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Heavy Thoughts: Acceptance & Forgiveness

2 years ago I felt like I needed to “clean up my eating” by doing a super restrictive diet. It started as an attempt to cure some stomach issues but I lost weight so I kept going and I spiraled into a place of scary disordered eating. 

I remember toward the end all I wanted was oatmeal. Just old fashioned oats. I couldn’t have them on this diet and I was sobbing. It was in that moment I realized I couldn’t live this way but I was terrified I’d gain a ton of weight if I stopped so I decided to give myself a break while on vacation and promised I’d start again when I got home. 

Vacation was great. I ate what I wanted but I was super active and all the food was really fresh. I felt phenomenal despite the fact that I was eating things I wasn’t allowed to eat like rice and beans.

When I got home I binged for 5 days straight in an attempt to “get the cravings out of the way.” I gained 8.6 pounds that week and the day after weigh in I returned to the diet I was following. 

I reached goal and lost every week I was on maintenance. My leader kept telling me to add points to my day so that I would maintain but I was addicted to seeing those losses on the scale. 

Then my grandmother in law passed away and we returned to Iowa for her funeral. I remember I was so stressed and sad and I used it as an excuse to go into my sister-in-law‘s cabinet and eat some of her cookies. Before I knew it I was taking handfuls of cookies at a time and sneaking into the bathroom so that I could binge beside the toilet where no one would see me. It was like if I ate in secret it wasn’t happening. I just kept binging. All week. I was eating so much so fast that I felt incredibly sick. I would take Tums and wait for them to settle my stomach and as soon as I felt like I could breathe comfortably I would go sneak more food. It was one of the lowest times in my life. I was so ashamed, I had just hit goal and here I was binging till I was sick. I promised myself as soon as I got home I would go back on my restrictive diet.

When we got home I somehow summoned the courage to go to my meeting and weigh in. It had been one week and I had gained 12 pounds. I tried to act like it was no big deal, I thought a soon as I got back to the crazy restriction I would drop that 12 in no time. I told myself it was just water weight. The problem was that I couldn’t get back on that restrictive diet. Every time I thought about it I binged. Every time I considered all of the things that I wouldn’t be allowed to eat it went out and ate them in excess. I never returned to that restrictive diet even though I kept promising myself I would. I even told people that I would be starting again. I thought if I made it known it would help keep me accountable. The cycle kept repeating. I would commit in my head and then I would binge. I felt awful! Physically, mentally, I was so broken.

I thought for sure if I could just get it together and commit to this stupid diet I would be able to stop binging. It didn’t cure my stomach issues but surely it could cure my addiction to food. If I stopped poisoning my body with processed food I’d stop wanting it. If I stopped eating things that were “inflammatory” I’d be lean and fit.

If I could just commit to this stupid diet my life would be perfect.

What I can see very clearly is, but was blind to then, was that this stupid diet that was supposed to cure my issues with food is exactly what was triggering my issues with food. The more I tried to restrict my food the more I binged. Thinking about restriction and l the food I wasn’t allowed to eat didn’t feel like freedom, it felt like prison. 

I love listening to podcasts and lately I’ve been listening to a ton of Half Size Me episodes; I especially love that she interviews people who have lost their weight and found health through various avenues. I don't think health is a one-size-fits-all solution and I believe we should all experiment to figure out what works best for us. 

She interviewed one girl who was a Weight Watcher and lost a significant amount of weight. She wasn’t quite at goal at the time she was interviewed but I thought she was so inspiring so when I found out she had done a follow up interview after hitting lifetime I was stoked!

I eagerly pressed play excited to check in with a fellow Weight Watcher and I wasn’t disappointed when she started sharing her experience and how hitting goal and lifetime was awesome but a little bittersweet. I too felt a little conflicted when I hit goal. There was a sense of “wow!! I did it!” Followed quickly by “now what?” Unfortunately for me “now what” meant binging like it was my job, gaining 12 pounds in one week and struggling for 1.5 years to reclaim my sanity.

So much happened after hitting goal. A big part of the weight gain was stopping the super restrictive diet. The other part of the gain was that I stopped being a priority. We bought a house and that was a nightmare! Career changes, personal struggles and successes...there was always a reason to put myself on the back burner. 

I kept promising myself I’d “get back on the wagon” as soon as I’d tackled all the other stuff. When the wagon meant restriction I'd panic and binge so eventually I got healthy enough to recognize that wasn't going to work for me. Then I made the wagon WW (which is ridiculous because with ww there is no wagon (more on that in another blog coming soon). I kept trying to find a meeting that worked in my schedule but I couldn’t make myself commit because there was too much going on. Too many people to take care of. I could wait. I could always wait.

Til one particularly tough day when I was on my way home from running some errand or another...most likely I was doing something for someone else. I started thinking about how badly I needed to just face the music and on a whim I drove past the entrance to my neighborhood and straight to WW where I knew my old leader was working. I didn’t have my weigh in clothes on, I wasn’t prepared to face the scale and face my truth but it was now or never.

I walked into the meeting room with my tail between my legs admitting I needed help and I didn’t know where else to look. I felt a tremendous sense of relief and being back there. I felt like I was turning a page and starting fresh but I also felt like I knew better. WW helped me lose 100 pounds. I didn't need to put myself on a diet to lose more than that but I did because for some reason I just couldn't trust the program. 

