I am an addict. My drug of choice is perfectly legal and extremely easy to get. It’s cheap, available on almost every corner, and is present at nearly every gathering I attend. My drug of choice is food. I crave it just like an alcoholic craves a drink or a meth user craves another hit from the pipe. What makes my addiction so powerful is the fact that I can’t just stop eating. I’ve heard it said that being addicted to food is like living with a tiger that’s locked in a cage. It’s manageable while it’s locked away but three times per day I’m forced to set it free for a while, hoping I can lure it back where it can be controlled.
Most days, the tiger doesn’t make it back into the cage. It gleefully runs circles around me, pushing me with its heavy paws and snarling in my ear until I am too exhausted to even take pleasure in the things that I do to keep it at bay. It taunts me, forcing me to take notice of the fact that I’m the biggest person in most rooms and making me believe that no matter how smart or witty or friendly or kind I am, all people really see is the size of my body which negates everything else about me. As absurd and irrational as it sounds, it’s my reality 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and although there are times that it quiets to a whisper, there are times that it drowns out everything else around me.
Trying to manage my weight has been an issue for me all my life and at 48, I decided to have my body surgically altered in an effort to get my addiction under control. I got the Lap-Band in July of 2008 and although I’ve lost weight and continue to keep it off, it’s not been easy nor has it been quick and therein lies the problem. The surgery was my absolute last chance at taking the weight off once and for all, and I feel like I’m failing.
For me, losing the extra weight that envelopes my body is a long, slow journey. Because I began the journey weighing well over 300 pounds, I knew that my path to a healthy body weight would be longer than most but I had hoped that the Band would function like a walking stick, making it a little faster and a litter quicker going up the rocky terrain. Unfortunately, the road block that is my addiction makes travel nearly impossible sometimes and currently I find myself sitting at the side of the road unable to find any hope that I’ll ever have a body that resembles a “normal” size. Other travelers pass me by and some even stop to help and encourage me but even in the midst of their kindness I ruminate on my failure to control the addict part of my brain that so often robs me of acknowledging even my slightest victory over food.
I’ve been told that God (after hearing a rational reason that made sense to me, I’m attempting to rid myself of the habit of typing “G-d”) can help me along my weight-loss journey and give me strength and hope where I once had none. I pray daily and although my prayers aren’t formal or structured, they are genuine and from my heart. I truly believe that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” but as of late I find my faith wavering as it relates to my size and am fearful that God simply isn’t the answer to dealing with issues surrounding my weight. I don’t expect God to remove my desire to eat foods that are unhealthy for me and I don’t expect God to do all the work – that simply isn’t the God I believe in. What troubles me is my recent and growing lack of nearly all hope that I will ever be comfortable with my body and hope is something I desperately need if I am to continue to fight the addiction that is with me all day, every day.
As the Torah cycle moves closer to the book of Exodus, I think about my People and their journey through the desert and I remember the many times they lost hope that Moses was leading them in the right direction. They complained, doubted, complained some more, and even fashioned a golden calf all because they hoped they would receive a better answer to the many questions they had for God. Each time God, through Moses, answered – sometimes angrily and sometimes with compassion – but God always answered. Maybe its childish, but I’m looking for an answer, too, or at least something that will give me hope that someday I can look back on this journey and see the obese person I once was through the eyes of the thinner person I want to become.