And that word is nawwwww, son.
Not long ago I quit a group of formerly like-minded women as a wave of quitting, actually, swept through it. Women quit meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, alcohol, coffee, caffeine altogether, all kinds of substances. (There was also some quitting of activities and whole categories of people, like parents.) Why? I’m simplifying here, but basically because they wanted to live free of “addiction.”
I’m for putting in your body whatever works for you, and leaving out whatever doesn’t. But I am not for the dilution of the word “addiction.” To illustrate:
Imagine you wake up very late. It has now been over 24 hours since your last cappuccino. Do you
A. Knock down the old lady blocking your way into Stabby’s.
B. Pawn your mother’s wedding ring to pay for that latte.
C. Trade sex for espresso even though you’re married.
D. Prove helpless to stop repeating these terrible mistakes.
E. None of the above. Just have a bit of a headache, really.
If you answered E, what you have is physical dependency, not addiction. I prefer to reserve the term “addiction” for those behaviors we know are destroying our lives and our relationships and our bodies*, behaviors that we’re powerless to stop even when we mostly want to, behaviors of an extreme nature.
It’s true that sometimes, if I go a day without coffee, I can have a headache. Foggy thinking. My body has come to expect a small dose of caffeine. I provide it, but not because I’m afraid of the negative consequences of quitting, but because a latte - in bed! made by my husband! drunk together! - is one of my day’s greatest small pleasures.
It’s worth drawing the distinction because pleasure is important to me. It’s a headache, not a night in jail, a month in rehab and a year of community service.
And actually, while we’re being precise, pleasure is not just important to me. After a lifetime of unexamined Puritanism, pleasure has become vital. Pleasure is my ride or die. (CLICK TO GET TATTOO!)
Gretchen Rubin says there are two kinds of people in this world: abstainers and moderators. Abstainers are the folks convinced they have an addiction and one bite will send them over a cliff. Moderators are the folks who will jump off that cliff without a little something once in a while.
With my clients, I really like to push on the idea of addiction. Maybe they can’t ever have sugar without bingeing, and so abstinence would be best. But it’s worth seeing whether giving yourself permission to eat sweets and other pleasurable foods in moderation will result in actual moderation, because eating should be pleasurable, and because pleasure is a huge, huge, huge, huge, HUGE component of being at peace in your body. And I don't just mean bargaining about dessert.
So if you are interested in losing weight and/or loving your body and/or feeling good and/or having the occasional gelato and/or following a diet that allows a full social life, I suggest it could be useful to investigate what addiction means to you.
And if you decide to get a PLEASURE IS MY RIDE OR DIE tattoo, send me a pic.
*Destroying our bodies in a way, that is, that they will not be destroyed just by living. We’re all gonna die, and I like to weigh that fact when deciding what to eat and what to pass on.