Something I’ve learned very recently in life is that you won’t receive the answers you seek unless you’re willing to receive them. I spent a lot of my time throwing hypothetical and indignant “whys” and “hows” out into the universe in my younger life but was fully adamant that there was nothing out there for them to stick to, so of course nothing came back and I led the frustrating life of an artist at heart with no inspiration.
Well, that has changed.
I don’t want to hide the fact that this blog is a component of a comprehensive awakening and journey I am on. I feel an intense calling to share everything I am learning so that others can do the same. I don’t claim to be an expert of anything, yet a student of everything. If you’ve read my other posts, you know that my life has really changed dramatically in a short period of time as a life-altering event triggered me to search my life for meaning and purpose in a way I had never done before.
I came to an acceptance that I’ve been squandering my time on Earth so far, bogged down by the oppression of the need to fit in with the version of society I was born into. It’s taking everything I have to put myself out here like this and I have a deep fear of the criticism and reprisal that can come to me once my relatives find out about this. After all, some of the stuff I’m saying has the potential to offend some people. I feel like I do this at great risk to my life as I know it, and that’s why I MUST do it.
I have learned in life that shaking the foundations around me is what keeps me ultimately strong. I’ve been challenging myself in increasingly difficult ways, and this post today is one of those because it is a source of deep shame and embarrassment within my life.
The questions I’ve thrown out into the universe have been getting answered with remarkable speed. I don’t always love the delivery method but now that I’ve learned to have my eyes and ears open, oh, the answers do come. After I completed and posted my last blog post about making the choice to choose a better life, I immediately shifted towards what to write about next.
I feel mentally under the gun right now. After years of being so uninspired I cannot stop thinking of things to write about. That last post was 7500 words. It poured out of me like a waterfall. This is a time in my life that feels like it is on absolute fire and the intensity is palpable. Stuff that I planned on keeping under lock and key just until I got the hang of this at least, no, it’s knocking at the door. I’m staying committed to my intentions and putting it out there as it comes.
In truth, I don’t intend for the entirely of this blog to always be so deep and heavy. But right now feels like the right time to tell all of the base information, I guess, and I’m letting the powers that be guide the wheel of where this goes right now.
This is the first time I’ve ever put all of these brutally honest feelings and thoughts out into the world before. As my husband reads these articles, he will be learning new information about me. My own spouse! It’s scary, because of the fear of being judged, but also exhilarating. There is such a sense of being freed from a lot of shame in this process.
I woke up recently with a very painful neck and shoulder from sleeping weirdly positioned. I rested it with a heating pad on while my daughter was at preschool while I worked on the blog. It made me feel a little better so later on in the day I tried to take my daughter for a walk in her stroller: big mistake. After once around the block I was in pretty severe pain and it took a lot of teeth gritting to get back home and settled.
The pain was so bad that I went and laid on my bedroom floor for a few minutes, feeling this might relieve me. I settled on the floor and the extra weight on my body was suddenly overtly noticeable. The gaps between me and the floor were flooded with my own disassociated flesh that I palpated with confusion. Is this all me? It was an uncomfortable feeling, being suddenly confronted with the reality of my own mass, yet the flat surface was helping to stabilize my back so I stayed and forced myself to explore this sensation.
As I laid there I chose to assess my body, ever shrinking, but still far from what I was meant to be. Some days I can convince myself that I’m looking downright trim, but not in this moment. I gripped handfuls of flesh and lifted them away all over my body, feeling tension momentarily dissolve and then reappear when I returned the weight to its deposit. The way-too-big breasts that were obstructing the airflow into my lungs, I lifted them away from my body and felt myself suddenly take in a healthier dose of oxygen. I felt it fill my lungs and felt a little more human for a moment. I removed my hands and the oppression returned, settling back into place nearly instantly.
Maybe I was so overcome by the pain in my back that it had made all of my bodily sensations equally acute and that is why I felt all of these minute changes. Or maybe it was my question of what topic to cover next being answered, as suddenly I could think of nothing but getting started on this next article, realizing I had to touch on my most raw topic, my weight. It made me realize I wasn’t quite aware of how oppressed I was until I felt that momentary glimpse of relief and how reflective it was of my current life path as a whole.
I didn’t plan on discussing this topic until my work was done and I had incredible “she lost 120 pounds” photos to show. But that doesn’t feel right, it feels fraudulent and inauthentic to hide the struggle aspect, and the fact that this is a work in progress. This is my real life, and this is a huge part of it. So here goes.
Obese, obese. To me it’s one of the ugliest words in the world. Also, fat, plump, thick, pig, any other word used to call attention to the ‘elephant’ in the room. All words that immediately inspire my ears to tune in a little closer due to a lifetime of conditioning because all too often in life they were pointed at me, in whispers or even in shouts. Throughout my life I’ve been attacked and shamed for my weight at length by an innumerable number of people, but never more severely than when done to myself.
