Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Summing up, and Some Thoughts on Control Issues and Eating

Thanks, Bob, for giving me a place to post on this blog.
First, I'd like to try and summarize my eating experience over the past seven months. I had thought of myself as a McDougaller for a couple of years. My search for a better way to eat was triggered by a medical checkup which showed elevated cholesterol, and prediabetes. I started the McDougall plan weighing 225 pounds and initially dropped 50 pounds without too much effort. Then I got a lot less disciplined with my eating and was stuck at 175# for a long time. The truth about this "stall" is that I was addicted to food and was lying to myself about that. When I experimented with keeping a food journal, I found that I would be on plan ("good") for about three days in a row and then have a really spectacular cheat. The thing is, I wasn't noticing the frequency of the cheats...or I wasn't LETTING myself notice. I found myself showing addicted behaviors around food: sneaking food into the house, eating in private, wolfing the food down to get it all in before anyone could catch me eating, and having the sensation of watching myself acquire and eat the food, almost as if I were watching someone else. It was almost like some kind of sleep-walking; a deliberate unconsciousness of my actions. It was being in willing denial. When those pieces of the picture came together, I was shocked. At first, I tried to deny that this was happening. What? Addicted? ME!? Seriously, I had stayed away from addicting substances all my life because I'd seen addiction in action and wanted no part of it. Talk about unfair! But once the kicking and screaming was over with (figuratively) I had to admit that what I was doing sure felt and acted like an addiction.

Owning that truth turned out to be strangely liberating. I had been afraid to admit the addiction; feeling that doing that would make me feel weak and powerless. But what actually happened was that I gained a real sense of control. Once the problem was identified, there was a whole arsenal of tools for dealing with it, and I practiced every one I could get my hands on. I made a commitment to go "cold turkey" off all the trigger foods for at least a month. I kept a food journal,just for my own use. I practiced being completely honest about food both in private and in public. I embraced the concept that I was the only one who could be in total control over what I put in my own body.

Learning to plan ahead was a big part of making this all work. You've heard it before; keep the fridge and pantry stocked with the correct foods, don't let the incorrect foods into your house. Especially for the first couple of months, stay strictly away from all the "trigger" foods. Don't take even one bite. "Not ONE bite!" became my mantra. Making sure that there were "grab and go" foods in the fridge, and planning all my meals for each day became a habit, became natural. And the weight started to drop off again.

Right now, I'm at or around 140#, which is still about 20 pounds more than I want to be, but I've got the habits installed now: low calorie density foods; fresh whole plant-based foods; unprocessed foods, If you've read Dr McDougall's free plan or any of the books, you know what I mean. Life is about choices and I'm doing what I can to make sure my choices are good ones. A temptation or a craving is not a command to do something, it's a decision-point where you decide what you are going to do. Keep making the right decisions and those decisions will build on each other. Establish good habits and those habits will also build on each other. Control in one area grows naturally into control in other areas. So, with my food choices more under control, I find that I'm no longer biting my fingernails, and that I'm discovering that a lot of house cleaning can be accomplished, cumulatively, in small spaces of time. Don't try to change everything at once; take on the thing that is blocking you most, conquer it, and the rest will begin to fall into place. Or at least that's how it seems to me.

Right now, without going into too many unsettling details, things in my life feel like they are spinning out of control. It's the kind of feeling that used to send me running for fried foods and chocolate in an attempt to lose the emotional pain under a mountain of comfort food. This time, though, I am not trying to tranquilize myself with food. What I have realized is that there will always be things in life that are outside my control, but my food choices (and thereby, to a very large extent, my health) are completely under my control. There is still a part of me that could murder a bucket of fried chicken followed by a Whitman's Sampler, but it is my choice whether or not to give in to that feeling. And my choice is not to give in to that temptation, because to do so would amount to an act of self-destruction. There are moments when this feels really hard and I want to say "The heck with it. I'm angry and frightened and so very, very sad and I'm going to eat chocolate and damn the consequences!"  but resistance does seem to get easier over time. I am very much a work in progress, but there HAS been progress and that gives me incentive to keep on working toward better times ahead.



  1. Great post, Cyn. I think I figured out why the comments were not working and i am posting a comment here. I'm excited to be back to the blog, especially with such great writing as this. I guess the next question is whether we want to blog to be private or public and whether we want to allow public comments and from whom.

  2. Good post Cyn - I completely understand the food addiction issues. And wanting to go running for comfort food when things are spinning out of control?? That was me in a nutshell for many months now. Very painful things happening, and I feel into food addictions in a big way. I'm finally getting my act together, and came back to catch up here.