When I heard that Mika Brzezinski — the co-host of “Morning Joe” — wrote a book on her struggle with food addiction, I knew I was going to buy it. I pre-ordered “Obsessed” right away.
I knew that Mika was a runner and had caught myself admiring her slim physique while watching the show in the past. Actually I remember one time thinking she might be a little too slim. Apparently, I wasn’t far off the mark.
Hearing her discuss the book, I realized she and I battled very similar issues. While my problems really started with anorexia, I battled for many more years with binge eating disorder — kind of like the “food addiction” Mika talked about.
Like her, I never became really overweight for several reasons: 1) good metabolism 2) frequent exercise (or overexercise) 3) periods of food restriction. This can keep your weight in check even if you feel like you’re consumed by the thought of food 24 hours a day.
You get an addictive like feeling as your body senses the sugar intake it’s about to receive pre-binge. You don’t want to see anyone, you just want to get your food, be alone and wallow in the gluttony of your own pain, avoidance, fear, guilt, anxiety, etc.
Of course no one else ever really knows you do it. They don’t believe you. They say, “you don’t eat that much” or think you are exaggerating overeating. They think that eating two bowls of ice cream is “overeating.” Really, it’s the whole carton plus a pizza and whatever else you can stuff into your mouth before you are on the floor barely able to move because you are so full and bloated and disgusting and numb. Well, everyone is different but you get the picture.
So I related a lot to Mika in her personal struggle. The book centers around her friendship with an overweight friend. She talks about how they both essentially had the “same” problem but it just reflected itself physically in different ways.
I could get that –– having often sympathized with obese people when I was in the midst of my own battle. I often felt I should look like that for all the abuse I put my body through.
The personal stories were relatable but the rest of the book I found rather off-putting. A major part of Mika’s solution to the “food addiction” problem in America is to put more regulations and laws everywhere. She wants no junk food in public schools, she likes the ban on large sodas in New York, she wants anything that puts government in more control over our consumption.
I simply don’t see that as the solution. To me, getting better, getting healthy, getting “free” is about our personal choices. And everyone is different when it comes to their “food issues” (for those that have them.)
Low-fat food and small sodas wouldn’t have solved my problem. I’d eat an entire box of healthy cereal on a binge. I’d order five sodas or stop at two different restaurants. People with “food addiction” issues don’t need less access to bad food — they need to deal with the underlying reason of why they are binging or using food as a crutch to handle life.
One of the great freedoms I learned in recovering was that I CAN eat whatever I want. Everything is allowed and that’s part of overcoming an eating disorder. Obviously, I maintain a healthy diet in general but I sure wouldn’t want someone dictating that to me.
I do think sugar can have an addictive component. I know how it can kick in — I’ve felt that very real urge. And I’ve acted on it many times. I also know the choices I could have made to prevent that addictive urge from kicking in. You listen to your body, you learn your responses, you get professional help if you need it. It’s not that easy, of course, but I’ve been there.
Before I get too long and rambly, I’ll just say this. America’s collective eating disorder is not about what foods we see at eye level in the grocery store. It’s about individual people that need to learn for themselves, about themselves and the decisions they can make for themselves to treat their bodies better. It’s like relying on something or someone to lose weight for you. Nothing really works but, well, work.
That being said, I’ve no doubt that Mika’s heart is in the right place. I really believe she wants to solve this issue and help others who’ve struggled. So we disagree on several things but I respect her courage in sharing her story (it can be embarrassing, especially if you are as famous as her) and I hope some people can find solace, understanding and perhaps hope through reading it.
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