Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Right Size

I'll be honest.  I don't know exactly when I became this person.  I used to eat Chef Boyardee Spaghetti right out of the can and now I am buying organic whole wheat flour and agave nectar.  The transition, in fact, happened so gradually that I hardly even noticed it.  It was, however, a huge transition....a transition I am glad I made but one that evolved over time based on many factors. 

I have been on some kind of a "diet" almost all of my life (except for the frequent, random binges of things like Chef Boyardee Spaghetti  right out of the can).  While I haven't always been overweight I have always struggled with my weight and my eating habits. Being a compulsive over eater I am constantly battling the part of me that wants to binge on food until I am literally sick.  Compulsive over eating is difficult to understand.  While there is the euphoria and satisfaction initially during binge eating there is always..always a feeling of sickness afterward both mental and physical.  There is, of course, the stomach ache and a whole host of other unpleasant physical symptoms (think post Thanksgiving dinner times ten) but there is also always the self hatred and disappointment that accompanies those physical pains.  "You're a failure".  "Well, you did it again!"  "You'll never be thin."  It certainly doesn't follow the Pavlovian pattern of  doing things because they cause us pleasure but it happened regularly nonetheless.

I don't need to get into why this is an issue for me.  To be honest I don't really care.  It might be psychological or it might be physical....whatever the causation it is real and I have it.  That's really all I need to know.  I have it and I don't want it.  So how do I go about stopping it?

For me it was about controlling what I eat and when I eat.  It was about limiting or eliminating foods that I found triggered my binge eating (sugar and salt for me) and eating smaller, more frequent meals so I never felt that I was depriving myself.  It was also about being more active. When you're sitting on the couch watching TV it's easy to get up and grab a bag of  chips to snack on.  It's not so easy to do that when you're out taking a walk or working on your favorite hobby.  Part of my problem is that one of my favorite things to do is cook and bake.  Running my own business I rarely get to experience the joy of a task that has a beginning and end.  Everything about running a business is about the process.  In cooking and baking there is a beginning and an end....and the end is also rewarding which is another reason why I love it. 

The problematic side-effect of having cooking and baking as your hobby is all of the tempting food that is there when you are done.  My old philosophy on cooking was: "If it doesn't taste good enough add butter or top it with sour cream".  Not surprisingly, that worked.  It also, probably played a part in causing Brennis' choked arteries.  I didn't really feel that I would ever again be comfortable baking and cooking for our household.  I felt like I had been negligent with our health because I was trying to please everyone by making delicious but unhealthy food. Sometimes I joked that my cooking almost killed Brennis.  Sometimes I didn't think it was a joke.  Most of the time I didn't think it was funny.

Turning my hobby into something positive was part of the battle.  Making great tasting healthy food isn't difficult really.  It just required me to un-learn many of the things I thought I knew about food.  Of course adding butter (or salt or sugar) and topping it with sour cream (or whipped cream or cheese) makes food taste better....these are great tasting things and believe it or not I still eat them occasionally.  Making things taste great without these things (and a whole host of other ingredients) has been a challenge I have enjoyed taking on and has made my "hobby" of cooking much more fun. Now it is about the challenge and about the physical activity of cooking and baking...not just about slapping icing on something.  I love to cook now because it's exciting and keeps me busy and away from the cheap, unhealthy snacks.  It exercises my mind and my body.

It takes energy to cook delicious, healthy foods and that's a good thing.  I understand that we are all living busy over scheduled lives and that a lot of us have kids or other people that we take care of and it's just too difficult sometimes to think about chopping vegetables or dragging out the food processor.  It happens....sometimes life gets away from us.  Take a look at your life.  When do you overeat?  What are your triggers?  Do you have a block of time during the week when you can cook ahead and have healthy food already prepared?  Are the people around you supportive of you?  You have to start from a place of strength and having an understanding of your issues to give you that strength.

Understanding where you are at this moment....what has caused you to be overweight (or to struggle with your weight) in the first the best starting point.  Really analyzing your relationship with food and your relationship with exercise is the first step.  You don't have to go through years of analysis to figure it out.  You already know the answer.  Make the sacrifices you are willing to make.  Change the things about your life that don't give you pleasure.  Be kind to yourself and be honest with yourself.  Until you are able to do these things, honestly, you will not be able to lose weight and keep it off. 

There is no "one size fits all" approach to losing weight.  Every person is going to do it differently but everyone needs to start by trying to determine what is right for them and it's likely that the process of figuring that out is going to evolve over time (I am still tweaking my diet every time I find something that isn't working for me).  This is not a task, it's a journey...a journey that likely will last the rest of your life.  It doesn't end when you  lose the weight but it does get better as you begin to really understand and appreciate your relationship with food.  No matter how you got to where you are now the road forward is not and should not be one that is unfamiliar.  You don't have to make big changes overnight. Let go of the unhealthy things slowly and that will allow you to bring more healthy things into your life. Learn from your past mistakes but don't let them derail your progress.  You can choose to go back at any time but it won't get you to your destination.  Just because you pause on your path doesn't mean the road is closed.

Losing weight is hard for a lot of people. It's never impossible.  Losing weight and keeping it off is even harder...but it is worth it. 

I'm not sure exactly when I became this person but I'm glad I did.  I wouldn't change me for all of the canned spaghetti in the world.

1 comment:

  1. very well-said! becoming healthier is a process. i always tell customers "you didn't get into this condition overnight and it will take time to turn it around." some people are looking for a quick fix, the magic pill that will make the weight just melt away. it's hard to change our lifestyle but it is well worth it. you don't have to do it all in a week- just start with one thing!