Thursday, February 17, 2011

Food Relapse

I had a little food relapse.

For those of you who are new to the story, last April I launched Operation Get Healthy, and over the course of six months I lost 67 lbs.   I went to Jenny Craig for help with the eating, and I talked about it with friends, and here, for help with the mental part of losing weight.

I hit my goal weight last October.   I kept going to Jenny Craig for weekly weigh-ins and consultations, for help with maintenance and to keep me on track.    By early December I was totally weaned off their food and on my own.    Starting right after Christmas, I began cancelling or postponing my weekly appointments - I was busy, I was doing fine on my own, blah blah blah.

When I finally slunk in to see my Jenny Craig consultant two weeks ago, I didn't know what the scale would say.  I felt good, I felt on track, but my head has been known to tell me a lot of things that aren't exactly true.

I weighed the exact same amount - to the ounce - that I weighed back in November.

"You've mastered maintenance!" my consultant raved.    "You're doing great!"

I skipped out of the appointment feeling on top of the world.   I made it through the holidays, two months of snowstorms and sick kids, and one blogging conference and I didn't gain an ounce.  

I'll admit it - the words I'm cured came to mind.

I don't remember the me that weighed almost seventy pounds more than I do now.  I forget how getting dressed felt in the morning when I was down to two clothing options:  stretchy pants or sweatpants.     I don't think about how much I hated evenings out because nothing ever fit well.   I dreaded spring, because that meant I had to wear - gulp - shorts.   And after spring came summer and swimsuits.   I started Operation Get Healthy last April because I just couldn't face one more summer as a heavy person.   Clothes were something I wore to cover up my body, and I was so tired of buying outfits simply because they fit, not because I liked the style.      

Just like with recovery from alcoholism, I'm in recovery from food, too.   It is dangerous for me to forget this fact, to think that I'm the size I am now due to anything but vigilance, hard work and more than a little self love.

My consultant's proclamation - well meaning though it was - had the unintended side effect of making me think food wasn't a problem for me anymore.  I've mastered it, I thought.   I'm cured. 

I felt finished.    I forgot that there is no finish line.   Just like with sobriety, I am someone who will need to be vigilant about food for the rest of my life.

It started with a trip to Target to get Valentine's for the kids' classrooms.   Next to the little paper valentines were bins and bins of chocolates.  Oh, I should get some for the kids, I thought.  I threw two bags of Dove Bliss chocolates (my favorite, not the kids' favorite) into the shopping cart.   That should have been clue number one.

When I got home, I didn't package the chocolates into cute little Valentine's bags for the kids.   I stuffed them into an overlooked porcelain jar in our kitchen, in a place nobody but me would ever look.   That should have been clue number two.  

On Valentine's Day, I gave each kid a card.   I didn't say a word to anyone about the chocolate.

The day after Valentine's Day I went to give myself a little after-dinner treat.     There were only six chocolates left from the original two bags.  I thought:  Oh, Steve must be eating these, too.  

As I unwrapped a chocolate to pop into my mouth, the truth finally broke through.    Nobody is eating these but you, Ellie.    You bought them in secret, hid them so nobody else would eat them, and now you're lying to yourself.   

Stunned, I threw all the rest of the chocolate away, and vowed not to mention this to anyone. 

The next morning, I fearfully stepped on the scale.   I don't generally weigh myself at home.   I don't want to get obsessive about the number (in either direction).    I want to be motivated by a healthy lifestyle rather than a number on a scale.   But I had to know what my chocolate relapse had done to my weight.    I didn't know how I'd feel if I had gained weight, but I had to know.

I hadn't gained any weight, thankfully, but I was still good and scared.   I wasn't scared that I ate some chocolate.   What scared me was how easily I slipped into old behaviors of sneaking and lying about it.   Not lying to anyone else, but lying to myself.   That is what denial is:  lying to yourself.

The only path away from denial that I have ever found to work is to open my mouth and speak my truth.  So instead of sweeping The Chocolate Incident under the rug, I'm talking about it.   Even typing these words, I feel better.   I can put the whole thing into perspective, honor the things I do well and forgive myself for my mistakes.  

Left to my own resources, here's what my head would tell me:   you've already blown it, so have another chocolate.   Start again on Monday.    And I know from past experience that Monday would come and go and I wouldn't start over, because I would be so deeply into that cycle of lying to myself that I wouldn't see it.   

There is no Starting Over.   There is no Finish Line.     It's just the way I am now:   I am someone who will always need to be conscious of what I eat.      Aware.    Not owned by it, or consumed by it, but simply AWARE.

Operation Get Healthy has now officially become Operation Awareness. 


  1. more bravery. more vulnerability. more speaking about the root of addiction. I love your heart. I really do. Thank you for not sweeping this under the rug, for talking about what this has to do with self love and being healthy for YOU. I hope your transparency encourages many people, and I hope you continue to be gentle with yourself as you take one day at a time. I'm with ya. *HUG*

  2. Good for you for being so strong!

  3. I needed this today, I have been doing really well on my own "operation get fit" and then last week was so excited by what the scale said that I rewarded myself and undid a lot of the good I had done. It's the damn jar of M&M's on my desk. I had to move it to someone else's desk. A skinny person's desk.

  4. You know Ellie... I'm constantly inspired by you. You are putting everything that you've learned about life through recovery into use on a daily basis. Such a good reminder that the addict brain never really stops...

  5. You are amazing and brave. Your self-awareness is a huge gift.

  6. while i can not relate to your tales of alcoholism, i can completely relate to the food addiction. i currently have Dove Dark Chocolates hidden away in my freezer... i don't have a weight problem, although i am trying to lose 10 lbs. food isn't something we can completely eliminate from our lives, and i think that's partly what makes it so hard to keep it under control. for me, there's a very fine line between just enough and too much, and all too often the line is blurred after the first bite. *sigh* i wish you nothing but the best in your journey of self awareness. hopefully, i'll gain a little bit of that too in the upcoming months.

  7. What an amazing and honest post, this is so true we really don't ever get "cured" or hit a finish line with recovery from any addiction or out of ordered way of being.

    Thank you for this post and your honesty!

  8. Such a brave, beautiful post!

  9. Oh man I can appreciate this post. I think I need to begin Operation Face the Food thing.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you....for your honesty and sincerity NO MATTER WHAT the subject. I love and appreciate you more than you'll EVER know!!! XOXO

  11. Amazing Post Ellie! Thank you! xx