I always had an emotional attachment to food growing up. Food was a coping mechanism. When I was in high school, I gained about 20 pounds after quitting volleyball my Sophomore year to try out for cheerleading, Junior year I did swimming and Senior year I didn’t join anything. After that one decision and gaining weight, I never stuck to much I committed to. I continued to gain weight in to my first year in college at Ball State.
I know what my highest number on the scale was but more than what the scale said (about thirty pounds more than I am today), it was the hold that food had on me and the lack of confidence I felt in myself for never sticking to anything. I had tried losing weight in high school with weight watchers or no carbs or I’d go a day without any sugar and then binge the next. Basically, I had lost all respect for myself because I never kept the promises I made to myself. My self talk was destroying me. I was a serial quitter and it spread into about every aspect of my life.
After three years of gaining weight and countless evenings crying on the phone to my mom, I decided to make a change. I was reading French Women Don’t Get Fat and a lot of what the author talked about resonated with me. I didn’t want to be on a diet, I didn’t want to only eat vegetables, I didn’t want to be the person who wasn’t any fun to go out with because “sorry, I’m on a diet,” but I knew I had a problem. The truth is, I was addicted to food. Eating food was how I coped. Stressed about an exam – eat food. Feeling lonely – eat way too much alone in my dorm room while I watched TV. In these moments, I barely tasted what I was eating and I hated myself so much during and afterward that I’d go into a spiral of negative self talk inside my head. I finally realized that Spring that I had to fix my relationship with food. If I continued to abuse food, I’d never be completely free from it’s grasp, I might be able to manipulate it to lose weight, but it would still have power over me.
I set out with a basic and mostly fool proof plan to lose weight and address the underlying issue. I didn’t have much confidence when I started, but each time I stuck to the small commitment I’d made, I believed more in myself and not only did I lose weight but I wasn’t constantly crying and hating myself.
Here’s what I committed to:
1. I committed to being aware when I ate. I would only eat half of the portion size I usually did (any food was game), and if I was still hungry, I could eat more. I committed to tasting the food I was eating. I ate slowly, I always sat down, with a real plate and I specifically savored each bite. I started to really enjoy what I ate, but I also monitored how full I felt throughout a meal. If I wanted tiramisu, I drove to go get my favorite and I ate it slowing with intention and with a real fork and plate.
2. I committed to journaling my feelings either before or after eating. If I overate, I would journal why I had overeaten and then forgive myself and recommit to journaling before eating next time, so I didn’t eat my emotions. This was what I had never been able to do before, recommit after a mistake. Each time I forgave myself and started again, I built trust in myself.
3. Finally, I committed to running three times a week. I set up what days and times I would run based on my class schedule. I had absolutely no excuse not to go. I literally started running for 5 minutes and then I walked the rest of the 30 minutes. A week later, I ran 6 minutes and walked 24 minutes, and so it went, until I was able to run a full 30 minutes, very slowly.
4. I committed to praying EVERY day. I prayed a short scripted prayer every day asking God to help me be healthy and I put this struggle in His hands.
Over the course of the next year, I paid attention to my body and my clothes, but getting on the scale was just confirmation of what I already knew. Slowly, very slowly, weight came off. I think I lost about 15 pounds in a year and then another 10 in the next year. Since then, I have lost about another 5 or so depending on if I’m training for a half marathon or pregnant or postpartum. It was never really about the weight, the weight was the symptom of my addiction and as that lifted, I didn’t worry as much about the number on the scale.
Not only did I lose the weight, I finally trusted myself. I finally discovered I could stick to something and I have used these tactics now for every other goal I’ve set in my life. Today, I can tell you with complete honesty that I eat whatever I want, but I only eat when I’m hungry and I always stop when I’m full. More importantly – FOOD DOESN’T CONTROL ME – and I’m not a serial quitter anymore.