Friday, September 6, 2013

People often say to me: “I’d be SO HAPPY if I could just lose weight like you”. It is often hard for me to respond to that statement because we as a society often link “body size and fitness” to happiness. It is true, that I have a deep, down, over-flowing joy that I have not known in many years since losing the weight, but I think that the weight loss is only a small part of the reason why. I’m not sure I am any happier now that I have reached “average size” than I was a year ago when I was losing weight at a steady pace. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy beyond words, but the change in body mass is a VISIBLE sign of the major transformation that has taken place inside my heart and mind. There is no disputing that my physical appearance has changed dramatically throughout this journey, but the changes in the way I think and feel have spurred my happiness as well. The “miracle” that I so often speak of had less to do with the outside and more to do with the inside. People lose weight all the time, heck we’ve probably all done it over and over throughout the years, but a true change of heart and mindset is…well, nothing short of a miracle.

I no longer “think” of food like I used to. I used to think of food as “a reward”, “a comfort”, a “Band-Aid”, a “means of social interaction”, etc. instead of what it should be: a source of energy, nutrition, and fuel to keep our minds sharp and our bodies healthy.  As a kid, I learned that “if I did something good….like get good grades in school or clean my room, then I would get a treat…like an ice-cream sundae or a candy bar in the store”, or “a pizza night or dinner out”.  I remember as a kid being dragged along with my mother as she went to “yet another Weight Watcher meeting”. My aunts often went with us, and if anyone “lost weight” that week, we would stop at Saunders Ice-cream parlor, ironically located right next to the WW meeting place. As a result, I learned that I should “reward” myself with food every time I did a good job at anything.  When I went back to college at age 42 (the period when I gained about 100 pounds in a few short years), I used to reward myself for good grades with McDonald’s or a milkshake. 


Likewise, learned that food was a source of “comfort”. Some of you have heard/read that my father died when I was a small child and well-meaning adults, including my mom and grandmothers, used to try to make me feel better by feeding me special treats. The lunch lady at school always put extra food on my tray; the neighborhood lady always gave me an extra handful of Halloween candy or made me cookies; the lady from church that ran the local ice-cream shop always gave me a 2nd scoop of ice cream…for free, just because they felt sorry that my dad died and I was sad.  How many times have we seen “sad girls after a break-up or lonely girls” with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?  I learned that food makes those hard times more bearable.  SO…when my mother died when I was in my 20’s, I self-medicated with candy, fast-food, and chips, and it just accelerated in my 40’s when I experienced 2 job losses, a series of deaths, a diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis, and a few other life-changing events. I did what I knew….ate to make me feel better and numb the emotional pain.  It was only when I began to realize that I had this unhealthy relationship with food that I began to make the changes that have been so crucial to my weight loss. 

These days I try to “eat” because I need to, rather than “just because.” It is easy, heck no?  I often find myself, especially at night, wanting to eat because I’m tired, or bored, or lonely, or had a bad day. I often find myself “giving food to others”, making or buying treats for friends or co-workers ….just to show them I love and appreciate them. I need to quit that! 

There are often days when I just want to eat all day long and I have to ask myself, “are you really physically hungry, or is there something else triggering the desire to eat?” More often than not, it’s something else and I may not even be able to “identify” the trigger. Today is one of those days. I ate my usual breakfast this morning: a bowl of oatmeal and coffee, and then I left for the 30 minute drive for work. All the way there, I kept digging in my purse looking for a fiber or protein bar because I had convinced myself that “I was just starving.”  The truth is, that there is no way that “I was starving”, after all, I had just ate breakfast. I’m not sure what emotion/feeling was triggering the incredible urge to eat something else, but I kept telling myself, “Just wait until you get to the office, and if you are still, truly physically hungry, then you can eat the pear that you packed in your book bag”. Well, 2 hours later, I wasn’t “starving” after all!  I drank a bottle of water and got busy with the day’s work, and ‘viola”, the urge just ‘went away”.   Sometimes, I’m not so strong. Sometimes I give in and eat more than I need, but fortunately, not anything that is “off plan or loaded with calories”. These past 2 weeks have been especially difficult: I ate 3 ENTIRE watermelons all by myself in the last 11 days! WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?????  I’m actually scared to get on the scale for a few days because I know it “can’t be good”. Yikes!  Sometimes, I am stronger than others.   I’m sure we all are guilty of eating just because……. 

I think honestly taking a look at how I thought about food was a key factor in my weight loss. When I started to question “why” I was eating, it was easier to make the necessary changes. I think the “why we eat” is as important as the “what we eat!”  The next time you find yourself “starving” or “ready to give in to temptation” or “just not being able to go one more minute without a bag of microwave popcorn or a candy bar”, ask yourself honestly….”does my body REALLY need this fuel, am I REALLY physically hungry, or is something else going on?” Chances are, like me, you’ll realize that you’re eating for the wrong reason!