For those of us who've struggled with weight, shaming and blaming ourselves for our lack of willpower, there comes a time when we finally realize the problem isn't food. Ever since childhood, I've struggled with insatiable hunger, never feeling full even after stuffing my face. I spent my waking hours obsessing about what I would eat next, wishing to be free of those thoughts so I could enjoy a normal life. Everything I did in a day—going to school, doing homework, socializing with friends, working, and even dating—were mere distractions from what I really wanted to be doing: eating. It was a horrible way to live.
I Stopping Blaming Myself for a Lack of Willpower and Starting Getting in Touch With My Feelings
I'd successfully lose weight on diets such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig because I had the motivation but always put the pounds back on and then some. I was disgusted in myself for being weak, envying those who could be so strong, disciplined, fit, and thin. In my forties, I gave up on dieting all together, knowing I would just regain the weight. I reconciled myself to the reality that I would be fat until the day I died and thinking about food until I took my final breath.
My decision to stop battling my weight came at the same time I decided to stop taking anti-depressants. I was tired of feeling flat and wanted to deal with my emotions in a pro-active way rather than deadening them with drugs. I started writing in a journal, meditating, speaking my truth, and expressing my feelings instead of bottling them up inside of me. I got in touch with the deep sadness and loneliness I experienced during childhood when I felt unloved and ignored by my parents. I began dealing with the hurt head-on rather than hiding from it.
By Acknowledging My Feelings, I Became Lighter Both Physically and Emotionally
I started to eat less and become lighter--both physically and emotionally. I let myself feel everything that I had avoided for so long, thinking it was too hurtful and I was too weak to handle it. When I stopped obsessing about food, my mind became clear. I had the time and energy to pursue a whole new world of interests. I was passionately engaged in them for they were no longer just distractions from eating.
I treated myself with respect and kindness rather than doing the quick fix of rewarding myself with food. For the first time in my life, I felt in control of what I put in my mouth, what thoughts I had in my head, and how I reacted to the world around me. That felt incredibly empowering. I started to embrace life, not hide from it. I began to think of the world around me as full of love and abundance, not as the scary, judgmental place I knew as a kid. My dad would always say, "life is hard and then you die." I replaced his words with a new mantra: "life is wonderful and needs to be embraced."
For those of us who struggle with weight, it's so important to understand that our issues are much deeper than what we put in our mouth. Geneen Roth, the author of When Food Is Love, believes the cycle of compulsive eating followed by endless dieting connects to deep personal and spiritual issues in our lives that need to be addressed. She argues it's about feelings, not food. No diet or exercise plan helps until we get in touch with our emotions, heal our hurt, and start building happier lives for ourselves. When I understood I was gorging myself to make up for the love I missed as a child, I began to fill myself up with things other than food. Here is how I chose to love myself rather than stuff myself:
I Examined My Beliefs About Food, Life, and Love
Our beliefs about food, life, and love are formed during childhood so it makes sense we understand them and how they still affect us as adults. When I was a kid, my mother used food as a way to sooth my siblings and me during difficult times and as a means to reward us for good behavior. After a visit to the doctor or dentist, she'd take us to the corner store and let us pick out a candy bar. When we did well on our report cards, she'd take us for an ice cream cone or milkshake. When we'd clean our rooms, she'd put a star on our chart and after earning 10 of them we'd get a Slurpee.
Neither my mother nor my father were warm and affectionate people. My dad never gave hugs and kisses and mom did so sparingly. Both were emotionally remote and preoccupied with their careers. Food—especially the high-calorie, sugary kind—became a substitute for love and approval. Once I realized that mindset I'd say to myself whenever I was tempted by a treat, “food isn't love” and look for an alternative to fill that need: a hug from my husband, a walk with my son, or a lick from my dog. I finally stopped trying to get love from a meager source--my parents--and focused on those who were willing and able.
You Need to Understand Your Beliefs About Food, Life, and Love in Order to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
I Filled My Life With Abundance, Not My Stomach With Food
Once I realized that food was the way I comforted and rewarded myself I set out to change it. When dieting in the past, I had lost weight but felt deprived. I missed all the yummy treats and the fullness I felt in my stomach. I was giving up more than I was getting so I eventually felt deprived and quit.
This made me realize how dependent I was on food to make me feel good. I had to change that, embrace the abundance around me, and find new ways to enjoy life. I started swimming again after years of not wanting to be seen in a bathing suit. I began talking long walks in the morning with our dog before anyone was awake to clear my mind and get energized for the new day. I started setting aside an hour each afternoon for reading a novel and sipping tea, giving myself time to relax and escape the real world. I started playing Scrabble with my husband every evening instead of zoning out in front of the television. I planted a vegetable garden, signed up for a computer class, and volunteered at the Humane Society. I made every day an adventure and food became less and less important. I focused on all the blessings around me, feeling grateful and not deprived.
You Need to Ask Yourself, "Why Am I Eating When I'm Not Hungry? What Hole Am I Trying to Fill?"
I Started to Assert Myself, Letting My Presence Be Known in the World
When I began taking control of my life--voicing my opinions and expressing my feelings—I no longer needed to stuff myself with food. When I spoke my mind loudly and proudly—something discouraged by my parents when I was kid—I felt strong, powerful, and truly myself. I wasn't pretending to be the sweet, silent little girl that my mom and dad favored who went to Catholic school, followed the rules, and never caused a stir.
I learned that I could disagree with my husband, my sons, my sister, and my friends, and it would be okay. It wasn't true that I had to acquiescence in order to be loved. Once I starting asserting myself in the world, I was no longer hesitant and afraid. I was in control of my thoughts, feelings, and what I put in my mouth. When dieting in the past, I felt weak, deprived, and scared that I would gain it all back. Now I felt powerful, transformed, and 100 percent confident that this fit and fabulous me was here to stay.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 McKenna Meyers
McKenna Meyers (author) on February 02, 2018:
Thanks, Bill, I don't get many standing ovations. In fact, I think this is my first!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2018:
Bravo for you! You can't see me, but I'm giving you a standing ovation!
McKenna Meyers (author) on February 02, 2018:
Lori, I'm impressed that you've given up sugar. That's a hard one because there's sugar in everything. I gave up meat about six months ago, and that was very easy for me. I saw videos of farm animals being mistreated and said "no more" and I feel much better.
There was a study that said people who make their bed in the morning are happier. I think it's just being mindful and taking care of one's self that feels so good. When I get too busy, my life gets away from me and I eat poorly, don't exercise, don't read, don't listen to music, and then get depressed. Spending time outside in nature is my salvation. Blessings to you, too!
Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on February 02, 2018:
Thanks for this. I totally agree that many overweight people or anyone with an eating disorder are using food as a way to deal with emotions and deep hurts. We try to fill the whole or soothe our pain with food.
Recently I made a decision to stop sugar. It's only been a few days. I'm craving, but not sucumbing. Your idea to fill your life with good things is actually very sensible. And that is what I have been doing. The other thing I have been doing for the last two weeks to do my dishes every night before bedtime and to make my bed in the morning ("I've been messy all my life) as I'm tired of living in mess and feeling guilty. It feels so good to go to bed with a clean kitchen and to have a more tidy room when I make my bed. It has motivated me to keep the rest of the house clean and tidy. It feels really good. God bless you.