Dear Perpetual Poppycock,
I’ve been heavy since the age of 9. I started overeating and put on weight making me look and feel different than my peers. Athletics and a busy schedule kept me from becoming extremely overweight but the propensity to get there someday started from the very beginning. I have always loved food and eating.
It wasn’t until late college that I really gained weight to the point that I was physically suffering. It was the perfect storm of happenstances amplified by my first real heartbreak. Pain and lethargy from the extra weight set in and along with it came depression. In one year, my already heavy body, gained 100 lbs and I’ve held onto most of that since.
Recognizing my depression at that time was key. It was very hard to see it on my own and I’m thankful for the therapist who set me on the path to healing. I got help for the depression and used medication to catapult me back to a life I wanted. The weight and depression had robbed me of my social life and I was dealing with social anxiety for the first time. Thankfully medication did the trick to boost my mood enough that I could regain some of what I had lost to the depression. I was on an antidepressant for a year.
The thing that medication didn’t change was the weight I had gained. My new physique remained and I’ve pretty much been “morbidly obese” since then. That brings me to the point of this post, my breakthrough. I’ve finally remembered how to let go of the rules and fear around food!
Over the past 20 years of being “morbidly obese” I’ve lost weight several times. Never more than 40 lbs but still I’ve managed to lose that much on more than one occasion. Most of those successes were due to a diet. The diets did their job but only for a moment.
Keto, low carb, calorie restriction, fasting, you name it, I did it. And they all worked according to their claims. I lost weight and saw the physical results I desired. It was fleeting, of course, because in case you weren’t already aware, diets are short term fixes. But once upon a time, I unlocked the door to embracing my love of eating to bring personal understanding and compassion into my life, and my second real heartbreak.
Heartbreaks can be big life disrupters. I know the two big ones I’ve had were the launching pad for me to a new phase in life. I do not take them lightly and have really grown to appreciate the work they force me to do on myself when they happen. My second heartbreak was a doozy. I again sought the insight of a therapist to help me listen to my feelings and love myself through them. It’s during this time that I was introduced to intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating was a totally new concept to me then. It seemed way too simple to be real. This post isn’t about intuitive eating exactly but I will go into that another time. If you can’t wait for me to unpack that topic in what will likely be the longest post of my life, you can read the the book that changed my perspective forever. It’s called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. For now I just want to explain a piece of it.
Giving myself permission to eat without fear or judgement, even from myself, was and is transformative. I removed all rules and threats of restrictions from food. Doing that changed everything for me. Again, this post isn’t about intuitive eating exactly so I can’t go into that much without spiraling off the point I’m hoping to make but I just wanted to give you an idea of what the concept is.
After doing a lot work healing my relationship with myself, I enjoyed some of the best years of my life. I was able to just relax and the result was a renewed enjoyment of moving my body and a greater appreciation of the food I ate. This brought physical strength and a slimmed down body but neither was my goal when I decided to work on intuitive eating. Again, read the book! The outcome was that I started eating food I wanted and enjoyed when I was hungry and I didn’t eat more than I needed because I knew my next meal was available anytime I wanted it and it could be whatever I wanted it to be. I ate when I was hungry and only until I was no longer hungry.
The hardest part of reaching this level of food normalcy was that I had to let go over the thought and desire to lose weight. Now if you are like me, you have been dreaming about losing weight your entire life. Everything you’ve ever wanted is probably tinged with the thought that if you just lost weight it would be possible. Like extra weight is the reason for everything bad in your life and the barrier from everything good. That extreme way of thinking was exactly why it was difficult, to say the least, to let go of wanting to use intuitive eating to lose weight. It seemed impossible at times.
After some focused effort to remove the perpetual poppycock plaguing my thoughts about losing weight, I was able to stop letting weight loss be the monkey on my back and just live. Wow, what a huge relief that was! I really did embrace who and what I was and just gave myself permission to put thought into other things I wanted in life that had nothing to do with weight loss. Exercise became a right not a punishment and I LOVED it. Eating became necessary to live and not my reason to live. Delicious foods were in every bite I took but eating for fun was far less frequent. Instead I was eating when my stomach actually needed food to process and I chose foods based on taste and nutrition. Crazy!
As the years went on, I fell in love for the third time in my life and that love created two of the coolest people I know. I’m now a household of four and still madly in love with the people in my world. My husband and kids are my highest life achievement and my number one priority. I’m lucky beyond words! However, I’ve also realized that I really do mean they are my number one priority, at the cost of my personal health and mental/emotional stability. I think this is known as #momlife.
I’m a full time working mom of two school aged kids and with the onset of the pandemic, we have been homeschooling them to better fit with our schedules. This is actually a dream come true for me. Working from home and homeschooling the kids was always a goal so I totally recognize the bone life has thrown me. I’m loving every minute of it and thankful we’ve remained healthy while so many others are suffering but this has brought on more responsibility and less time to allow myself. That shift has put me back on the slippery slope to eating for comfort/self care, (not all self care is healthy, its whatever you are doing to make yourself feel better and sometimes thats an unhealthy choice) and dieting to combat the extra weight that has piled back on.
You might be tempted to think that because I have been granted something I really wanted that happiness would make me treat myself better and that stress would be gone from the scenario but I will correct that thought here. Happiness comes at a cost for me in the form of guilt and fear due to a lifetime of thinking I don’t deserve happiness (that is a topic I’ll explore another time). AND stress is still very much a part of this new world I live in. My job, even though I love it, is extremely demanding and homeschooling is adding many hours of work with the kids to the awake hours of my day. Stress on some levels is greater now than it was before the pandemic.
For the last three or more years, I’ve been yoyo dieting again to try and lose the weight I’ve regained. Same list of offenders as far as diets go and they have all worked again. I’ve lost weight but regained it right back. The goal has 100% been to lose the weight. Realizing the flaw in these repeated efforts has taken me a while to figure out but it led me back to the book I read years about about intuitive eating and now I’m finally ready to do the real work again. My breakthrough is that I forgot what I learned all that time ago. Giving myself grace and loving myself is where “health” thrives for me. Understanding that patience and freedom from judgement give me the tools to find my way through stress, bad thoughts, and hard times, is where my work needs to be. Not on losing weight or shaming myself for wanting to eat more than I need.
For a lot of people these thoughts are obvious. I’ve read those words hundreds of times from others who’ve experienced the enlightenment that comes from living them, but until they embed themselves into actual understanding, they are just words. I’m happy to say my memory of this understanding has resurfaced and now the work can begin to treat myself with the same love, time, and respect I give to my most important people. The perpetual poppycock of dieting is hard to shake but I’m going to write my way through it.