Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Operation Get Healthy Update

I'm not on a diet anymore.

This thought hit me the other day.   It took me six months to lose 60 lbs, and I'd been in a dieting frame of mind for so long, that I didn't even notice when I crossed the line from someone who is watching calories to someone who eats respectfully.

It started in early November, when a bad cold ran through our house.  For three weeks straight, someone was sick in our house:  first one kid, then the other, then me.

I couldn't go to my Jenny Craig appointments to get my weekly food, or get weighed in.   I couldn't get to the gym.   I was on my own.

Up until that point, I had been fearful of weaning off the Jenny Craig food, even though my consultant was urging me to.   I didn't trust my own thinking, because I know full well how easily I can justify bad habits.   But now I didn't have a choice, and because we were in full-on survival mode at home, I didn't even have time to panic about it.

I still weighed myself, but only once a week, so I couldn't get obsessive about the number on the scale.   The number I saw each week held steady (give or take a pound or two up and down).   But I was still eating basically the same things every day, fearful of deviating from my routine.

Thanksgiving taught me a valuable lesson:   I can eat what everyone else eats, but in moderation.    Instead of depriving myself of mashed potatoes, gravy and a slice of pie, I ate all of those, but kept my portions in control.

This is a very new concept for me, this whole control thing.    What I found out is that it's only hard in the beginning - after a while it just becomes my New Normal.

When I went to my Jenny Craig appointment on Monday, I hadn't been in almost six weeks.    I hadn't eaten their food in almost four weeks.    I didn't gain any weight.   My consultant smiled at me and said, "You're doing great.  See?  You know what to do, now."

That's when it hit me:   I'm not on a diet anymore.  Now I'm just living my life, but with a new respect for the role food plays in my life.   I keep an eye on balance - if I'm going to eat cheese and carbs, I balance out my plate with vegetables or a salad.     I don't allow myself to have second helpings, ever, because those second helpings are all about emotional eating.   If I'm hungry - legitimately hungry - an hour after I ate I can have a light snack.   

I can finally tell the difference between emotional eating and eating because I'm hungry.    The other night it was 9:30pm and I was stressed, tired, and still had a pile of work to do before bed.   I was feeling edgy, angry and more than a little bored.    I wanted to eat so badly.    I wasn't hungry - I was angry and restless.  I was looking for comfort, and something to do.     So I had two dum-dum lollipops.    A total of 30 calories, and it took half an hour to finish them both.   My sugar craving was satisfied, and I felt like I had given myself a treat.   

Now I keep hard candy and lollipops on hand all the time, just in case.     When moods like that hit me, it's far better to reach for a lollipop than a big sugary bowl of cereal, or a handful of cookies.

I don't need to be in deprivation mode anymore.   It's difficult to get my mind around the fact that this is the new me.   That if I eat regular food, carefully, and exercise moderately I'm going to do just fine.    It's hard to trust that, but as time goes on and the weight stays off, I'm leaning into this concept more and more.

This doesn't mean I don't have a strategy for tougher times, like Christmas, when the whole point of the day seems to be to indulge.    I don't indulge anymore.   I enjoy.

I don't let myself get too hungry.   If I eat when I'm really hungry, I have a very, very hard time stopping.   So about an hour before Christmas dinner, I'll have a Chobani yogurt, maybe with a little granola sprinkled in.   I plan in advance what my 'treat' is going to be, I look forward to eating it, and I enjoy the experience of tasting it.  Instead of compulsively and unconsciously reaching for cookie after cookie and barely registering the taste, those two that I eat taste so very good. 

The biggest breakthrough I've had is that there are no bad foods, but there are bad habits.   Food isn't the enemy; my emotional state is what gets me into trouble.     It's a time of year when it would be easy to feel resentful - everyone around me eating and drinking and I'm an alcoholic in recovery who is watching her weight.   

I don't feel deprived or left out, though.   Just like it was with alcohol, food owned me for a long time.   Eating a bag of chips for comfort is a lonely place to be; it's like a band-aid over a bullet hole ... you only think you're solving a problem, when in fact you're making it much worse.     I was an unconscious eater for so long.   When you eat just because it's what you do, you never get to enjoy or appreciate food.   I'll never be able to enjoy or appreciate alcohol, so I'm grateful that with food I've managed to find a balance.

What keeps me on track is the fear of going back to that unconscious place, where I'm stuck in a prison of my own creation and I don't even realize I have the key to get out.


  1. This is where I hope to be next year! Rock on, Healthy Ellie! Way to go!

  2. AnAttitudeAdjustmentDecember 23, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    What a great post. I just read Geneen Roth's Women, Food, and God and your observations here are similar to hers, though I still highly recommend the book. We're reading it for The Maladjusted Book Club in February, if you'd like to join!

  3. SO many people have recommended her book to me, that I just bought it for myself for Christmas! :) I'll have to check out The Maladjusted Book Club (sounds like just my speed).