I think people don’t realize that no one is more disgusted by fat than its own bearer. And that’s saying a lot, because a fat person seems to instinctually inspire a wave of revulsion, even in other fat people from what I hear! But after a lifetime of being abused and berated over a physical manifestation of their own pain and insecurity, fat people simply learn to construct a barrier around themselves by adding more fat and self-hate. The fat in itself is already a barrier, and the people around you who abuse you for carrying it only reinforce the need to cinch that armor a little tighter and reinforce why you need it anyway.
Of course, all of this happens subconsciously unless you’re truly in tune with yourself, but I daresay if someone is truly in tune with themselves they won’t be obese or will already be on the road to recovery. I’m now dealing with the incredible frustration of being a member of the latter, living in a bizarre kind of purgatory where I am mentally awake and hard at work peeling back the layers of myself and yet still hauling around this obese body with eighty extra pounds of baggage on it. I feel restricted and held back so suddenly by something that has been here for my entire life. The realization that it doesn’t have to be this way has lit an incredible spark under my ass and torn apart my relationship with food in a way that I used to get on my knees and beg for, but had no will to take action to achieve it.
Well, that has also changed.
I’ve woken up to the motives that have kept me fat, and I’ve peeled back a lifetime of pain to learn what caused me to use food as fulfillment and weight as a shield.
Since February of 2017 I’ve lost forty pounds and still have eighty more to go to be in the realm of my ideal weight. I’m not so worried about the numbers ultimately but, so to say, I still have a ways to go. This has all been adjacent to deep, introspective work and a major increase in my personal desire for health of both body and mind and a natural increase in activity. But I am still bogged down by eighty pounds or so of extra flesh on a 5’2″ frame. I am living life now with a clear mind that doesn’t belong attached to a body with this kind of impediment and for the first time ever, I am severely aware of my condition.
Times like the one earlier, when I lay on the floor and felt my flesh hanging disconnected from my bone and muscle, pooling around me, distorting my form and creating discomfort that I don’t even realize unless I lift it away for a moment… those are the kind of moments I’ve run from my entire life.
I spent my whole life convincing myself that it was okay to be this way: that it wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t THAT fat, I was pretty enough to be fat, I’ve always been fat so I was supposed to be this way and so forth. The mental olympics I would construct to protect my way of life took major exertion and like all other lies we tell ourselves, eventually we begin to believe them and they become our reality.
But there was always this weird, disconcerting thing.
Whenever I pictured myself in my mind, I always pictured someone else. When I was at my highest weight, my mental self was completely unrecognizable from my physical form. I abhorred seeing full body photos of myself and some of them would take me aback with shock. Some still do.
In my minds eye, I have my own facial features with my pixie haircut (a choice made early on in my current evolution, a topic for a post for another day) but with a healthy and athletic body. I don’t picture huge breasts hanging halfway down my torso, I don’t picture a second layer to my chin and I don’t pictures the sheer mass of myself. It’s always been like looking at a stranger in photos, one that turns my stomach with shame. I realize that I feel like a prisoner locked into this form.
I definitely lived from the victim stance in regards to my weight earlier in life. I’m an educated person and I understand the science of nutrition, it’s not for lack of knowledge. I’ve told myself so many lies about food and my weight over the course of my life, it’s ridiculous. Gave myself permission to eat with abandon and mentally blocked out the consequences, I would feel genuine surprise at how my weight was creeping higher and higher! I disassociated my ‘self’ on the inside from this gluttonous being that was my form and took no ownership over my own body.
I came to the realization in life not too long ago that being fat isn’t a problem in and of itself (barring the most extreme of medical situations, of course). My husbands affair shook up a lot of things, one of them including my relationship with food. Despite being a lifelong binge eater, in times of true grief I have no appetite. The time period immediately following the affair was a time in which I didn’t want to eat and my mind had a chance to clear of its addiction to processed food.
I do also believe that I was meant to live my life this way as an obese person, just like every other trial I’ve faced to be able to help other people shed the weight themselves. As someone who has been obese my entire life I truly understand the struggles it brings, the struggles with food and the mental warfare that controls it all. I understand that there is a lot more to it than just food, but through the last year of my life I have been assaulted by epiphany after epiphany and food in general is one of the areas that has been shattered as I knew it forever.
I wish I could say I discovered some magical medicine that I could sell in a bottle to cure people. But like everything else I will talk about or have talked about, it boils down to choices. I had an awful event trigger me into less eating so when I resumed a more normal diet I was free of the drive to eat junk and inspired to repair my body. The addiction to junk food is REAL, people. But I feel it is much more insidious than the other possible addictions which seem to get more respect as ‘addictions’.
