I studied the menu carefully. My eyes darted all over the brochure to take in all the options. My pupils dilated. My mouth salivated. Half-chubbed, I began to narrow down my options. Orange chicken or General Tso’s? Spring or egg roll? Wonton soup or egg drop soup? Heck, let’s have it all!
I sat in the break room at work with a fellow employee. She was an older lady with pancake makeup and helmet hair. She perused the local newspaper and munched on dollar store potato chips.
I asked her if she had been and she said she hadn’t but that her son had and he enjoyed it. I told her I wasn’t sure what to get and she told me to get a little of everything. While that was the plan, I jokingly told her I didn’t need all that food.
“Yeah, it does look like you’ve gained some weight.” While I knew she wasn’t being rude, it did hurt a bit. But she wasn’t wrong. I have gained a good bit of weight back since losing 50lbs last year.
“Well, I have food problems,” I told her.
“We all do,” she said as she sat there with her eyeliner weighing more than she did. I was worried to look directly at her out of fear that the breath from my words might blow her over. The lady is skinny is what I’m trying to say. Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have food issues. But hers certainly aren’t as apparent as mine.
Despite her innocent yet paper cut-like comment, I did end up getting a sample of several things. And as I took the bags (plural!!) of food out of the restaurant, I was both giddy and a little sad that I had been looking forward to this moment all week. I wasn’t excited over seeing an old friend or catching up with a new acquaintance. I didn’t even ask anyone to eat the food with me. I wanted to go home and eat it all by myself.
And so I did.
The food was pretty good. There was a lot so I had enough to last me two meals. And it also gave me an upset stomach both times.
I don’t have this problem when I’m dieting. I eat greasy fried foods and always end up with angry bowels and a broken heart. And yet I keep falling into this cycle of pleasing and punishing myself. Pizza today and involuntary purging tomorrow! You’d think the threat of wicked hot sting ring would be enough to keep me away from the waffle fries. It’s not.
I don’t understand how I can do so well and suddenly completely lose all focus and drive. I wonder if it’s because I try too hard to do well. I count every calorie, record every exercise and then push myself to do better each time. Eat a little less, move a little more, and completely obsess over it. That leads to burnout which leads to burritos. My weight loss program has not been designed for longevity.
It’s really about balance. I know that. Eat well most of the time. Have a cheat day every once in a while. Go hard with the workouts and maybe have an occasional easy day. It’s not about deprivation but diversity. It’s about changing it up, having a slice of pizza when I really want it and then walking an extra mile or two the next time I hit my walking trail. It’s about skipping a workout but then having to skip dessert. It’s about checks and balances. It’s about enjoying good (bad) food responsibly.
But how do I find that balance? When I’m in my hardcore diet mode, it’s hard for me to have a cheat day because I think I’m ruining all my progress. Logically, I know I’m not. But I suppose my body/food issues are not logical. Maybe the answers cannot be found in logic. Or maybe logic is the answer to my lunacy.
What’s it gonna take to simmer down and lay off the Lays? Do I need to meditate, get my chakras aligned, or practice some positivity? How can I get in the right frame of mind to reward myself without reprimanding myself? How can I take the tension out of calisthenics? It seems I know what I need to do. And it’s really easy to sit down and write out a plan that is healthy in a physical and emotional sense. But it all falls apart when I try to put it into practice. Its when the irrational fears take over. It’s when I become this unforgiving tyrant. I can’t make any mistakes. I can’t flub up. I can’t work out hard enough. And even if I’m losing weight, it’s not a healthy attitude.
I know what I need to do. And I know how I need to think and treat myself. I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. In my history of histrionics and shrinking hemlines, mental health has never looked good on my menu. But with my constant stop-and-start shrinking, it might be worth taking a second glance.
I weighed myself this morning. 45 pounds down since January. I’m happy with the results but I’m still pretty miserable because I just want pizza.
I know you’re thinking I should just get a pizza and satisfy those cravings. Well, it’s just not that easy. I’m not new to this whole weight loss game. This will be my third time losing a major amount of weight. I know what works and what doesn’t. And what doesn’t work for me is having cheat days. This is for two reasons: I am a binge eater and one pizza will lead to me cleaning out the nearest Dominos. Also, I am so paranoid about undoing all my progress that I feel I will gain back all 45 pounds from that one pizza. Yes, I know that’s completely illogical. I am aware. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
So, I just don’t eat the pizza and the cravings come and go. The problem is they keep coming back.
And really, I don’t think I’d be happy with just one pizza. I’d want a pizza every week. Because food makes me happy. Or at least it numbs me enough to at least not be as depressed.
And that’s just the truth of the matter. Nothing in my life brings me joy. I have bottomed out happiness wise. Every day is painful. Every day is another reluctant choice to get up and go to work and exist when really I would rather just sleep all day and only wake up to have some ice cream or a chicken sandwich.
I look back on food with fond memories, like it’s a long lost lover. On the occasions when I got a weekend off from work, I made plans to end my Friday shift and start the weekend with a pizza or Japanese takeout and I was so excited to end the work week with some good food. I also got excited when Mom brought back fast food home when she got off work or when she wouldn’t feel like cooking and she’d say, “Hey, why don’t we order something?”
