Obesity as an Addiction

How I lost 50 kg (Masa Vujanovic)

She first encountered the problem of being overweight as a teenager and kept having it for years later everywhere she went. She does not hide the fact that she was one of those women who had tried out literally every food regimen, preparation, and device, all of which would result in short-term maintenance of kilograms, and shortly after she would regain all lost kilograms, sometimes even more than that. Masa Vujanovic (44) had spent almost three decades in this vicious circle, until the last year when she decided to try out an American weight loss programme by Dr Susan, which helped her to lose an incredible amount of 50 kg in just 11 months! Today, Masa is adorned with a smile of content and is a self-confident woman, ready to share her experience with everyone.

– For all those years while kilograms kept pilling on, my diet was chaotic: when I was not on a food regimen, I used to eat whenever I wanted to and as much as I wanted – Masa recalls. Until the age of 18, Masa lived with her granny and mum, a former actress, journalist, beauty queen and famous astrologer Milja Vujanovic (Regulus). – I did not talk about my kilograms with my mum, I became withdrawn, although she was often telling me how I should lose weight. I knew that myself, but I didn’t know that I could not do it on my own. At the time, it was not known that obesity was actually an addiction, and that you could not not solve that problem only by your own will and a change in your meal plan. My mother was once a ‘Miss Serbia’ and a gymnast, and she spent a great part of her life focused on her career, considering that she raised me and my brother on her own, and I kept struggling alone and reckoned that cigarettes would help me at least calm down while undergoing an agony. However, when I quit smoking after 18 years, it was only then that the kilograms started to pile on – I merely substituted one addiction for another by overeating or taking unnecessarily much more food than my body needed. I weighed the most between pregnancies, and during each pregnancy the kilograms piled on without any control, so I reached 154kg, the maximum that the scale was technically able to measure. It is interesting that I never despaired, or got into a heavy depression, but moved on searching for a right solution which I was ready to seek until the end of my life if I had to –the solution which would make possible, in a healthy manner and without greater exhaustion, to lose excess weight and remain at that weight.

Food as a Refuge

Looking back on her own self and her style of life and thinking, Masa says that she used to ‘comfort’ herself with food, trying to provide to herself by overeating everything that she believed that she could not receive from others, herself and life. Food was her refuge, comfort, and a path to peace, joy and serenity.
– I was one of those people who used overeating and food as a remedy. As if I had made the food a person who gave me attention and presence whenever I felt that I needed it. Food was the only thing which I allowed to get that ‘close’ to me. My favourite foods were savoury dishes, meat, pies and pastries, while I did not enjoy the sweets that much. When I was eight, mum and granny taught me how to do all the chores around the house, and even how to cook. I was bewildered by plethora of advice on how to eat healthy, what to eat, and all the contradictory information that I was getting. I had a feeling of not being free in my own skin and I wanted to free myself of that. Many times, I also wondered about what was the emptiness that the food compensated for. I had never lived with my father, I saw him only several times before my adulthood, and even then it was only several times before he died, so I remained deprived of many answers, overweight . For sure, I felt that I was not interesting enough for him, or precious enough, because if I were he would have shown it by his presence in my life. I chose food as a way to anesthetise my own painful and ‘unacceptable’ emotions. Drugs were out of the question since they actually kept my father far away from me thereby ruining our relationship. And I never liked the feeling of losing control over oneself. Apparently unconsciously, I perceived food as the best remedy and sedative one could not die from. At least not that fast.

