In April of 2019, my colleague, Börje Dahl, who’s an experienced sociologist, held a seminar in the north of Sweden to discuss addiction.
At the seminar, many discussions took place surrounding alcohol, prescription drugs, and street drugs.
During an intermission, Niklas (pictured above) approached Dahl and said, “As you can see, I have another sort of addiction.”
Dahl took one look and answered: “I know someone who can help you.”
Before long, Dahl called and asked that I reach out to Niklas. He thought that I could help him with his weight, especially since I am an expert on food addiction.
After meeting Niklas, I was able to help him. Read here for his full story.
Niklas’ addictive tendencies
Niklas, like so many other clients that I’ve helped since starting out in this field back in October of 1993, wanted help losing weight.
At the time, he was 410 pounds (or 186 kilos) and 5 feet 11 inches tall (or 180 cm).
Once Niklas explained his goals, I said, “I don’t work with weight management. I work with healing addicted brains — and weight loss is often a side effect.”
Right away, I wanted to assess whether Niklas was a sugar addict by putting him through an UNCOPE screening. And, of course, he was.
Niklas also displayed other common traits of sugar and food addiction.
He was unwilling to cut out his “drug foods,” had a grumpy demeanor, refused activities, slept half the day, sat up most of the night playing video games (another addictive outlet), isolated himself, and oftentimes, he’d play the victim.
He would blame his parents, friends, and school for his situation, and he also argued with me and shamed himself. In sum, he displayed the thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviors of an addict.
To replace and combat his sugar addiction, Niklas would use alcohol and drugs, which is a very common practice. Then, he’d end up in a deep depression as a result of the drugs, which often alter brain chemistry in that way. At 22, he even contemplated suicide.
In the past, Niklas had tried dieting (and would often end up bingeing). There were also periods of time where he spent all of his time at the gym — but nothing worked.
Over time, he ended up going back to the “drug foods” and only ended up gaining even more weight.
Niklas’ health struggles
With Niklas, I had him complete several assessments to gauge his overall health.
Since age 12, he had been on blood pressure medication. At this point, when he was 27, he was still on two types of medications — but his blood pressure was still high.
Niklas also had kidney stones, a common problem among clients, who drink huge amounts of Coca Cola or Pepsi. In this patient’s case, he drank two to four liters a day. And he also used snuff, which is smokeless tobacco, and smoked.
The good news is, he had quit drinking alcohol a year earlier — and he’d also stopped using drugs at age 24. This is because he “knew [drugs] would kill him faster than sugar would.”
At first, Niklas fought me on any changes to his lifestyle. But, I maintained that if he wanted to work with me, he had to agree to change both his habits and diet. This was the only way he could ever recover from sugar addiction and lose weight.
As a former food addict, I know how important it is to make these changes. So, I was very tough on him and said, “I will help you only on one condition, that you do exactly what I tell you! No point working with you otherwise.”
How Niklas finally found success
Eventually, my strictness paid off — and Niklas began to see results.
First, I insisted that Niklas become a Diet Doctor member and learn to cook.
After all, Diet Doctor has the most inspiring recipes, especially for those who have accepted they are food addicts. DD offers so many options, even those that resemble highly craved “drug foods.” That way, you won’t feel completely deprived as you go about low carb and break the cycle on your addiction.
I remember, on June 3, 2019, we finally saw Niklas take a big step — and he started following a keto food plan that I provided for him.
To this day, whenever he’s close to giving up, I use a tactic that we addiction specialists call “benign manipulation.” It’s where you coach your patients to “just do one more day” and take things “one day at a time.”
So far, using this strategy, Niklas has stuck with keto and hasn’t given up.
Today, Niklas is able to take long walks with this dog and he volunteers at a rehab center to help other addicts.
Health-wise, he is now off all medications, his blood pressure is normal (110/60), his fasting blood sugar is also normal at 85 mg/dl (4.7 mmol/L), and he has taken zero sleeping pills since June of 2019.
So far, Niklas has lost 154 pounds (or 70 kilos). I tell him to weigh himself just once a month, so as to not obsess about his weight. Instead, he should focus on healing his brain, which is more likely to yield long-term positive health results.
Recently, Niklas said, “My self-confidence has increased. I am happy most of the time. I have surrendered to being an addict, I have more energy. I am finally laughing. I am communicating. I broke my isolation. I now participate in life.”
To ensure he sticks with his new lifestyle, Niklas now attends support groups — a step that he formerly against doing.
But, if you suffer from food addiction and are on the fence about whether to join a support group, I know this is extremely important for clients. It’s important to be reminded at least weekly that this illness will always be there — and that relapse is only one bite away.
In Niklas’ case, I’m so glad he decided to seek out support in order to preserve his progress. He has a story to share that will help many others. Here’s his statement as of today:
A little over a year ago, I was completely isolated, emotionally numb, and just sat at home and ate food all day. I had zero spark of life left, and did not care if I was alive or not … but at the same time, deep down, I did not want to die.
Now, a year later, I feel such joy in life. I have started to appreciate nature and am grateful each morning that I get to wake up to a new day.
My best to you, Niklas! I am very impressed with what you have accomplished.
Bitten Jonsson, RN.
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