I’m always amazed at how I can feel so convinced that I’ve learned something important, something life-changing (!) one minute, and then the next minute feel like I don’t have a clue about anything. Sometimes I really dislike keeping a blog! How often have I written about a victory only to find myself wallowing in failure just a few weeks or even days later? How often have I thought I’ve learned something, written about it like I really know what I’m talking about, only to discover that I’m just as ignorant as I ever was? This is one of those posts. Last time I wrote, I was practically euphoric about how great it is to be releived from the need to be “good enough,” and how that has had an extreme impact on my weight loss. Today I’m writing a post detailing a virtual panic attack I had a few weeks ago because I was so worried about not meeting expectations (mine or those of other people) and how miserably I’ve been doing with my eating habits.
But such is life, I suppose. And the lessons I’m learning are real, even if I’m having to learn them more than once. 🙂 It’s been a rough few weeks here with the weight loss goals, and I want to try to explain what has been going on as best I possibly can both for my own sake, as I feel I’ve been learning more valuable lessons that I don’t want to forget, and for the sake of anyone who might be reading. Perhaps it will help someone, somewhere.
It started a few weeks ago, when I got sick with some flu-like illness. At that point, I had lost a total of 50lbs since the birth of my daughter, 40 of that being lost over the previous two months. Before I got sick, I was 11lbs away from being the lightest I’d been in almost 10 years.
After about 5 days of my illness, I’d lost another 10lbs, bringing my total loss to 60lbs since the birth of my daughter. At that point, I was only one pound away from being the lightest I’d been in 10 years, one pound away from the weight I’d reached before gaining it all back again and then some two years ago. That night, lying in my bed, I panicked.
A few weeks prior to that moment, I had been reading a book called Shrink Yourself, a book about weight loss. In it, the author talks about how dieters sometimes sabotage their own weight loss because subconsciously they are hiding behind the weight. At one point, he writes:
“we’ve discussed the fact that others don’t demand as much of you when your fat, but there’s also the reality that you might not demand as much of yourself… again, it makes no logical sense to allow your weight to make you suffer just so that you can avoid the suffering that you might experience if you were to tackle life’s challenges. And yet, somewhere in the hidden caverns of your consciousness you’ve convinced yourself that the pain of being fat pales next to the pain of discovering your limitations.”
When I first read this, I mostly skimmed through it quickly because I didn’t think it applied to me. But on that night, I realized then that part of my struggle with losing weight, and possibly one reason why I’ve always gained it back, is that there is a part of me that doesn’t WANT to lose the weight. There is a part of me that DOES hide behind it, never expecting much from myself and hoping that others don’t expect much from me either. I’ve written before about my perfectionist tendencies and how I’d often rather not try at all than try and fail. I had no idea that my weight was tied into this, as well, In that moment, I was really terrified and didn’t have any idea how to handle what I was feeling. Part of me was glad I wasn’t feeling well, because my illness prevented me from raiding the refrigerator in that moment.
Once I got over the illness, I started dealing with a lot of physical and emotional issues related to both the weight loss and the simple aftermath of being sick (being too weak to exercise, for instance.) It felt like Satan turned to all his demon buddies and said “hey, yall, watch this!” and proceeded to dump a ton of stuff on me that I just couldn’t get out from under. Within a very short time, I gained back 10lbs and no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to stop overeating. Was I engaging in some self-sabotage behavior? I think that has been part of it. But I think that it goes even deeper than that.
A few days ago, I started reading a book called The Addictive Personality by Craig Naken in order to help my husband with research on a book that he’s writing. I’ve always known that I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food, and I’ve even called it an “addiction” on occasion, but I never expected to find myself in this book. The author writes:
“Nearly all human beings have a deep desire to feel happy and to find peace of mind and soul. At times in our lives, most of us find this wholeness of peace and beauty, but then it slips away, only to return at another time. When it leaves us, we feel sadness and even a slight sense of mourning. This is one of the natural cycles of life, and it’s not a cycle we can control… We can either accept these cycles and learn from them or fight them, searching instead for elusive happiness.
Addiction can be viewed as an attempt to control these uncontrollable cycles. When addicts use a particular object, such as a substance or an event to produce a desired mood change, they believe they can control these cycles, and at first they can. Addiction, on its most basic level, is an attempt to control and fulfill this desire for happiness…
We must understand what all addictions and addictive processes have in common: the out-of-control and aimless searching for wholeness, happiness, and peace through a relationship with an object or event. No matter what the addiction is, every addict engages in a relationship with an object or event in order to produce a desired mood change, state of intoxication, or trance state.”
What I never realized before, or perhaps what I had refused to admit, is that my problem with food is just like an addiction to alcohol or drugs. I have been using food as a mood-altering substance, in the same way the drug addict uses a drug, for years. I’ve done a bit of research on this, and am looking forward to doing more, but evidence seems to point to the fact that for some people certain types of food can chemically alter pathways in the brain and produce a type of “high.” For these people, food becomes (to borrow a term from AA) their “drug of choice.” And I’ve been one of these people.
The weeks since my illness have been horrible. I haven’t been able to control the impulsive eating at all and I haven’t been able to get back to where I was before I got sick regarding exercise or diet or even motivation. I’ve felt so incredibly defeated, I just didn’t know what to do. I felt that God had taught me all of these wonderful lessons, and now I was right back where I started with no idea how to get back. But last night, I was speaking with a friend and he said something that was incredibly encouraging. He said: “What I’m hearing you say is that you’ve failed. What I’m afraid you’re beginning to think is that you should quit. There is a difference between failure and quitting. Failure isn’t a setback. QUITTING is what will destroy you. Fail all you want. But don’t quit!” As he was talking, I was wondering what “fail but don’t quit” would look like, wondering if I had already quit, or if I was just trapped in a cycle of failure. Then I considered the fact that there HAVE been times when I’ve made good food choices, although I didn’t want to. And there have been times when I’ve exercised even though I’ve eaten horribly the whole day. I think it’s safe to say that is, in part, what “don’t quit” looks like.
So today, I’ve been making an effort to do things that can be defined as “don’t quit.” I’m not ready to make any kinds of predictions about how things are going to go, or to say that things have turned around, but for the first time in a few weeks I have a lot of hope. And I’m thankful for that.
So take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet. (Hebrews 12:12-13)
Category: Weight Loss