Powerlessness and Life in an Armour

From today’s point of view and the experience gained, Masa says that she lacked a sense of proportion and that she exaggerated in food and did not take care about which ‘fuel’ her body needed.
– A crucial moment happened when I found out that there were also other ways to be joyful, happy and serene and that I myself could love, take care of and be gentle to myself, and that food did not have to be a substitute for all that. Before all, I received enormous help from the orthodox faith which brought closer to my heart the idea that my Creator shall always love me the most and permanently and that this category is the only safe and unchangeable one. However, this cannot be understood and lived automatically, it needs time. We all encounter difficulties in life and sometimes help ourselves in wrong ways, which creates some new difficulties. But I believe that we do that with the best intentions in mind because everyone wishes the best for oneself. Obesity was an armour in which I was living and it leads to self-isolation. However, human beings are social beings, hence this is an enormous vicious circle which makes a human being unrealistically powerless. This was my way to protect myself, since I had never had a father-protector – Masa says in full honesty, revealing what was her relationship with her mum who was both ‘a mother and a father’ to her since her birth. – For me, my mum was someone special, tremendously precious. Father too, although he was not present in my life. My mum was slightly stricter towards me than to my 12.5 years younger brother, she insisted that I get a degree and gave me her best, as every parent would. I had been her assistant in Astro centre for ten years, but I was not interested in horoscopes as life vocation. When mum was shot and spent five years afterwards as quadriplegic, I committed myself to spiritual life seeking help and an answer to the question of what had brought on that misfortune and where all those friends who were once all around had gone. I turned myself to the spiritual, orthodox life, learned what astrology was, read the book From Stars to God, and when I realised what astrology actually was, I did not want to follow my mum’s footsteps.

The Day when I changed…

Masa has three children aged 5, 7 and 8, and a smile of a content mother who lost 50 kg in 11 months. In the meantime, she also completed another high school, a medical secondary school, in order to be able to work as a practitioner of South Korean Sujok healing method. She can finally find clothes for herself which, until recently, she could buy only in specialised stores for the obese. Even today, she clearly remembers that spring day when she firmly decided to turn a new page in her life.– I perceive my past self as a relentless woman who is climbing a precipitous mountain and cannot find a solution for her problem. I had millions of falls and failures, but I have never given up on myself. For a long time, I had a big problem lacking a solution, and I would often remember a quote from Les Brown, motivational speaker: “If you’re going through hell, keep walking”, and this would help me. I have never forgotten what I was like before I started to gain weight – a very beautiful and slender girl. That image has brought me to myself of today – the one that I should have been since a long time ago. I have realized what I have known ever since about myself, and now I am living that realisation. One cannot know their own boundaries. We make decisions, consciously or unconsciously, about where our boundaries lie and then live by those decisions. We were given a much greater freedom than we are aware of. At that single, crucial life moment, a thought crossed my mind for the first time that I had the RIGHT to live what was given to me at birth. And, indeed, I was given a slender body. I grasped at straws with my mind and heart as if I was drowning and within a couple of days it brought me to the programme of Dr Susan for the second time, as I had already analysed it and rejected it a year before on the pretext of ‘knowing myself.’
Ten days before taking the path of her transformation, Masa became depressed, lying desperate in bed throughout the day, as if she had given up. At the time, she was eating perhaps more than ever; out of desperation, she would eat an entire pie pan, an ice cream bucket, as if she was waiting to ‘hit the bottom’ hopeful to find a salvation there.
– Couple of days later, I again came in contact with the programme of Dr Susan, but this time it seemed that I had nowhere else to go and that I had to try it. Most of all, because it has a scientific basis and because Dr Susan herself had the same experience. Being that I consider myself as a person who used to eat excessively in the style of ‘Alija Sirotanovic’s shovels’, I could not see myself within a context where foods are measured, believing that it was not suitable for a difficult case such as mine. The programme is delivered in English language, which did not pose a problem for me as I have been learning English since I was six, thanks to my mum. I received a password for the website, and Dr Susan’s modules with videos were coming in weekly, containing answers to all those questions which I would surely ask her myself. I immediately printed the list of available foods, converted the weight of each one, and translated the plan to maintain the achieved result, therefore I practically received a complete life plan. I gave myself completely to the programme at the beginning of which I weighed 137 kg. The list of foods contained all that I loved to eat: meat, fish, seafood, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, cereals, vegetable butters, numerous liquid and dry seasonings, soy products, suggestions for fasting days. Dr Susan concludes that obesity is a problem of isolation in which overweight persons withdraw into themselves and distance from people. For more than twenty years, I had not been where I enjoyed being the most – at the seaside, because I was ashamed of my body and would not be relaxed because I would only think about the way I looked. Also, everything that had happened to my family somewhat isolated me from the world. These were such tremendous sufferings and an ordinary person could not help me, which was yet another reason for me to seek and find the greatest possible help, reliance and security in my faith. It is simply impossible to be completely understood and felt by someone who has not undergone the same thing, in spite of their desire to understand. This is why I would not succeed if this programme did not also cover this human need, and particularly a need of a person with an addiction. And this was done through a Facebook group of around 400 people from different parts of the world sharing the same problem, where I was the only one from Serbia and the Balkans. We were, and still are today, an enormous day-to-day support to each other. The fact that we did not meet in person did not affect the creation of our great closeness which, in this matter, we could not have with close persons from our lives because they themselves did not share our difficulty. At the beginning, whenever it was emotionally hard for me, when I was feeling hungry for the first couple of days, and afterwards increasingly less, there was always someone awake in that group to give me support which was enough for the crisis to pass within seconds. Well, only yesterday I was having a crisis and a group member helped me with her gentle approach and support not to slip into the old ‘comfort’. By the way, Dr Susan herself has a need for support of the group and often writes how she happens to experience a crisis which she quickly overcomes precisely with the help of people from the group. Simply, this is a very strong addiction and one must be cautious for the rest of their life.

