Well, here I sit, over eight weeks after beginning a life-style eating change. I was going to wait till I reached my goal weight before writing about it, but then I realized by then I may not remember the struggles I have had in changing my eating patterns. So here goes...
Since I was in my 20's, I have struggled with those numbers on the scale. I have tried Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, The Rotation Diet, The Fit for Life Plan, and numerous plans doctors have shoved in my face when they've gotten the results of my lab work. Now I'm not saying none of these plans worked...they did while I stayed on them. But after losing 20 to 30 pounds, something would happen and I'd find myself--weeks later--realizing I had stopped the program. In the last several years, I have gotten in touch with some of the reasons I kept stopping. In this issue, I want to share these with you in the hopes that if you have some of the same struggles, you may find some answers to what is holding you back, or at least some encouragement to become aware of your pitfalls and how to overcome them.
For the record, I don't believe overweight people are ugly or rejectable. I know some very beautiful overweight women, both inside and out. Neither do I believe that everyone that is overweight needs to change. I also know 'skinny' people whose eating habits are just as unhealthy as mine.
For me, it is a matter of life and death. I have been eating myself into an early grave and I realized I won't live to see my grandchildren grow up and become wonderful adults if I don't change now. This desire to live had to become bigger and stronger than my fears of being thinner. This time, I'm going into it with the belief that I can do it now. Whatever comes up I have the tools and the support to get through it. I will succeed! So here is what I have become aware of in my journey...
If I can't be on a program perfectly, I quit. If I slip and eat something I shouldn't, I will continue the rest the day, or forever, to eat wrong things because, after all, I blew it already. Now I hope that I can 'blow it' but pick up where I left off and not let those old messages (which are lies of course) keep me from reaching my goal of better health.
I get angry at the focus on 'thin is beautiful, thin is happier, I'll have more friends, etc.These messages make me want to rebel. My weight has nothing to do with my happiness (other than how I feel physically because of the effects on my health). It has nothing to do with how I feel about me. I know some very beautiful thin people who feel ugly and some of them even feel fat. As for being social. I think I'm more social being heavier, especially in relationships with men. I'm safe. I'm not a threat to anyone's wife. I can talk freely with a guy and not worry that someone will think I'm hitting on him, or that he may hit on me. Now I've been told by a very dear male friend that I'm safe because that's how I am no matter what my weight may be. I want to believe that, but it's not easy especially since as a teen I was accused of being after women's husbands or having a crush on men because I was searching for a father figure. I tried to explain this to one wife at the time but I don't know if she ever understood. I had a family member who also accused me of flirting with her husband (one of my abusers). So I am finding out where this is coming from and I hope it will help me to change my thinking patterns and realize these are lies I bought into on some deep level.
This has been a very difficult one to change. At least three times in earlier weight management attempts I quit and when I looked back to when I quit, it was after getting a come-on by a stranger, or an inappropriate remark from someone I knew. This stirs up a lot of fear in me that I don't know if I have all the answers to yet, but I know I will probably get a chance to work through it in the future. I feel so much safer being overweight. I even remember thinking when one person I knew made a pass, 'Wow, if he feels that way and I've only lost 30 pounds, what will happen when I lose 50. It was very scary for me. This was also one of my abusers and I didn't realize at the time how real my fears of being raped by him were. So, of course I quit losing weight. I didn't tell myself, 'Okay I'm not going to lose anymore.' I just remember thinking, 'I can do this without going to the meetings.' It wasn't long before my weight shot back up to a comfortable level.
I might be more vulnerable to having an affair. What if I reach my goal weight and someone approaches me that I am attracted to? I think that not only has my ability to trust others been affected by past abuse, but also my ability to trust myself. I guess I still see myself as that little girl that was sexualized at too young an age and believed she wanted what happened to her. And of course then I couldn't set boundaries, was not even taught that I had the right to set them, so this is unfamiliar territory to me. But I've learned a lot since those days, and even when I was a teenager and engaged to my husband, I had an opportunity to have an affair with someone I had been attracted to for years, and I was able to say no, even though I felt responsible for the incident. So I can do it again if I need to. My love for my husband and kids, my own morals and beliefs, and my knowledge that I can, and have a right to say no will all help me to feel confident and safe.
