changing relationship with food

The “After” – 6 Year Anniversary

6 Years

When I think back to when I started my journey to lose 100 pounds, I don’t think I ever thought about the “After.” Not really. I think part of that was that I’d never really been skinny and part of it was that I doubted whether I’d ever reach the “After.” I had a goal in my mind and I naively thought that all my problems would thus be fixed when I was “skinny” and while they weren’t magically improved, there was a lot of improvement in my life. The biggest improvement, obviously, was my health. I was no longer pre-diabetic and I didn’t have high blood pressure. Mission accomplished. But when I was steadily truckin’ along, losing a pound here and a pound there, I couldn’t really see my future as a “skinny” person and now that I’ve kept the weight off for 6 years, I have a hard time picturing myself as I used to be. It’s strange how your reality and perception changes.

Over the years I’ve had ups and downs in my weight. I gained 15 pounds a few years ago and it took a really long time to lose that extra 15 pounds but I did it. Despite the occasional body image issues I still struggle with, my weight has been maintained in the same 4-6 pound range. Sometimes it’s more of a struggle to keep myself in that range. I am no longer naive about weight loss and I KNOW it takes hard work and honesty.

Honesty is the hard part. When you’re obese you’re not honest with yourself, or others, not really. When I was obese I would sneak food,  I’d eat in private, I’d make excuses as to why I wasn’t losing weight, I’d make excuses to other poeple– “No really, I don’t eat that much…I don’t know why I can’t lose weight…”  (Read these posts: Why Can’t I Lose Weight?An Excuse to Eat, and Overcoming Exercise Obstacles.) Once I faced that I was lying about everything and that I hadn’t REALLY tried to lose weight, I had renewed desire to really succeed this time.

I had to change the way I thought about food.

I had to change the way I thought about exercise.

I had to change the way I thought about MYSELF. No more excuses. 

Was it easy? Hell no! There were so so so many plateaus. There were set-backs. There were some very frustrating times where I felt like I was being punished because I couldn’t eat the same things everyone else was eating. Is it easier now that the weight is gone? Nope. It’s still hard. I still have to make an effort. I can’t just let things slide. I will probably always have to count my calories or do some sort of food tracking. I don’t think as a reformed binge-eater I can just stop doing what worked to lose the weight and keep it off and not expect to gain it back. So the hard work continues.

before

Don’t take that as a negative. Sure I’d love to not be AWARE of how many calories are in foods and wouldn’t it be nice to just sit down and binge eat a carton of ice cream? Or half a pizza (or, ahem, a whole pizza) like the old days? But I can’t unlearn that knowledge and I know how my body feels when I eat junk and when I eat good, healthy foods. I dislike that feeling of overeating now and when I go too long without eating fruits and vegetables I feel ill. Most of the time my healthy choices are second nature and I don’t give them any thought. On those times when it does feel like my willpower isn’t as strong as I’d like, I try to cut myself some slack. It’s ok to take a break sometimes.

It’s my 6th year anniversary of reaching goal weight. I’m now at the “After.” It feels like a lifetime ago, but at the same time I still feel that same giddy joy when I remember that moment when I stepped on the scale and saw GOAL WEIGHT. That feeling is still there and it helps keep me motivate to keep trying when things get rough.

Check out previous year’s anniversary posts here:

My 100 Pound Anniversary

100 Pound Anniversary – 3 Years

100 Pound Anniversary – 4 Years

Another Year Gone By — 5 Years

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Things are changing in my life. Priorities are shifting, goals are changing, but the fact remains: I love my fit life and I will always make myself and my health a priority. It has to be that way. If I’m healthy, my family is healthy. In a little over a month I will be marrying the love of my life. I expect we’ll start discussing family planning in the next year or two and that will most definitely effect my weight loss/maintenance journey. My sincere hope is that I can maintain a healthy weight for the rest of my life and hopefully pass on my love of healthy living to my future children.

For now, I keep truckin’ along. Another day, another week, another year goes by and I can happily say “I’m at goal weight.” That’s enough for me. Skinny isn’t necessary. I’d rather be healthy and fit.

Thanks for reading all these years!

Redefine Your Relationship with Food

Making the changes to lose weight is obvious–it’s something everyone can see as we shrink in size. But making the changes inwardly to make sure that this isn’t a yo-yo experience is much harder to do.

I think one of the hardest things about losing weight for some people is addressing their relationship with the food they eat. In this day and age we’re kind of disconnected from the whole process–myself included. As a former vegetarian, I try not to think too much about what that piece of chicken used to be. But is that the healthy mindset to have? Probably not. We don’t grow our own food, we buy it at a store. Our food comes in boxes, frozen and mysterious looking with unrecognizable ingredients.

For so long, food was the enemy for me. It was what I was addicted to, it was the thing I couldn’t resist and couldn’t stop when I started a binge. Food was the source of all of my problems, or so I thought.

The key to losing weight and keeping it off is changing your relationship and attitude towards the food you eat. It took me a LONG time to figure this out. While I was losing 100 pounds I still saw food as the enemy. It was something I had to restrict, to measure, to count, for convenience. It was something I had to deny myself.

Once I’d kept the weight off for a few years, I started to evaluate my relationship with the food I ate.

Do I eat because it’s mealtime, even if I am not hungry?

Do I overeat even though my body is telling me it’s full?

Do I eat to feel better when upset?

Do I vow to “never eat ____ ever again” and then do it again?

Do I punish myself by severely restricting my calories after I overeat?

Do I eat snacks from the bag in front of the TV without counting out a serving size?

Do I eat in secret?

Do I enjoy the food I eat, savor and taste it, or do I shovel it in my mouth?

Can I recognize REAL HUNGER?

My answers to those questions were revealing. Yes, I was an emotional eater. No, I couldn’t recognize real hunger. For too long I’d been eating all the time. It was a learning process.

Change Our Mindset and Our Vocabulary

Food is not the enemy. I have to remind myself of this periodically, even to this  day. And most importantly: I shouldn’t punish myself for what I do eat!

Food is fuel. It’s the gas that makes the car drive from one place to another, without it we’re stuck on the side of the road not going forward. Once I made the connection that food was fuel my body needed, I started to think about what KIND of fuel I was putting into my body. Was it healthy? Was it “premium” or the cheap stuff just to get by? Does my body feel good when I eat this food? Is my performance improved on the bike or running when I eat certain foods?

Food is not “good” or “bad”. Eat in moderation. Follow the 90/10 Rule. Remind myself to eat what I want in portion sizes and not beat myself up about slip ups. I’m not on a diet.

Do Something About It

Grow your own food, cook your own food. I feel so much better after I started phasing out the processed foods. They aren’t completely gone from my diet but eating a lot of veggies and good proteins makes me feel so much better!

Keep a food journal. Recognize when you eat, why you eat, what you eat. Is it for the right reason or for emotional reasons?

I don’t know that there is one answer to this question. It definitely takes time. Like I’ve said before, the longer I maintain my weight the less I think about it. It’s just second nature to workout, count my calories, and live healthy. It may not always be easy, there are definitely bumps in the road, but with practice and time I have improved my relationship with food.

QUESTION: Have you redefined your relationship with food? How did you do it?