Posts Tagged With: food addiction

Clean Plate Club

If there really were such a club, I would be the president.

While in so many ways I feel like a completely different person since losing 90+ pounds, when it comes to sitting down at a table with a full plate of food before me, it’s painfully clear that I still struggle with a long list of issues regarding my eating habits…not the least of which is the ability to put down my fork and push away a plate before it has been licked clean.

I remember going to restaurants and tearing through several courses – soup/salad, appetizers, dinner, and sometimes dessert – so as not to “waste” the $30+ I was spending on my meal.  If I didn’t finish every last bite, I rationalized to myself that it was like throwing away money.  Dining out at a restaurant is a luxury, and I should enjoy the experience.  Right?

The trouble is that not only are the prices of restaurant meals inflated, but so are their portions.  And when my go-to meal of choice used to be pasta drowning in an Alfredo or other cream-based sauce, having the strength to leave even a few bites behind could very well have saved me hundreds of calories.

Another one of my justifications for devouring an entire plate of food is that, if I don’t, I might be hungry later (heaven forbid).  And then what will I do?  I’ll raid the kitchen in search of snacks that could easily add up to the calories I could have just taken in from dinner.  It’s for this reason that even while dining at home on a healthy meal that has been pre-portioned to exactly 8 to 10 POINTS, I will proceed to scrape the entire plate into my mouth.

While there’s nothing wrong with consuming all of a POINT-friendly meal that I know will help me reach my daily POINTS target, more often than not I find myself experiencing signs of fullness three quarters of the way through…but I keep eating anyway.  There’s no reason to stuff myself, and it’s not as though I’d be under-eating if I didn’t polish everything off (I dip into my activity or weekly POINTS allotment daily), so continuing to eat even after I’m full just isn’t necessary.  There’s nothing worse than going to bed hungry, and I suppose I’m afraid of what might happen come 9pm if I eat just enough to satisfy my hunger at a 6:30pm dinnertime.  I know this could be the reason why I struggle so much with weight loss plateaus and vacillating numbers on the scale.

It frustrates me that I still can’t stop myself until there’s literally nothing left for me to munch on, whether it’s an everyday turkey sandwich or a delectable once-in-awhile treat.  Certainly I’ve had to learn to exercise some self-control in order to lose this weight – opting for sorbet instead of ice cream, or sipping rum and diet coke instead of fruity cocktails – but I can’t quite muster the strength to just. stop. eating.

I’m still baffled to watch normal-weight people take just three bites of a delicious dessert, or eat only half of their meal and declare that they’re full – something that still feels quite foreign to me.  Will I ever reach a point where I can order my favorite whole wheat pancakes and sugar-free syrup at IHOP and stop before I’ve eaten every last morsel?

The worst part is that I have finely tuned the ability to listen to my body’s signals – I can pinpoint to the exact mouthful when I’ve had enough.  So why do I still choose to ignore them?

At the end of the day, I still love food.  It’s incredibly depressing (and embarrassing) to admit this, but I’m not sure there’s anything in the world I love more than food.  The experience of eating – particularly something that I find truly delicious – is still so satisfying to me on so many levels that I have a hard time relinquishing that fork even when I am genuinely full.

Physically my stomach is signaling that it has had enough, and yet like the Energizer bunny I make the choice to just keep going…and going…and going.  More often than not I feel sick and sluggish after a meal instead of satisfied and energized because I’ve exceeded the amount of food my body truly needed to quench my hunger.

And that’s how I know I still have a long way to go in dealing with my emotional need to eat.  And eat.  And eat.

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Understanding the Addiction

I’m still amazed when people who didn’t know me “back then” start chastising overweight people right in front of me. Better yet, it seems they actually expect me to join in.

While I can’t blame someone who genuinely has no idea that I used to be morbidly obese, there are plenty of friends and colleagues (particularly at the YMCA, where I part-time) who are fully aware of my personal battles with weight. Yet they’ll still gossip about the woman who hasn’t been the gym in three months and gained her weight back, or the man who trudges along on the treadmill at a 2.5 speed and expects to shed the 50 pounds of excess fat he’s carrying.

Whenever this happens, I feel completely torn. On one hand, I’m celebrating. Someone is actually looking at me and seeing a “normal”-sized person, and thus feels comfortable talking to me about people who are overweight.  They don’t see me as one of them.

I have a hard time with this, because my lifelong issues with my weight are still very, very present. I often look in the mirror and still see someone who is plus-sized staring back at me. Being overweight has always been such a huge part of who I am, and I believe it’ll be a long time before my mind fully catches up with my new body. But, nonetheless, I’m ecstatic with the reminder that people don’t see me as “big” anymore, and the body image issues I continue to struggle with are, truly, all in my head.

On the other hand, I want to scream at them. How dare they poke fun at someone who has a weight problem? Regardless of my current dress size, that is the story of my life. I can’t help but take offense. Even though I finally have my eating habits under control, it took me over 20 years just to admit I had a problem, and losing this weight remains the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.  When someone jokes about a person who is carrying extra weight, they’ll often wonder out loud why they don’t just “do something about it.” 

If only it were that easy.

What I typically do is try to explain where that overweight person may be coming from. You never know what someone else is going through. Maybe that woman who has been MIA from the gym is dealing with the death of a loved one. Perhaps that man taking it easy on the treadmill has back problems and can’t move any faster, but is following his doctor’s orders to participate in whatever physical activity he can handle.

Sometimes I’ll make a joke to a friend about how I still avoid buffets like the plague, or how I maintain a 50 mile radius from any little girls dressed in Girl Scout uniforms this time of year, and they’ll ask me how anyone could have that much of a problem with food. They’re not being rude; they just genuinely don’t understand. They can sit down with a bag of chips and stop after one or two servings, or come home from a bad day at work and not feel the overwhelming urge to eat everything in the refrigerator.

They don’t understand what it’s like to suffer from food addiction in a society where food is absolutely everywhere.  They don’t realize that someone can rely on cheeseburger or slice of pie as an emotional crutch in the same way that alcoholics have a bottle of wine or smokers have a cigarette to help them deal with what they’re feeling. 

To me, it’s all the same thing – and the moment I finally admitted to myself that I had an addiction was the moment that this weight loss journey became so much more than just another temporary “diet.”

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