For one, we all know food is a necessity for life. It’s hard to have a addiction that you need to partake in daily, and once you get that taste of it you’re then on a rapid spiral. I can think back to times that I would be binge eating absolutely MISERABLY. I know people picture a binge eater as a fat slob like Homer Simpson sitting on the couch: “mmm, two packages of processed cheese and a dozen donuts”, savoring every bite with joy. The reality is a little different however, and it’s more like being a slave to a master that is so slick you don’t even realize you’re in service to it.
There were times in my life where I was eating, binging, and my mental script was pure venomous hate at myself.
“Why am I doing this? I don’t even like these. Why did I buy these. I’m never doing this again. I’m a slob, I’m worthless, I’m garbage, I’m bad, no wonder no one likes me, what’s wrong with me, tomorrow it’s over, tomorrow I’m only eating healthy, I’m not doing this anymore.”
Inwardly, it was a monologue of hatred at myself. Outwardly, if someone were to see me they’d see a young woman, a hundred pounds overweight planted on the couch rapidly plowing through five thousand calories worth of garbage food while seeming to mindlessly stare at the TV. They’d probably shake their head at me and feel disgust at how I can be so careless. There is a lot less compassion there than someone shooting up, that garners a bit of sympathy. “Oh, how could they have fallen into that?”
Food is different. Food addiction gets you nothing but disdain for weakness. Somehow food addiction isn’t taken as seriously as the others, maybe because food is seemingly so innocent. I mean, a three year old can walk into a grocery store with a dollar from his grandmother and buy a hostess cupcake. It’s not like it’s alcohol, cigarettes, or crack! Right?
Now this isn’t based on a lifetime of formal scientific research or anything, just my own existence and the fact that I used to pollute my body in this way. But I do believe whole heartedly that processed foods are intentionally loaded with certain additives that make them remarkably addictive.
On the path to learning healthier eating habits after age thirty for the first time in my life, I have done a lot of experimenting. Now that I am lucid in my mind and self control, I am able to occasionally eat ‘junk’ in small doses and not have it send me careening back into the pantry to get the whole box. Thankfully, it doesn’t have that level of control over me anymore. However, I do always experience a spike in interest in processed foods if I have any and I felt that is a phenomena with noting in contrast to eating healthier, more real foods that don’t cause that instant fixation.
Usually if I make a meal, say spaghetti and meatballs, I eat it for dinner that night and the leftovers are used for my daughters lunches and then it’s gone. No one spends any time lamenting the food being gone and no one is begging for it to be served again in the course of that week. We enjoyed it in a healthy manner and are then able to let go and know that we can have it again someday.
If we go to, say, McDonald’s though, the preschoolers mecca (seriously though, I feel this is a drug dispensary aimed at your toddler) I will not stop hearing about McDonald’s from my child for five days or so. My daughter will want it desperately and I don’t admit it to her or give in, but if I also ate it, I’m wanting it too. I’ll wake up craving it and won’t be able to get it out of my mind, even if when eating it I had thought to myself, “this stuff sucks, never again.”
Doesn’t matter. It is a fact that there are literal food scientists hard at work making fast food and the equivalent from the grocery stores to be hyper-palatable in a way that you cannot get them out of your mind. You don’t realize it, but when you are eating that food you are programming yourself to want more of it even if your palate didn’t love it. It’s a vicious cycle and your biological body is equally as vulnerable to it as if someone ran over and jammed a heroin needle into your arm against your will. You’d fight it, you’d be mad, but you’d get high and the odds are good that despite having been totally violated in the process, you’re going to crave more.
This is what I feel processed food does to us with no less level of violation.
My path to a healthy weight has been gradual, as it should be. Forty pounds in a year is very frustrating to me, someone who once lost forty pounds in a month and half in high school from eating only ten baby carrots and ten grapes a day. Losing forty pounds in a year hardly merits an ad campaign because people want to lose that in three months or less. That weight I lost so fast over a decade ago though, after losing it so rapidly through unrealistic means, came back on and brought friends within two years, and yet this weight loss has been steady, gradual and effortlessly maintained.
And the truth is: the weight loss has been EASY.
I’d never think I’d say such a thing, and hesitate to because I know how that could frustrate some readers who struggle personally, but it’s the truth. I’ve hardly exercised beyond walking outdoors, I’ll pick up my five-pound dumbbells once a month or so but never with any set dedication or schedule. I get most of my activity through regular life effort: cooking, cleaning, child chasing. I’ve simply changed my eating habits effectively by getting to know my body and my needs. And thus, here I want to share my weight loss plan in its most rudimentary sense with you in the hopes of helping you begin this journey for yourself. Ready?