Obesity as an Addiction

Dr Susan is of the opinion that obesity is an addiction, before all an addiction to sugar and flour, since, according to her, they are drugs stronger than cocaine and heroin, being that they are extracted from plants and converted into a white powder in the production process, thereby influencing the brain and creating addiction to these foods.
– It is not a coincidence that sugar is nowadays put into almost every industrial product, therefore the obvious goal is precisely to create an addiction to them, to increase their purchase. Sadly, the system does not care about an individual, therefore we all need to take care of ourselves. We have the right to be healthy, happy, slender and as little addicted as possible, however we need to take care about that ourselves. I lost most weight in first months, and I am glad that I did not have to do workout since it is not allowed in this programme. I wouldn’t have possibly had the strength for workout. Dr Susan reckons that every increased physical activity affects the increase of appetite, which we certainly do not need while we’re trying to lose the excess kilograms, as it would even prevent it. This is a programme in which you keep still, nurture yourself and you are being careful to yourself. Every night we write our meal plan for the next day, and that procedure keeps us away from panic attacks due to hunger and hence against reaching out to food that is not allowed. For me, writing in the evening gives me some kind of safety of not needing to worry, because tomorrow, too, I shall eat everything that I like. Maybe I have also developed a fear of hunger, concerning that for a couple of times in my life and for a few months I did not have anything to eat, so I did the best I could. I was relieved when I found out that Dr Susan considered obesity to be an addiction, since finally a correct diagnosis was established for the obesity, and I knew that right there the remedy was to be found too. I had tried to lose weight before with the support of doctors and nutritionist from the Military Medical Academy hospital in Belgrade and the Clinical Centre, but I always missed emotional support, not to be alone in that, since loneliness seeks food too. I could not implement their meal plan, nor could I succeed in getting off the sugar and flour on my own a year earlier. I lasted one month. This is yet another indicator that this is about an addiction and that a person cannot cure oneself without the professional help and a support of a group, like in the case of an addiction to other substances.
Now I know how all of it works, Masa says and adds: “Once an addict, a person is an abstainer for the rest of their life, they can never return to a former state.” For the first six weeks of the new regimen, she felt weakness as she quit using sugar and flour, but after the sixth week it was all gone, exactly as Dr Susan declared.
– On average, one can lose 7 kg for 8 weeks of programme’s length. Dr Susanhas a PhD in neurocognitive sciences and she teaches the psychology of nutrition at the University of Rochester, New York, claiming that our brain, which is contaminated with flour and sugar, causes people to eat uncontrollably. When we stop using flour and sugar, when we write in the evening what we will eat tomorrow, when we measure our foods before the meal and have three prescribed meals during the day, when we seek help from people in the group, our success is guaranteed. I am an example of it.
Boiled cereals are allowed in this regimen, while flour is strictly forbidden, alcohol too since it belongs in the group of sugars, just like the sugar, artificial sweeteners and honey, as they create a trigger which brings the brain back where it used to be.
– As far as ‘sweets’ are concerned, I consume pineapple, bananas, grapes, fruit, and I do not regret anything at all, nor do I have a feeling that I am missing out on something. On the contrary, I feel triumphant while eating healthy food. Such is the effect of flour and sugar on us who are susceptible to addictions, and this is the reason why we have to cut them out, otherwise we will permanently have a hard time with our weight and also with health problems as a consequence of obesity. This is but a small sacrifice for the good that we receive.