Unfortunately I haven’t seen much movement on the scale since starting and it’s super frustrating. It could be for a myriad of reasons including the fact that I have a pituitary adenoma that I haven’t been able to have a follow up on. It could be stress, it could be ANYTHING but my inclination is to blame myself. 

It’s gotta be my fault...

It’s always my fault...

If I had never allowed myself to dabble in the crazy restriction I wouldn't have ruined my metabolism and I'd be able to reclaim goal. 

That’s a dangerous mindset. A very dangerous mindset. I have been working hard to change my thinking but it slipped a bit this weekend which is why I turned on the podcast I’ve come to love looking for some inspiration.

The podcast started and I found myself smiling as I listened to the host and the guest having a conversation I felt like I was truly part of but things took a sudden turn for the worst when the guest shared with the host that she had begun following  a paleo lifestyle to lose the remaining 20 pounds to get to goal. Then the host started talking about how she was living grain and sugar free and felt so much better because of it. 

Alarms started going off in my head. Though neither the guest or the host said I should follow a paleo lifestyle I couldn’t stop my brain from spiraling. Before I knew it I was in full blown panic mode. 

I cannot go back to the food-phobic-health-freak I was!! I already felt myself slipping with the blue dot obsession these past few weeks and it scared me. I have been eating a variety of food while earning my blue dots but I still found myself getting obsessed. I can’t start cutting foods out of my diet and stay well. I won’t.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads; I can choose to start restricting again and lose the weight I’ve found or accept myself as I am: 25 pounds heavier than I want to be. Both choices suck to be honest.

I went to my meeting tonight after a mostly decent week but yesterday and today were very indulgent and I was traveling and I’m certain the sugar and sodium combined with the altitude affected my fluid retention. I was up 3 pounds and I cried like a baby.

The tears I cried were cathartic and cleansing and I released so much of the shame I felt for dieting, gaining, staying away from WW where I KNEW I needed to be. I cried because I realized this might be as good as it gets and it's disappointing but it's such a relief. I cried because I don't have to start restricting again and I cried because I might not take this 25 pounds back off. I cried because I felt like I'm not good enough and I cried because I realized I'm perfect exactly as I am. 

While I was restricting I didn’t know it, but I was so unhealthy. The restrictive diet I chose claimed it would “free me from my food demons” and I believed I'd be healthier as long as I followed it but I was sicker than I have ever been and the worst part is my sickness was disguised as health.

I was eating real food. I wasn’t binging on junk. I was in the gym every day lifting and doing cardio. I was thinner than I’d ever been and I was lean. People were so proud of me and I was so proud of me. Look how thin I am. Look how lean I am. Look how clean I’m eating. What I didn’t see or ask others to see was how obsessed I was. I didn’t show people how many foods I wouldn’t eat. I didn’t tell people about my excessive label reading. I didn’t tell people how often I said I wouldn’t go out to eat or participate in social occasions because of food I couldn’t eat. I didn’t tell people that though I wasn’t binging on a pint of ice cream I was binging on heads of lettuce. 

I was drinking tons and tons of tea. I found a spicy cinnamon tea that I steeped so strong it left painful sores on my tongue. I’d feel the urge to eat and I’d go to the kitchen to make a cup. I was like a caged animal pacing back and forth from my couch to my kitchen where I made tea to drown my urge to chew. 

I stood in mirrors and pulled at my skin wondering “if I just eat a few less foods per day, will this tighten up?” Or “I wonder if 5 more pounds will make a difference.”

I was starving. I was depriving myself not only entire food groups but social interaction so that I wouldn’t be tempted, adequate rest because I had to be in the gym, I even found it difficult to participate in my beloved Weight Watcher meetings because my new diet told me not to weigh, measure or track the foods I was eating. Not to mention I knew what I was doing was extreme and I knew I was unhealthy. I was afraid if I told the group about what I was doing someone would question me and then I’d question myself. If I’m questioning myself and doubting the diet it won’t work and I was convinced it had to work. Somehow I started to think it was my last hope and sometimes even now, those thoughts creep into my head.

I just wanted to be skinny and when I got skinny I didn’t see it so I wanted to be skinnier. I fell into a very dangerous cycle and I’m lucky I was able to stop the madness but it hasn’t been easy. It's taken a lot of work. I've prayed, I've soul searched, I've meditated and I've found a wonderful therapist to talk to. The missing link was the meetings and now I'm back there every week. 

I thought that being in the meeting again was the beginning of everything falling into place. I thought I was rediscovering myself. I was certain that by committing to faithfully tracking, being in the meetings, weighing and measuring everything I’d see results. 

I guess if I’m being honest I am seeing results, just not where I expected to see them. The fact that I keep showing up, the fact that I keep tracking, the fact that I’m not quitting...that’s bigger than any weight loss!!

I am enjoying participating in the program and being part of such a special community. I feel empowered when I’m tracking and proud when I’m moving more. It SUCKS that the scale isn’t validating my efforts but I’m healthier when I’m practicing these habits whether or not the scale agrees. 

I have worked so hard on my recovery and I’m not going to jeopardize it by falling back into the restrictive diet I was following to lose the weight I gained. It might work for some, it doesn’t work for me. I’m not willing to lose my mind in an attempt to lose 25 pounds.

I don’t want to give up on my pursuit to take off the weight I gained through recovery; I want to be lighter when I’m running and stronger when I’m lifting but if I have to accept this is as good as it’s going to get I would rather accept this than sacrifice my sanity. I want to lose the weight but I’m not willing to lose myself in the process. 

I’ve been there, done that and I’m never going back.



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