I had a bit of a realization a few months ago, when my therapist asked me how long I had been on a diet. I believe my response was something like (*blink, blink*), “I don’t understand the question.” Or maybe I just stared at her for a bit before answering her…I am not sure. The important thing is that the real answer is that I have been on a diet for my entire adult life. Clearly, it has not always been a successful diet because if it had been I would not still be overweight. However, there has not been a time in my adult life (and actually as far back as parts of high school) when I was not “on a diet.” I spent a lot of time “cheating” (or compulsively eating), but I have been on a diet, more or less continuously, for the past 20+ years.
No wonder I have such a screwed up relationship with food! Food has been the enemy for a LONG time! And when it wasn’t the enemy because I couldn’t eat it, it was being the enemy because I couldn’t stop eating it. I have recently been pondering (when you live alone with a dog and cat, you get to spend a lot of time pondering) the similarities between compulsive eating and my dieting behaviors. I had a 2 1/2 year run of REALLY GOOD DIETING. I lost over 70 pounds, first by calorie counting, then by joining Weight Watchers. I was on plan for most of those 2 1/2 years. And then I had some life stress come my way, and I went off the rails, and since April of last year, I have been struggling to drag myself back on the wagon. I have gained between 15 and 20 pounds in that year. And I have time periods of being “good,” which involves religiously tracking every calorie into my mouth, exercising with my heart rate monitor on so I can track my true calorie burn, and wearing my Fit Bit on days that I work so I can strive to take as many steps as possible (which is often over 12,000 steps…there is a lot of walking involved with being a NICU nurse). And then there is a little slip. And then I start to feel bad about myself. And I punish myself with food.
Last year, one of the books I picked up by Geneen Roth was Why Weight?, which is a workbook designed to help you incorporate her principles of eating into your life. It has exercises that allow you to look at your relationship with food, with binge eating, with forbidden foods, with messages from your past that you got about food, with messages from the past that you got about yourself, and many other topics that are certainly intertwined with why many women struggle so much with food issues. I started making my way through the exercises until I got to the part that told me I had to stop counting calories (although I was still supposed to track what I ate…just not in a “scoreboard” kind of way). I read that section, got a little angry, closed the book, and threw it in the bottom of my journal tote.
How could I stop counting calories? If I didn’t count calories, I would just eat and eat and eat. There would be no checks and balances. Too much freedom would spell my downfall. Geneen Roth tells us, among other things, to eat only what we want, eat only when we are hungry, and eat only until we are satisfied. I had been looking at food in terms of number values for so long that this idea was totally foreign to me. So I resisted. I kept counting calories. I crawled back up on the edge of the wagon and hung on for dear life. And I fell off it once again.
My fellow blogger YSP wrote a post not long ago about her Geneen Roth moment , and I commented on her blog entry that I was NOT READY to give up tracking. It was TOO SCARY, and I wasn’t ready to trust myself the way I would need to. But this week in therapy, I shared with my therapist that I think it is time for me to stop counting calories. I have gotten to the point that I am either out of control or too much in control, and neither of those is an appropriate place for me to be. Therefore, I am going back to the Why Weight? book and picking up at the point that I started thinking that Geneen Roth was out of her mind and had no idea what I needed to be successful with weight loss.
Here’s the thing. It can’t always be about the weight loss. At some point, it has to be about ending this crazy relationship I have with food. If that means it take five more years to get to my goal weight, that is fine and worth it if it means that I can stop seeing food and my body and the very essence of what makes me the person I am as the enemy. I have more reading to do, and I am even branching out to different authors to see what they have to say about mindful eating and intuitive eating. And I will keep working at this, even though it is hard and can seem scary because it will be worth it not to be so focused on food.
My thought is that this will be harder than any diet has ever been. But in the end, it will be so worth it if it results in the end of my war with food.