And now the weekend comes and there’s no pizza or Japanese takeout and I feel like something is missing in my life, as absurd as that sounds. The weekend isn’t as fun anymore.
I wish I could be that jazzed about juicing but the reality of the situation is I equate comfort with butter and sugar, grease and breading. Lard equals love. And there’s no way around it and there’s no changing the past. It’s ingrained in me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to rewire my head or if I’m too far gone to properly function without fried chicken, which I also miss. I haven’t had it all year. And I live in the South. It’s been tough.
And it will never get easier. I’ll get lighter but the desire for bread dough will always weigh me down.
I came down with a sore throat about two weeks ago. It was the worst sore throat I’ve had since I can remember. It was hard to swallow, which made eating nearly impossible. Not only did I not want to eat because of the pain, I also had no appetite so not eating didn’t bother me.
But now that I’m feeling better, eating isn’t painful, and my appetite is coming back. But I don’t want it to.
I lost about 6 pounds in 2 weeks. It might not seem like a lot but I’ve been dieting and exercising since January and I usually only lose about 4 pounds every 2 weeks. But I lost those 6 pounds by not eating or exercising. I just slept in bed the whole time. Easiest 6 pounds I ever lost. And while I understand it was probably mostly water weight and muscle, when I finally went back to work and got dressed and could go down another notch on my belt, it felt satisfying.
It was nice not to worry about food for a change, not to have to count calories or wonder how long I’d have to exercise to burn off what I’d just eaten. It was all about my warm sheets, no sleep, and spitting up saliva all night. It was a pleasant trade-off.
The sickness helped me break through the 30lb mark. I’m now down 33lbs since January. While I’m happy with my progress, I wish I had a bit more of a healthier attitude about it all.
That’s not to say I’ve been unhealthy. In fact, this latest bout of weight loss has been, in my opinion, one of the healthiest ways I’ve done it. I have a set number of calories I can have each day and I stick with it. I work out 4-5 days a week, usually a low impact exercise that lasts 30-45 minutes. I still have sweets occasionally. I’ve even had a bit of fast food here and there, as long as it fits into my allotted calories. I don’t feel deprived. I don’t feel I’ve pushed my body to the extreme as far as physical exercise. I’m taking things slow and steady. I’m trying to be sensible and not restrict myself to the point of madness. And so far I think I’ve done a good job.
But this sickness has reminded me that I still desire quick fixes, that I’m not entirely resistant to a weight loss shortcut, no matter how unsustainable. I wanted to keep my restricted diet. I wanted to see how far I could go on a can of chicken noodle soup and a bowl of mashed potatoes, which had basically been my diet over the past 2 weeks. But it was just a thought. I didn’t go through with it, partly because I am tired of chicken noodle soup and partly because I know it’s not healthy. I knew I needed the strength to help me fight this sickness and 500 calories a day wouldn’t help with that. But the thoughts were still there.
On the other end of the spectrum, being sick also reminded me I’m not above overindulging at times. Because I hadn’t eaten very much for several days, when my throat starting feeling better, I overindulged in a few foods. I reasoned that I had a few extra calories I could consume due to my lack of eating in the days prior. And really, it makes sense. I’ve been trying to create balance in my diet. If I eat too much one day, I try to scale it back the next. I even try to do that from meal to meal. Big breakfast? Small dinner. And vice versa. But as much as I enjoyed those extra helpings, I felt guilty.
Despite over 2 months of developing solid eating habits and consistently exercising, it only took 2 weeks to get out of that routine and I’m already dreading getting back into it. I’m still not feeling that great so working out is not on my to-do list right now. But I’m trying to stick to my calories, so at least I have that going for me.
I just feel bad that I have to put so much thought into these types of things. Sneaking in an extra slice of pizza or feeling I can allow myself another cup of ice cream always leads to disaster. Anytime I loosen the reigns, I end up losing control. It takes such an incredible amount of concentration to stay on track and a lot of the time it’s exhausting. And so when I stop exercising or don’t think about calorie counting, it feels good, freeing. But each and every time that happens, I gain all the weight back. So while it sucks, it’s necessary to keep up with what I’m eating and how many times I exercise. The sickness was a break of sorts, but now I’m ready to get back into my old routine. The hard part is gonna be actually doing it.
When I was in my early 20’s, I had just become accustomed to my new body and my new, healthy lifestyle. I was around 50 pounds thinner, active, with a positive outlook on my future.
I remember walking past the candy aisle in the grocery store and telling myself, with confidence, “I have no desire to eat any of this. And I can’t imagine I ever will.”
I often think back to that moment. What happened to change my mind and my resolve?
Well, a lot of things.
A few years later, I gained all the weight back. And then I lost it all again. And then I gained it all back again.
When I think back to that moment in the grocery store, there is a numbness, an inability to face the fact that I damaged my body and my spirit over and over again. Nearly 10 years later and I’m still struggling with the same issues. And the same side effects that are so embarrassingly visible.