I like being a free spirit, eating and doing what I want, when I want. This has been a really difficult one to overcome. Discipline feels like restraint to me. But one day, I realized how I was not in control of my eating. It was in control of me. I wasn't free at all. What an eye-opener. Eating has been one area of control I've always had. Growing up, every other part of my life was controlled, but not that (at least when I was at school or out somewhere). So what I got out of asserting my freedom is a body that is sick. My triglycerites and cholesterol have been extremely high for many years. I have arthritis, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other ailments and diseases.
I really didn't care if I lived a long life. In fact, I didn't want to much of the time. This of course wasn't on a conscious level. This last two years I've become more aware of this attitude. Now, I want to live. I want to see my grandkids grow up, graduate, marry, and have children of their own. I want to be able to be a positive influence in their lives. I want to begin to really live life fully--become more intimate with my husband, children, and friends. I don't want to continue being limited in what I can and can't do because of my health. I want to do what I can to get as healthy as I can, so I can live my life for as long as I can.
Even now as I sit here, I feel discouraged because I've only lost about 13 pounds. Even though my reasons for beginning a new program were for health reasons, the weight issue still crops up. I need to remember that my weight is for me just an added benefit of eating properly. It is also a barometer of how well I'm doing, but it seems to be the main focus when I'm on the scales. So I need to give myself a pep talk, and remind myself that the important thing is sticking with this for my health. My sponsor at Jenny Craig reminds me when I can make it in that I'm doing well considering all I've been going through. And she's right. I've been on more cortisone which causes weight gain, and I've been able this time to maintain and even lose a little. I'm on other drugs that cause weight gain as well, and I haven't gained any more since I joined Jenny Craig. So instead of feeling down and risking quitting, (which I have felt like doing) I need to hang in there and get my focus back on the important issues.
This did not make sense to me when my therapist said this years ago. But I keep remembering back to a time when I was getting in touch with that little girl inside. I had just come from a session in which I felt very nurtured. I had made a breakthrough in letting someone in and when I left I wanted to hang onto that feeling. When I went to eat lunch at a restaurant (my favorite hangout), I remember thinking that I didn't want to eat too much or eat the wrong thing because I sensed that what I was feeling would go away. So I ate only what I needed. The feeling stayed with me for a long time. I felt strange, too--the only way I could describe it at the time was 'off balance'. A couple of weeks later, something again made me feel too vulnerable and I was back to my old patterns of eating again. And my instinct was correct--the feeling went away. I wonder how much I've missed out on because of this substitution in my life?
Food is what keeps my emotions in control. This may not make sense to you. It didn't to me either at first. A few years ago I had again attempted to eat right. I was doing well and into my third week. I had been very angry at someone and was trying to express my feelings to her. I got nowhere. I became more frustrated and angry. By the fourth week, and after more attempts to straighten out the situation and failing, I found myself so angry I was afraid if I saw her again I'd rip her apart, not caring what I said to her. I didn't like that feeling at all. It scared me. My co-worker was going next door to get a snack and I had her bring me some chips and candy. By the time my counselor called me back, I had already been munching on my stash. I was angry at myself for falling back to food, too. He simply said, stop eating now. So I did. About an hour later, I remember thinking, 'I'm not angry anymore, why was I so upset?' Then it hit me--the chips and the candy had done their job. I was numbed. Food really was a drug to me. Unfortunately this was another one of those times when I blew it and didn't just pick up where I left off and continue the program. I was too uncomfortable with my strong emotions. The anger seemed to intense--too dangerous- and too out of control.
I'm sure there are other things I could add to this list, but I think these are the main things that have kept me in bondage to my food addiction. I hope this will help you, if you struggle with food issues, to get in touch with your own personal issues and reasons for your eating behaviors.