All my life, I was heavy. And I hated it. I went through this perpetual cycle of hating my body, hating myself, and hating that I let food have this power over me. I’d start off every day with the best of intentions for being healthy and losing weight, and while I knew what foods were healthy, I really had no concept of how much I should be eating of what. I would go for things with good gimmicks on the labels like “low fat” and “fat free” and “good for your heart”, thinking I was making the right choices. And I would eat just a little bit of it. And then, I would be hungry. And I would try to convince myself that I wasn’t, and do everything in my power not to eat more so I could lose weight.
And then I would binge.
I’d eat everything and anything I could get my hands on that was off limits for me during the times I was being “good”. I’d use being sad, happy, drunk, busy, anxious or bored as an excuse, and I would eat myself sick. Never to the point where I threw up, but to the point where I would feel sick to my stomach, uncomfortably full and would likely have to lay down. This would usually get it out of my system temporarily, and then I’d wake up the next day and hate myself even more. And then I’d start the cycle again.
There were periods of my life where I cared less about weight than other times, like during the first few years of college where I had my first serious boyfriend. At those times, I was just eating a lot of what I knew were bad-for-me foods pretty much all the time. And it’s no surprise that I gained a lot of weight. And then at the end of college, I decided to give Atkins a go because I knew it was something I could try that would allow me to eat excessive amounts of food and still lose weight. I was used to the “allowed” and “not allowed” labels on things, so it really worked for me. I lost 40 pounds, felt pretty good, and kept it off for a year.
But you know what? I like bread. And pizza. And fruit. And milk. There was no way I was going to be able to stick with that forever, and when I went off Atkins and back into my unhealthy restrict/overdo cycle of eating, it’s no surprise that I gained back all the weight and then some.
And then I (re)discovered Weight Watchers in 2009. I loved having the system that I could track my food (I’m a numbers person) and that nothing was off limits technically. I also loved that I was losing weight and learning to eat right, and being in a room of people where I could tell them that I ate an entire batch of cookies and they would get it and not judge me. It was very liberating. I think Weight Watchers was a very essential part of my journey because it really was what helped me develop a lot of healthy habits and lose a large amount of weight. At the time, I really needed a way out of the cycle I was in and the accountability and easy-to-follow program were right for me at the time.
But in many ways, Weight Watchers encouraged that restrict and then overdo it cycle that I was accustomed to, though a little bit less severe than it was before. I would always eat my minimum points per day, but for anyone who has ever done WW, you know that it’s really not that much. It’s enough, but there’s no way I could eat just 26 pointsplus per day every day for the rest of my life. My approach was that I would eat the daily target Monday to Friday, and then use all the extra points on the weekends or for a special event, which is when I’d way overdo it. A lot of times I wouldn’t count the points on those days where I was going above and beyond, and that freedom helped me feel less trapped by the counting of the program. But I would still have those same guilty feelings after eating excessively, and then return to the minimum points per day until I felt ok about myself again. It worked in helping me get down to a healthy weight, but it didn’t help break that cycle of being good or bad, and seeing everything as black or white.
And though with WW nothing is technically off limits, for me, it was. I didn’t trust myself to have one piece of pizza – so I would either eat no pizza on those days where I was sticking to my daily target, or eat most of a large pizza on a day when I was not. I still kept that off limits mentality with “bad” foods when I was trying to stay on track, and though this wasn’t Weight Watchers fault per se, the program allowed me to embrace these old unhealthy habits as I found my way to a healthy weight. They said everything in moderation, but for someone with as messed up a relationship as I had with food, I didn’t trust myself with the whole moderation thing.
The other side of it, besides seeing foods as good or bad, was that the bad foods caused me extreme anxiety. If I would attend a social event or be at a work party where there was pizza, my heart would literally race as I fought with myself against whether I was going to have some or not. Sometimes my willpower and resolve would be high, and I’d place myself away from the food knowing that I was not going to touch it. Other times, though, I couldn’t even pay attention to what was going on around me because I was too focused on the food and was being consumed by it. (Ironic, eh?) This was particularly sad when I was spending time with friends and could barely pay attention to the conversation because I was so distracted by the food in front of me, until it was either taken away or completely eaten. I don’t think anyone around me could grasp how preoccupied by the food I was because I put on a good act, but it’s pretty disturbing how much control I let it have over me.
To be continued…