A Liberating Programme

Statistics show that around 190 million of Americans are on some form of regimen, while three years ago there were even 2 billion obese people worldwide. Obesity has become a pandemic.
– I have found salvation in the programme of Dr Susan. The programme came as a rescue from the condition I was in, and I have easily adjusted my new obligations with the preparation of food for my children. My diet is cheaper that the one I used to have. All foods are available in supermarkets, at the green market and in health food stores. Since I have been pursuing this manner of diet, I do not have any worries about what I will eat, or fears that I will put on weight, and thoughts about food which were repeating on a daily basis making 95% of all my thoughts are gone. Now, there is a space for thoughts of all other important aspects of life which were previously neglected. I realised that the addiction has robbed me of so much time of my life, of being engaged with other important things. For me, this programme is liberating. I myself determine what I will eat. I like that I can prepare by myself the food combinations which I love, so I do not have a feeling of being on a regimen or under a restriction. I fulfil my wishes and I am enjoying without troubling myself. When I go out, I drink mineral water with lemon, lemonade, coffee, tea. At the beginning it felt awkward because everyone around me was drinking alcohol, as I did until recently, but my slenderness, being satisfied with how I look as well as my health are my priorities and they are priceless.
Masa says that from now on she will have as much kilograms as she wants and that she needs to lose a dozen more.
– This is a programme which brings back the power over oneself and over one’s diet and solves one of the biggest life problems for many people. I used to be against the idea of measuring foods and ‘eating like a bird’ since it seemed like a slavery, particularly since at the time I saw in food a source of happiness, joy and comfort. Now, I measure all foods before eating and I need only a couple of minutes for that. This is not slavery, but a very liberating manner to improve the quality of life. Slavery is precisely the addiction to certain foods which makes you obese and unhappy.
According to Masa Vujanovic, for the last several years of its existence this programme has been proclaimed in America as the most successful one worldwide regarding the achievement of a normal weight, and it is 260 times more successful from all other programmes. Almost all people who lose weight seem significantly younger than they did before the commencement of the programme.
– At all times, you have the support of this programme, you are never alone, and anyone who wants to continue moves forward to reach their ideal weight. We avoid saying that we will pursue this diet for the rest of our lives, instead, we go day-by-day. We do not burden ourselves with more than we can take in one day, which also corresponds to the teachings of my faith. Everyone is overjoyed with my results, I am a role model and a source of motivation to many, even to the people from the group. After 30 years, I will reach a normal BMI in a month or two, something that billions of people experiencing troubles in achieving dream of, just as I have until recently. This is so easy that I can safely say that the problem of obesity on the planet is definitely solved by this programme. However, the programme is intended for those who also want it, and not only for those who just need it. It can be practiced literally by anyone: pregnant women, diabetics, vegetarians, people allergic to gluten or some other food ingredient, vegans…
Dr Susan’s team has asked me to disseminate the news about the existence of this programme to those who live in Serbia and the Balkans, and we invite them to contact me for any questions or help to join this programme.

Branka Gajić
Photo by Ema BednaržEma Bednarž

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