Monday, May 25, 2015

Breaking Free (or trying to)

Almost 6 years ago to the day, I walked into Weight Watchers because I was scared.  I was scared for my health and my future.  With each pound I lost, I was scared that I would gain it back.  Over the years, I had lost over 115 pounds.  That was 3 years ago.  Since my lowest weight, I've fluctuated but I've put on around 20 back.  I have lived my life in a way that is driven by food and fear.  I was most successful on Weight Watchers but I am totally burned out on counting.  I can't just go to a restaurant or store without meticulously worrying about what I'm going to eat.  If I'm "being good," I feel like I'm missing out, if I'm "being bad," I binge until I'm physically ill.

I am terrified of not being on a diet because I'm terrified of gaining weight.  Why is that? Perhaps I didn't feel like I had self-worth when I had 100 extra pounds.  I find people's reaction to my before and after pictures to be jarring at times.  I put myself out there in a public forum so I should be prepared to talk about my weight loss but it's funny because when people approach me face to face about the blog, I cringe.  I want it to stop immediately.  It's because I am not always a picture of perfection.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was discussing my before and after picture and like many people she couldn't hide her astonishment at the difference.  I'm used to getting "you've lost a ton of weight" or "I didn't even recognize you."  What she said was, "don't take this the wrong way but you weren't sexy then.  You're sexy now." I know her and I know she didn't mean harm but I haven't been able to shake it.  I can be sensitive but I come from an open and honest family so I have pretty thick skin when I need to but I think this bothered me so much because it's a fear that I have. I often associate self-worth with how fat I feel at the time.  I'm a college instructor with a masters degree and my whole entire idea of worthiness stems around how big my belly is at the moment.  Sometimes I feel like I wasn't a real person when I was significantly overweight.  Society certainly treated me that way.  I treated myself that way.

I ordered some self help books a few months ago on binge-eating and anxiety which are both problems I have (I'm realizing more and more that they go hand in hand) and they've been collecting dust.  I decided to pick up the book I bought, "Breaking Free from Emotional Eating" by Geneen Roth because I have been more depressed about weight than ever.  Ian and I were going out the other night and I put on a dress that I typically love and I caught a glimpse in the mirror and immediately burst into tears.  I thought I looked pregnant and hideous.  Ian of course told me (as he does often) that he thinks I'm beautiful but as we can all relate, it doesn't really matter if you feel gross.  That same night another friend complimented my dress and necklace.  My immediate reaction was to call myself a disgusting cow.  The words came out before I could stop them.  I could tell she was uncomfortable because who wouldn't be?

There are lots of things that shape the image you have of yourself.  For me, I know that while I was an average sized child, I was called fat my whole life because I wasn't skinny.  Various family members and friends have made comments since I can remember.  Some have been subtle, some not so subtle.   I have been aware of my weight my entire life.  I think of food and/or how I look constantly.  I am completely imprisoned by my thoughts about weight.

Two days ago I picked up this book and opened it and spent the first several chapters sobbing.  Someone gets it.  I know there are thousands of people that can relate but her arrangement of words and in-depth knowledge has been so eye-opening for me.  We live in fear and that's why we binge or hide food.  If we are on a diet we are terrified of cheating on the diet in fear we will gain weight.  If we do cheat, we are afraid we need to stock up on food like pizza since it may take awhile to get it again which is why we eat a whole pizza.

I have decided to go diet free for awhile.  Ultimately, the goal is to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm satisfied.  This may mean I will mess up but I have to be OK with that and realize that I'm human.  This won't be an easy task.  In fact, I was totally terrified today (my first day).  She says, "The only thing stronger than fear was the desire not to live in fear for the rest of my life."  Not having structure is agonizing for me.  The same is also true for a rigid dieting system at this point.

I have written in my planner "NO CHEATING!" I have reminders about weight and exercise written all over my daily calendar. When I fail, I can see it right there in black and white.  I am not exaggerating when I say that over the past 3 years, when I've gained weight or binged, I have 100% hated who I was inside and out.  This is not a healthy pattern.

So, she encourages a few things that I'm going to try.

1. ) Eat what you want when you're hungry and stop when you're satisfied.  The good news is, I know how to eat healthy and I like healthy foods but over the years I've restricted myself in certain areas, which has caused me to binge on things like fruits and cheese which are fine in moderation.
2.) Stop relying on the scale.  I'm going to give myself a break on the scale because it's not healthy to allow a machine to dictate your entire day.  She warns that you may gain weight the first week or two and that you may fluctuate and that while it's scary, you have to trust yourself and stop beating yourself up.  I can always tell by my clothes if I'm gaining weight.  I'm not saying I'll never weigh again but I have an unhealthy relationship with the scale right now.  When I feel that seeing a number won't send me into a reeling depression, I'll weigh then.
3.) Stop eating while standing up.  I've been diet free for one day and I've noticed myself eating standing up 4 times.  She encourages you to sit and enjoy your food, put the fork down in between bites and examine the taste.
4.) Be OK with not finishing your plate.  Many of us have grown up with the "clean your plate" mentality.  If you're satisfied, you should stop eating.  When I'm dieting I eat everything on my plate because "I counted it" and when I'm binging I eat everything because I can't stop until I'm sick.  I tried this today and I left bites at breakfast lunch and dinner.  For dinner I ate in 3 shifts. I was trying to listen to my body so I only ate when I felt hungry.  I also ate healthy all day.  She encourages eating what you want but I'm still scared.
5.) Quit beating yourself up and letting the judgments of others (or the thought of other people judging you) effect you.  I am notorious for hating myself for eating certain things. Roth argues that if you eat what you want, you'll be satisfied with a normal amount of food (like pizza) because you could always have it tomorrow too if you want it that bad.  If you say you can never have pizza, you feel the need to stock up on it so you binge on it.  I am also going to stop using exercise as a reward/punishment system.  I end up working out over 2 hours so I can feel OK about one drink or a taco or I don't exercise at all because I'm so burned out and I eat everything in the house.  I'm still going to schedule some exercise but I'm not going to force myself to run 5 miles if my body isn't up to it.

I don't know if this will work.  I'm not saying I'll never diet again but I'm going to start being easier on myself.  I want to put less pressure on myself and get rid of all the structure.  I've been on this diet roller coaster since I was a kid.  I know how to eat now and what's good for my body.  I also know leniency is important in moderation.  I have to trust myself.  It may take me awhile to get there but I have to try. I am still going to make recipes and make it my goal to trust myself and be good to my body.  Of course I will update you on all of this.  I would love to know if any of you struggle with the same things.  I highly encourage you to read this book!

I know this is a bit of a transition but despite the emotional turmoil of being someone trapped by body image, I had an amazing week.  Ian and I got the experience of a lifetime when we were allowed to pet penguins and sea otters at the Georgia Aquarium.  We had a great weekend!

Until next time y'all...


  1. You're my favorite person for many reasons, but I admire your bravery by putting yourself out there and sharing your story. I know you've helped a lot of people! Good luck with this new phase!!
    I'm so happy for your penguin trip! It looks like you had so much fun!!!

  2. Thank you for your whole-hearted and constant support. That kind of support isn't easy to come by, trust me. Love you!


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