Though I haven’t written about it for a long time, diets were something I gave up because they simply do not work, especially for me. I’ve had different eating disorders off and on in my life, usually ‘mild’ cases of them but my biggest struggle was always emotional or compulsive overeating. I got bored, I ate. I got upset, I ate. I got sad, I ate. I was disappointed, I ate. I got hurt, I ate. You get the idea. When I was in my mid 30’s, I was close to 300 pounds and completely miserable. I hurt, I was out of breath walking across the room, I hated the way I looked. My marriage at the time was horrible to put it lightly and I was fighting depression. But then I finally got treatment for depression and the sun came out once again except I stil weighed almost 300 pounds.
Dealing with my depression made me aware that I was using food for comfort and other reasons other than when I was just hungry. I was in the bookstore one day looking through the self-help section when I found Geneen Roth’s book, Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating. I went on to read all the titles of hers I could find and I follow her FaceBook page to this day reading her occasional posts. I lost weight, and settled into a place where my body seems to be comfortable (though far from thin, I am fit to the point I baffle my family doctor). After years of ups/downs on the scale I was then diagnosed in 2009 with hypothyroidism. People believe that once you start taking medication for hypothyroidism, the weight just falls off. I have yet to meet a person that this has happened to without strict dieting and exercise. So I just decided, screw it, I’m going to be happy the way I am, go out and ride 100’s of miles on my bike, hike, swim, jog or whatever makes me happy. I thought I was good. I had a handle on all this.
Except a few years back Weight Watchers came to our employer and I got the bright idea to join it. I am the one person who gained weight on WW. Slowly but surely since that time, the dieting mentality has come back into my life. Over the winter, I did not join a gym, my Wii fitness board broke, I found I hate riding my cycling rollers and I dislike doing anything other than yoga, walking/hiking outdoors when it isn’t frigid so essentially I quit moving. Though I always gain a bit over the winter after the riding season, this winter it was a bit more than usual. When I went for my yearly OB appointment, I stared at the red LED numbers on the scale in disbelief. I had not weighed that much for years. I can’t even blame it on riding and adding more muscle weight. I look like the Pillsbury dough girl around the middle. When I went to my family doctor a few days later, the number was confirmed, sadly.
So I broke out my food journal app and started to track what I ate. Another dieting mentality come back to life. Then I did my 6 month blood test for my thyroid and got the call from my doctor’s office. I needed to come in. Seems my levels were up and therefore my dosage was no longer enough. Battling two things at once. Well at least that explained why I had not felt like doing much, or in other words why I felt like a big fat slug. Two days into the higher dosage and I’m feeling my energetic self again, not the self who is wading through waist high concrete all day long. This will help get me up and moving again as exercise is not an issue for me usually except during the winter though lately I haven’t wanted to do much at all.
When I started thinking about how I had been eating, it dawned on me that I had slipped back into that place of ups and down, deprivation, eating when I’m not hungry and so on. I was reading Roth’s FaceBook posts and thinking oh that’s not me anymore and well, it is but at least not on the same degree as it once was. No this time it was just a little bit more sneaky. I didn’t realize I had lost the core instructions Roth preaches over and over in her books. Trust yourself, trust your body to tell you what it needs, eat when you are hungry, you will not go stark-raving mad into a binge if you listen to what you body needs and you don’t restrict any foods. You need to stay with your feelings, feel them, experience them rather than cram them into whatever coping mechanism you may have.
For different reasons over the past years, I had forgotten a lot of what I learned to be true. I went back to not trusting myself to know what I needed or wanted. I quit enjoying what I ate or even thinking about what I was truly hungry for or even if I was hungry at all. So I pulled Roth’s books back out, downloaded every one of her books available that I could find free via my different library options and started my compulsive eating refresher course. The interesting thing about reading these books about 10 years later, my life has changed so much that I’ve learned new things from them that I didn’t pick up before because I had not experienced certain tragedies and difficulties at that age.
Day 1, I focused on what I wanted to eat and found that my normal menu fare that I lazily eat every day wasn’t really what I wanted, so I simply didn’t eat that much. Day 2, I really thought about what I wanted to eat during the day before I packed my food for work. Amazingly, I didn’t eat all that I packed since I was more satisfied with eating what I really wanted. Day 3, I believed I wanted that donut for breakfast and since this food was no longer off limits, I ate it and enjoyed it. Later I felt sick and thought why the hell did I eat that sugar filled stick. I felt miserable. So had that much changed that suddenly I was having these great epiphanies? Nothing really, I just was asking myself: Are you hungry? What do you want to eat? Are you enjoying what you are eating, does it taste good? If the answer was “no”, then I stopped eating it and tried to decipher what I did want.
Last night I went out to eat and found the food lacking so I simply did not eat much and went home and ate something I wanted more. When I stop focusing on calories and on what I want to eat rather than what I shoud eat, something miraculous happens. I really don’t turn into this raving eating machine that shovels everything into her gullet that is within her grasp. I even turned down ice cream last night and I LOVE ice cream. I wasn’t hungry so it wasn’t the right time to eat it but that doesn’t mean I can never have ice cream. Life is too short to not enjoy what you eat. Just within a few days of getting back into this mindset, I am a lot happier and find I am no longer compulsive eating.
This doesn’t mean that I will magically become a supermodel and have the perfect body, it just means I’m not cramming stuff down that I don’t want or even need. If I truly want pie for breakfast though, I am going to sit down and enjoy that pie. The anxiety surrounding food has dissolved and it no longer has the power to make me so miserable and unhappy when it should truly be enjoyed. As long as I keep asking myself those questions and being mindful of what I am eating or am wanting.
Lesson learned: When I think I have it all down pat and I know it all, it is probably the moment I need to stop and check myself.