Part One: The Evolution of My Relationship with Food

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…

19 Comments on Part One: The Evolution of My Relationship with Food

  1. katie@thecarbmonster (@thecarbmonster)
    October 8, 2013 at 9:53 am (7 years ago)

    I am feeling you with this! I know WW was helping me learn healthier habits, but I was still trying to restrict or manipulate the points. I am learning to reshape my relationship with food as something that is not “bad” or “good” because I have been purposely hurting myself with the bad foods (or restricting even the “good” foods because I have been “bad”). It is my type of self-harm and it’s been eye-opening to realize that we have been using foods like that! I’ve definitely been focusing on learning more about that and myself!

    • Beth
      October 8, 2013 at 11:01 am (7 years ago)

      Hey Katie! As I said, I really do think WW is and continues to be a really essential part of my journey. That said, it did let me perpetuate that overdo/restrict cycle, but only because my own head is/was messed up, not because of WW per se. It’s so hard to learn to trust yourself around food when it’s had so much power over you for so long, and I think it’s something I’ll always have to work on, hopefully less so at some point. 🙂

  2. Shannon Tatlock (@shannontatlock)
    October 8, 2013 at 10:41 am (7 years ago)

    Your comment about being preoccupied with food, while hanging out with friends, really reverberated with me. That’s exactly how I feel right now. Can’t wait to hear the end of the story!

    • Beth
      October 8, 2013 at 10:55 am (7 years ago)

      I’m not sure there ever will be an END per se, because it certainly is a journey, but there’s definitely more to the story!

  3. Becky
    October 8, 2013 at 10:49 am (7 years ago)

    Can I just copy and paste your post on my blog? You have described me EXACTLY. This is 100% how I feel about food and events with food, etc. I had to go to therapy for about 6 months because I was getting myself to the binge/purge cycle and I was terrified about what was happening to me. There are people in this world (my husband) who will never truly understand my demons with food. However, I am thankful every day that I have met (through WW) people like you that share the same struggles and self destruction so that we can work through it together and know we aren’t alone. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you are SUCH an inspiration and everything you do helps to encourage me even on those bad days. Thank you for everything you do. 😀 😀 😀

    • Beth
      October 8, 2013 at 10:58 am (7 years ago)

      Aww you are welcome! I think one of the best and most eye opening parts of this journey is realizing that we are NOT at all alone. Some people (it sounds like your husband is one!) will never understand what it’s like to have this struggle with food. And for some of us, it will never fully end, but there are times when it gets easier and we are more in control. I’m so glad I’m able to inspire you – I can’t tell you how much of an inspiration you were to ME when I first started with WW back in 2009!

  4. Courtney Westling
    October 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks for this post, Beth. You took the words out of my mouth…very eloquently to boot. I’ve been trying to find the balance for years, and I’m still searching. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who helps me remember that food is just fuel, but it’s easier said than done. I’m looking forward to the rest of your story! You look amazing, by the way, although, I always thought you looked great. 🙂

  5. Lisa
    October 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Beth, first of all thank you for writing about this portion of your food journey. I swear when I was reading it I thought you were talking about me. So, far your story is exactly as mine is. I wanted to cry just knowing that someone esle understands. Every day I struggle and feel alone as if I am the only one facing this stressful cycle of eating. I too did WW and for the first time in my life I lost weight and actually bypassed the goal I set for myself, which for me ony gave me a free pass to eat what ever I wanted and fall back into my unhealthy eating habits but not as bad as before. I had put back on most of the weight I lost on WW and find myself stuggling to find away to loose it again but this time forever! I am looking forwarded to reading the next part of your joureny, in hopes that you once again might shed more light onto this horrible cycle. You are an inspiration to me and many!

  6. Christine
    October 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm (7 years ago)

    I can definitely relate! Although it’s funny how the “powerful” foods have changed over time; it used to be that the plate of cookies at the work luncheon was far more temptation than I could bear. Now I can look at a plate of commercially prepared baked goods and feel totally indifferent, but put potato chips and a burger in front of me and I will lose all self control.

  7. Marie
    October 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm (7 years ago)

    I am anxiously waiting Part 2 to this post. I never comment, but after reading Part 1, I swore I could have wrote it. Following WW has helped me get to a normal weight. I am active and all my medical numbers are great. But I still have a problem around food and go into a food tailspin on weekends. I do count the points, however, as part of my over obsessiveness, but knowing the number does not cause me to stop eating poorly. I feel like I have cheated the system and one day the bridge is going to be pulled out from under me, my luck will run out, and my weekend eating will catch up with me. I love being healthy and active, but live in fear of waking up one day up 200 pounds. Regardless of the scale success, I know it is important to mentally succeed and I am working on it. For me I think it is about acceptance, not accepting the bad food related habits, but accepting who I am as a person and being comfortable enough to trust that I am going to be okay. I look forward to reading HOW you have transformed your relationship with food and maybe incorporating some of your experiences. Thanks for a great post, Beth!

  8. Deanna
    October 8, 2013 at 10:15 pm (7 years ago)

    You are so relatable. I can not wait to read part 2!
    It’s so nice to know there are other people with these food issues… That’s why I love your blog and 125.
    Any other blogs you read on these issues?

  9. Alicia
    October 9, 2013 at 7:42 am (7 years ago)

    Your story is extremely easy to relate to! Can’t wait for part 2. I imagine it will give me the motivation I need to try and achieve my weight loss goals

  10. Patrick Ross
    October 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm (7 years ago)

    Thank for this, I am anxiously waiting for Part 2! Here at home, I try to be very strict with my diet, and sometimes I go overboard with my wife, it’s so difficult to be disciplined with all the temptation outside. However, we have been successful in our journey and we are proud of it. Thanks for your guidance and motivation!

  11. Ray
    October 11, 2013 at 8:31 am (7 years ago)

    Great post! very relate-able, looking forward to read more posts from you.

  12. Katy Widrick
    October 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm (7 years ago)

    Oh, honey…I wrote a similar post a couple of years ago because I have such a love/hate relationship with Weight Watchers (and a lot of what you posted here is what I experienced as well). Looking forward to Part 2.

  13. Jennifer
    October 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm (7 years ago)

    Like so many others who have commented, I read this and immediately thought, “That’s me!” It saddens me to see so many of us struggle with our relationship with food. I long for the day when I can just eat meals & not over-analyze every morsel, or feel guilty about eating certain foods. I think it’s great to follow the “in moderation” school of thought, but what my definition of “moderation” is may not be what, say, a nutritionist’s definition is. And what do you do if you feel like you are living by that rule, but you’re not losing weight? I can’t wait to read Part 2 and see how you dealt with these issues!

  14. Joe
    October 17, 2013 at 9:22 am (7 years ago)

    I never had a “bad relationship” with food. I wasn’t overweight growing up, but I am now and have been for 7 years. I heard about WW but suck at numbers so knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. After 7 years of trying different things (just like every other overweight person), I finally decided to watch carefully what my triggers were and how to avoid them, how, what and how much to eat while going to the gym. And it’s working. I eat what I want basically but everything in moderation. I do dislike fatty foods though, so that helps too.

    Look forward to part 2.

  15. sophia bruny
    October 18, 2013 at 2:46 am (7 years ago)

    most women can highly relate to your experience! thanks for this great post!


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