Addiction is a phenomenal liar. In fact, lies are the deadbolt that addiction uses to keep us locked in the chaos and suffering it causes. As we live in the self-loathing of compulsive eating and the shame created from our bingeing, as well as obsessive thoughts about food and weight, addiction whispers. These soft, deceitful murmurs keep the food addict believing that the misery of their seemingly insane eating is preferable to the misery of giving up their problem foods.
The dessert lie is a perfect example. Sugary foods are a gateway “drug” for countless food addicts. Sweets lead many an addict into compulsive eating, unbearable food cravings and unhealthy weight gain. Yet if you ask the food addict whether she’s willing to give up candies, cakes and cookies, she quickly dons a necklace of garlic for protection from such an evil suggestion. This stubborn defense happens because food addicts believe the lie that addiction has told them. They believe that life will be less pleasurable without sweets. They fear giving them up because addiction makes the addict certain that life will be less joyful without them.
Addiction tells you that a future without your favorite binge foods is an unfair punishment for past food indiscretions. You are led to believe that the punishment is unjust and unnecessary. The lie is simple: Life without cookies is sucky.
I can tell you this is a lie with certainty because as a recovering food addict I have not had cookies, candy, cake or dessert of any kind in nine years. When I share this with still-suffering food addicts they look at me with dread in their eyes. Then I assure them — just as I am assuring you — that my life is not less pleasurable today than it was ten years ago, a time when I compulsively overate sweets daily.
How did I stop believing the lie and end the madness? I didn’t. If you had told me I wasn’t going to have any sweets for nine years, I would have pushed you to the ground, then stepped over your body to get to the nearest grocery store for a bag of fun-sized candy bars. (By the way, calling a two-inch candy bar ‘fun’ is also a lie…just sayin’.) When I finally gave up sugary foods I did what any self-respecting addict does, I decided to give them up for the day. When I was able to get through the day without eating sweets, I woke up the next day and tried it again. For nine years, one day at a time, I gave up dessert.
My addiction still lied but over time the lie became less convincing. When I was able to string days and months together without dessert, I had history on my side. Enough time had passed that I could actually put the lie to the test: Had the weeks and months without sweets been unbearable, dreary, joyless? No. In fact, a life free from compulsively eating sweets became sweeter than anything I had ever tasted. Both the joy and the pain of eating desserts are distant memories because, quite frankly, I just don’t crave or want them anymore.