For a few fleeting moments, I wonder what it would have been like to have simply kept the weight off. Instead of being miserable and uncomfortable in clothes and out of them, I could be fine with my body today. I could have finally stopped fixating on what was going to fit and how many calories were going to be in my next meal. Without the distractions, I could have focused on my art and put my mind to better use. But the sugar has deteriorated my mind. The depression and the endless stacks of pizzas have deteriorated my metabolism and my ability to care about my decline.
After that day in the candy aisle, I wasted the rest of my twenties by falling into an endless cycle of weight loss and weight gain, of depression and determination. Of failure slapping me in the face over and over again. Of feeling helpless and confident and hopeless and salvageable. Of dying. Of living. Of being in between.
I am not a happy person. I never have been. My everyday existence is filled with anxiety and fear. But I do not deal. I ignore what scares and angers me until it is no longer at the forefront of my frustrations. They never go away fully but they are gently prodded to the recesses of my mind while other trivial trials take over. And I ignore by eating. Instead of tackling my fears, I feed them.
Y’all, I’m so behind on my writing. This happened a few months ago and I jotted some notes down but I’m just now getting around to posting this…I mean, I have a book to write but I’ll never get to it if I can’t get all this other mental clutter out first.
A few months ago, I met a high school acquaintance for dinner. We spoke fairly regularly for a few years and then she got married and we drifted apart. I never thought her marriage would last and sure enough, when we started catching up with each other over enchiladas, she told me she had been divorced for about two years.
Ironically, the divorce was the best thing going on in her life. Shortly after she and her husband split, she realized she never loved him the way she should have and wasted nine years of her life with him. But she did get a free house, car, and dog out of the deal so it wasn’t a total bust. But other than that, she felt inadequate and turned to alcohol and random sex partners to ease the hurt of being alive.
The more we talked, the more I realized we were basically the same person, Siamese twins conjoined at our crippling insecurities. I felt bad for her and felt even worse when I had no advice to offer up. Usually I can dole out a few words of wisdom and guidance that soothes whatever aches the person I talk to but with her, I had nothing because I’m going through the same problems.
She doesn’t have a job and lies in bed all day and drinks. She said she stays, at a minimum, buzzed, and at maximum, blacked out drunk. She has one night stands. She has no purpose, no guidance, no one to love her. She thinks she’s disgusting, which she’s not. She’s a very pretty girl but all she can see is the “big girl she used to be.” I also understood that. No matter how much weight I’ve lost or will lose, I’ll always feel like the fat guy.
I wanted to both hug and throttle her but couldn’t because 1) I don’t like touching people and 2) I know I wouldn’t have gotten through to her. I think she’s just going to have to go through whatever she’s going through and either become numb to the whole thing or finally snap out of it somehow. I didn’t think there was a cure for what ailed her. There was only control. She can control her symptoms. She can minimize the hurt but if she’s anything like me, and I believe she is, the pain will never go away.
I always feel I do better when I’m making goals and working toward them. When I wake up with no direction, I usually get nothing accomplished and feel terrible at the end of the day. It’s difficult to make goals sometimes because I am an all-or-nothing type of person. Moderation is a hard concept for me to grasp because if I’m going to do something, especially something I don’t want to do, I want to see fast results. Otherwise, it’s easy to give up.
There are some days when I feel I have to starve myself, work out until I’m dizzy, write ten chapters and read an entire book in a day for me to feel like I actually did something productive. And that’s not healthy because trying to meet such high standards on a daily basis only sets myself up to crash and burn. And I always do. And that makes it harder to get back on track.
But there are other days when it’s like a switch has been flipped and I can understand and utilize the idea of doing and eating and experiencing things in small portions. I can have a slice of cake and not feel guilty. I can do moderate exercise for half an hour and feel like I burned some fat. I can write a chapter in the book I’m writing or read a chapter in a book I’m reading and I feel like I accomplished something. It’s during those times that I do my best and feel my best.
For a time last year, I woke up and made daily goals, usually involving exercising, reading and writing. I’d write during my lunch break at work, exercise when I got off work, then read before bed. Sometimes I wrote a lot and read a little or exercised a little and read a whole lot and didn’t write very much and there were days when I didn’t get around to doing one thing on my list because I got too busy or felt lethargic. That was okay because the majority of the time I accomplished most, if not all, the things I planned to do. When I had a goal to strive for, I had direction. When I had direction, I actually got stuff done. And that felt good.
This is the time to get back into that mode, to make goals and strive toward completing them, to get stuff done. If I fall short on a few things, that’s okay because I can always make it up the next day. It’s a tired expression but every day really is an opportunity to do better. I just have to remember that and not beat myself up if I can’t get it all done in one day.
It’s a one-step program, taking things one day at a time, one goal at a time, one accomplishment at a time. It’s all about patience and persistence. It’s about always reminding yourself of the good your doing, how the small things add up to big changes. And that takes a lot of energy and when you don’t have much to begin with, it can feel overwhelming. But it’s worth it. I just have to keep that in mind.
I’ve done all this before. Not once but twice. And I can do it again.