, my relationship with myself and my body would always be the same.
Along my weight loss journey, I had one thought in my mind. I refused to be miserable in my decision to lose weight. I did not want to miss out on life just because I wanted to lose weight. I did not want it to be at the forefront of my mind and to become an obsession. I needed it to work with me and for me and use my addiction to dopamine to become excited about losing weight and about positive aspects of food, colours & combinations. Much like AA, I needed to be with people who wanted the same thing. To be happy with themselves physically they had to have support with emotional obstacles and we do that together.
To date I have lost 2 stone 12lb and I am happy at the size I am. I have called time at a size 14 and I am happy with it. I want to stay at an achievable and sustainable weight and size that suits me.
My primary purpose is to stay sober and help others, but since my emotional breakdown 3 years ago, I have worked on my emotional sobriety. Thankfully my physical sobriety was, and still is, built on a firm foundation of AA, treatment & life coaching. I could attach names to myself, sexual anorexic, tease, alkie, fatty, obese, but today I just associate myself with being happy and free from two slaves: Alcoholism and Food. I am me and I love me and you can give me all the attention you wish because I know I look okay and, more importantly, I feel great!