In case you missed part one, you can find it here.
Once I got to my goal weight with Weight Watchers, I had a little more flexibility with the system and how much of the “bad” foods I could eat. I was able to play the game a bit, but still cycled between that all or nothing mentality and was either being really, really good, or really, really bad when it came to eating. I learned to identify my trigger foods and make sure I never had them in my house – like peanut butter. I literally could not keep a jar in my kitchen because inevitably I would eat it by the spoonful until it was gone. And though peanut butter isn’t bad for you (like pizza would probably be considered by most), it was definitely one of those foods I did not allow myself to have when I was being “good” because it was too calorically dense, and I didn’t trust myself around it.
When you’re used to behaving one way or eating one way for most of your life, it’s a very, very hard cycle to break. I remember reading stories of people who had completely changed their lives and their bodies and preached the “everything in moderation” thing, and secretly hating them. How could there possibly be a way for someone who once struggled so much with their weight like I have all my life, come to a place where they trusted themselves around food? I didn’t buy it.
But after maintaining my weight loss give or take for about a year and a half, I realized that though I had gotten myself to a healthy weight, I still had an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. It still held a power over me and caused extreme preoccupation and anxiety, and it just came to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore.
One of the big first steps in breaking out of this cycle was changing my goal weight. I think I was putting so much pressure on myself to maintain a certain number on the scale, that it was getting in the way of me living my life and really giving food more control over me than was necessary, or healthy. When I upped my goal weight from 164 to 177, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure lifted. It gave me much more wiggle room to figure out where my body would land naturally and took away some of the power the scale held over me.
The other big thing that led to breaking out of this cycle was actually not something that I did directly – it was getting into a relationship with someone who had a lot less healthy eating habits than I did (which has since ended, but that’s a different conversation for a different day). I didn’t realize quite realize it while it was happening, but spending a lot of time around a lot of the food that used to cause me tremendous anxiety exposed me to these foods more than I’d ever been before. You know how they say if you are scared of heights, you need to gradually expose yourself to heights and let yourself feel the anxiety, and then once you realize nothing bad will happen to you, it helps relieve the anxiety and get you over your fear? (For a better explanation that actually makes sense, you can go here.)
I think for me, being around foods that used to have power over me and cause extreme anxiety over and over (and over) conditioned me to feel less anxious and preoccupied around them. It was a slow evolution and the first few weeks/months definitely still caused a physical reaction and made me ask myself a lot of questions. And, it was scary and uncomfortable being OK with being in that situation repeatedly. But, it also really helped me realize a few things.
First, I was not going to gain back all the weight by being near a pizza.
Second, I could have pizza every day if I wanted to, so there was no need to eat an entire pizza and make myself sick, because I could just have a few pieces and then if I wanted it again the next day, I could have it again (because it was probably going to be around).
Third, by letting myself have what I was actually craving and not eating what I thought I should be eating, I was able to eat less to feel satisfied.
Fourth, my preoccupation and anxiety around “bad foods” slowly lifted over time, and they stopped pulling my attention in every time I was exposed to them.
And finally, by letting myself have what I felt like eating, I actually started craving healthy foods and eating them because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to.
As I said, this was a sloooow process and took a lot of courage to learn to trust myself around the foods that I hadn’t trusted myself around… ever. And it’s been a pretty eye opening process that has taught me a lot about myself. I don’t think I’m ever going to be “cured” of my issues with food and will always keep Weight Watchers as my backup for when the scale does start moving in the wrong direction. I know it works, but I don’t want to have to count everything I eat everyday for the rest of my life. And I’m not willing to.