Life As a Food Addict
Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego

I must begin by taking you back in time. I believe my nightmare began early in my life without me even realizing. First off, I am the 6th child with two sets of twins sandwiched between my oldest sister and myself. There are only four years between my eldest sister and me! My poor mother was knee deep in diapers for probably what seemed like an eternity while she was still a kid herself. I learned early to comfort myself with a bottle and food! Although I was a skinny, scrawny kid who was on iron drops for anemia, I did have some early "dysfunctional" eating behaviors already blossoming.

I remember climbing up on the kitchen counter to retrieve chocolate syrup and just free pouring it down my throat until I felt that sense of, "ahhhhhhhhhhh" that we food addicts are so familiar with. I was barely five. I also remember in my early formative years hiding in the dark coat closet in the front of the house and stealing change from my parent's coat pockets just so I could go buy a "stash" of candy.

One time I was so desperate I even stole my father's pouch of parking lot change (hundreds of dollars) from the third drawer of the china cabinet and took it to the store called "Pennies" to buy candy. Of course the bag was too big for my tiny little 7 year old frame and I dropped it…coins flew all over and the store owner turned me in to my parents! It was the first and only time my Dad ever spanked me! I even remember giving up candy for Lent and could not make it for more than a few days in third grade. I would sneak sweet foods during my 40 days and 40 nights of abstinence and feel sure God was going to punish me!

So I learned early in life about sneaking sugary foods and guilt. This entire sneak eating caught up to me by the time I turned 13. At the same time my hormones were raging out of control. My body began to grow and grow and grow! I went from a little girl's body to a full-breasted woman with a little kid tucked inside of me! This is when my diet days began! My first diet was eating only Ritz crackers and cream cheese with hot tea and skim milk. I miraculously dropped 50 pounds and began to lose my hair, short-term memory and my moods were vacillating from deliriously happy to miserable. I lasted about two months and all the weight returned with a vengeance!

From there I started using diet pills and any wacky diet I could find. In the beginning of my "diet" days I gained and lost big amounts of weight for years. I tried every crazy diet under the sun only to lose weight temporarily and regain it back in bigger amounts than what I was trying to lose in the first place! Each diet failure left me a little more bruised emotionally and discouraged physically. Fortunately, in my late teenage years I found my way to a wonderful, popular weight loss company that began to partially turn my life around. I reached my "healthy" goal weight for the first time at the age of 19! I stayed there and basked in my glory for a whole five minutes only to gain it back again. I went on to reach my goal weight 3 more times and in my thirties I finally was able to lose nearly 100 pounds and managed to keep it off for 10 years!

It was around this time I began working for this same well-known weight loss company and thought I had found my solution. I was saved! I imagined working for this company would tame the cravings buried within. To some degree it worked. Although I had part of the equation for weight loss I was missing some very important ingredients, as were many of the individuals that came through the doors of this popular establishment. I was not sure what was missing but I knew that I still was having binging episodes, mood swings, terrible fatigue, low self-worth and small degrees of depression. Through constant diet and exercise I did manage to keep my weight down but not without a terrific battle with my binging and head games.

The out of control eating began to take its toll on me and very slowly my weight was starting to creep back on, a pound here and a pound there. Before I knew it 35 pounds found their way back and none of my old faithful plans worked. I was petrified that I was headed back to my old world of being close to 235 pounds! I was already studying in graduate school to become a clinical psychotherapist with the focus on eating disorders! I was becoming the expert yet I was drowning myself! More than anything in the world I knew that I could not be heavy again! I knew I had to fight this one with education, information, trial and error and working with individuals with the same issue.

After a while, I became very conscious of a change in my behavior with certain foods. I also became aware of my constant fatigue with specific foods. I began to notice anger, anxiety and low self-esteem directly after eating particular types of foods. For me, this was a tremendous break through! For the first time in my life I realized it was not my fault. I was not weak! I had a definite reaction to certain foods!

After careful, personal scrutiny I became familiar with the foods that had a profound affect on my moods, cravings, and serious case of fatigue. These issues were seriously getting in the way of my everyday life. After working with thousands of patients and weight loss participants, presenting in many different formats, and attending a twelve-step meeting for my own needs, I knew that I was not alone. I knew there were many wounded birds just like me out there. I knew there had to be a simple answer and I was determined to find it! As I ate my foods I began to notice three specific foods were giving me my biggest problems. The three foods are flour, wheat, and sugar! Could the answer be this simple? I found with eating a balanced breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack, avoiding sugar and flour, believing in something higher than myself, my moods began to stabilize and my weight began to drop steadily. Once again I returned to the ideal weight for me. My cravings were no longer there and my energy level soared to heights unimaginable. The binging episodes are now non-existent and the depression is lifted as long as I stay away from these three food groups.

My weight and my relationship with food was a constant struggle for me until I began to change my behavior and understand my chemical reaction to certain foods. I did not begin to change my behavior and understand my food reactions until years after personal trial and error, tons of research, and an understanding of weight loss and stability of weight. As I began to change, I noticed a calmer me start to emerge. I started to connect more to my own inner strengths and a new spirituality began to emerge. My faith began to transform in a different kind of way. I started exploring inner peace, God, and love. Love for myself, others and the universe in general was evolving.

My thought patterns began to change. Not only was I calmer, kinder and less self-centered, I began to see the bigger picture. I began to look at foods as real and not real: God’s foods and man’s foods. I began to understand that by staying away from flour, sugar, wheat, and turning my life over to something bigger than myself; I have quieted the "noise" in my head. I no longer fight the addiction. I eat to live rather than live to eat! Healthy foods and a refreshing kind of faith are my fuel…my energy…my resource to bring me to the most optimal health and weight possible.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Lisa's mission is to reach out to individual’s stuck with eating disorders, sharing her personal recovery from food addiction ( She earned her Doctorate in Addiction Psychology, is a Clinical Psychotherapist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, Certified Addiction Professional, and Licensed National Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist.