I’ve had two homes burn down.
Once in my youth, once as a parent. And in those moments, days, weeks following you have to take a bunch of #1 priorities and assign only ONE that top priority and then rank the others below it. You can’t have 10 that are #1. It was very much the same with weight loss. I could not do everything at once and I had to decide what the biggest rocks were that I had to move into the corners of my new life and build a fresh foundation upon them…and what could wait.
The first cornerstone was understanding/realizing WHY I put what I put into my mouth.
I went to see a therapist and basically spent the first several sessions in tears. I realized, in talking with her, that I often tied food into the conversation regardless of her prompting about food specifically or not. She asked me one day to describe the best memory I had with each of my parents. They each centered on food. She asked me to recall a few terrible times in my life. Guess what…food factored in big time. The event was not the food. But the culmination was food and the memory was saturated with it. With my father it was learning to ride my bike well enough that we could go to Arby’s and get lunch. The Arby’s was, ironically, the ‘carrot’ dangled for me learning to ride my bike. And so it was my whole life. Got an A on a tough paper…let’s eat ice cream! Had a craptastic day? Let’s make cinnamon rolls.
My therapist had me talk about both the past and the present. Then she made a comment one day that could not have more impact if she’d slapped me soundly across the face.
DOES IT EVER OCCUR TO YOU THAT YOU EAT LIKE A POOR PERSON?
She asked if I realized how often I ate because food was free. If I realized how many times I ate when it wasn’t time to eat and it did not even sound like I was actually hungry. That I was scrambling to take seconds before I’d even finished my (huge portion) first serving for fear of missing out.
I’d been taught young, if there was one extra porkchop, slice of steak, whatever…you better take it or risk not getting it. AND if you take it, missy, you sure as shooting are going to eat it. And then, to reward you for eating your food that was waaaaaaaaaay too much for a child to be consuming to begin with, we’re giving you DESSERT! Yep. I can literally recall many instances where I was actually in pain from being so full, but afraid of repercussions for ‘wasting’ food. So instead, to my waist. And hips. And butt. And arms. And legs…it went.
Before I went home from that appointment, I stopped and bought a red Moleskin diary. I started writing in it ANY time I ate. A few days later a message went out at work. Free Jimmy John’s in the breakroom. The business was bringing half sandwiches, chips, ½ brownies and whole cookies for the floors of our building to try in hopes of getting catering orders. It was about 10:30 in the morning. I hopped up like a rabid kangaroo and sped to the breakroom. Got a plate of a half sandwich, chips, half a brownie and returned to my desk. I was feeling smug and congratulating myself on taking less than I would have previously. I did take a moment to open my journal and record this.
The prompts I had given myself were WHY was I eating this and then what I had on my plate and at the end, writing how I felt.
Well, why WAS I eating this? I had a good breakfast. I had a great lunch planned at a favorite restaurant with a vendor at 11:30. It was now about 10:40 and I was going to eat 700 ish calories because it was FREE? The words of my therapist were booming in my head so loudly, I thought for sure a co-worker would tell me to keep it down. I threw the sandwich in the trash and returned the items that were still wrapped to the breakroom and hurried to an unoccupied conference room where I cried. I really did eat like a poor person. Worse, I’ve seen the homeless decline an offered meal because they had eaten more recently than a fellow homeless person. I was ashamed. I was disgusted with myself. But my resolve was renewed by that and one thing I will not do is eat because it is there.
I learned to really think about WHY. I took the time to evaluate so many situations and started to make smart decisions ahead of time so I was NEVER (not a word I use a lot) going to be somewhere and desperate for food enough to make a poor choice…literally and figuratively.
And when people (and trust me, they REALLY DO) try to make me feel badly for not having a bite of a rich dish, or sharing in their birthday cake, or random high calorie item or even a bite of something sensible that I’m simply not in the mood for or don’t find the value of the bite to the calorie count, I simply remind myself that NO is a complete sentence. I have had people look me in the eye and say “Ah, it’s just one taste, that’s not going to hurt anything.”
And if a gentle decline doesn’t work I have no trouble telling them in very plain terms that I don’t want or need to have them decide what is best for me or my waistline.
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