You need to get to know yourself.
That’s it. Step one. Are you sensing a theme here? The truth is, I don’t think I or anyone else can give you a legitimate diet and exercise plan to meet your personal needs. I will share with you my recipes and habits going forward but it’s up to you to apply that to your own lifestyle in a way that sticks, that isn’t forced. I have tried so many ‘diets’ over the years, restricting one food category or another, only eating once a day, fasting, you name it. Nothing worked with lasting, life- changing results. Maybe they work for some people, but not me and I suspect not you either. As individual as we all are in personality, I think we are all equally different in our physiology and finding the path to successful weight loss is by determining our own personal needs.
I began the work this time towards losing weight by keeping a brutally honest food journal for about a month. I wrote down everything I ate and when and if I was eating for a reason other than hunger I noted that as well. This in and of itself, is NOT easy. This gives you a dark and dirty look at your own habits and your amnesia for your own behavior doesn’t work well when there is proof. If you have some stops and starts because of the shame of it, remind yourself that it’s private. Your information only.
I didn’t make any effort to alter my diet at that point, but by journaling my food habits I was able to note the places I wasn’t doing so well. It inspired my inner pride to have my journal be something that doesn’t induce pain when I review it. Without actually choosing to alter my habits, simply by tuning into them and forcing myself to remain aware they began to shift when my self-harm was undeniable.
Sometimes this process requires you to break the ‘rules’ of food as you know them, so be prepared for that and don’t let it chase you away.
I’ve never been a breakfast lover, I don’t love the food category and I generally don’t want to eat until I’ve been awake a good while. Throughout my life whenever I was dieting, though, I’d try to force breakfast to happen and usually make myself nauseous or eat something processed and junky which tastes good even when you aren’t hungry, like a granola bar. Doing this, I would either set the tone that my food intake was going to be unpleasant for the day or immediately flood myself with junk and therefore cravings. Both of these alternatives would lead to failure before the day was complete, sparking a binge session that would leave me feeling pathetic.
By learning to listen to my body and stop worrying about what all the ‘diet experts’ have to say, I let go of the ‘need’ to eat in the morning and took the pressure off of myself. I gave myself permission to only eat when I was actually ready for food which can vary daily from 10am-2pm. I removed the stress and no longer worry over it. When the call to eat comes, I answer it and then move on with my life. I depressurized the situation and it led to tangible relief, and the weight kept coming off.
Through trial and error, I learned another very important lesson: the best healthy food is the healthy food that you’re actually happy to eat. I love to research and educate myself so when I threw myself into refreshing my knowledge of nutrition I learned about a lot of healthy foods currently high in popularity that I had never bothered with before. I went to Whole Foods and other stores with natural foods and loaded my cart with all kinds of stuff to try.
Some stuff, I learned I really like a lot, like polenta and coconut oil, for example. Some stuff I bought because the experts say it’s good for you and realized I wanted nothing to do with, like chia seeds and nutritional yeast. I’d buy these things and try to force myself to eat them and be unhappy so wind up rummaging for something else to give me satisfaction later. I let go of the need to have a pantry that would please a TV dietician and fill my diet with things I like to eat, minus the processed varieties.
When I finally learned my likes and dislikes from within the realm of healthy foods I was able to put together very satisfying meals from whole, nutritious ingredients. It wasn’t all overnight but a gradual shift, trading the convenience versions of products we liked (like frozen French fries) for freshly cut ones. We now eat beautiful, nutritious food all the time with no feelings of deprivation and I’ve let go of the need to force undesired ‘superfoods’ down if I don’t like them. I learned to listen to my own body.
I greatly reduced the processed foods in our home, an area that still needs improvement as I am working on getting rid of ALL the processed foods. I feel that strongly about it. It’s hard to think about a life without these things when you’re conditioned to desire them, especially when you feel entitled to them cause you’ve always had them. But it isn’t that hard to come up with freshly made alternatives once you choose to put forth the effort. If every cookie you eat is home baked, it’s okay that you still eat cookies. You don’t need to go directly from oreos to apples only. It’s a far better choice than packaged ones filled with chemicals. It’s progress. It won’t all be overnight changes, nor should it be, because drastic changes that shock you set you up for failure.
Just last week I went though the pantry and fridge and shed another two full bags of processed stuff that I had deemed as healthy and good for us up until now. Packaged whole wheat bread, innocent right? I read the label and realized it had several dozen ingredients. It’s time to start making my own bread. Bottled salad dressing, it encourages the eating of salad, it’s a good thing right? Two dozen ingredients, out it went. Can I live a life without bottled ranch and blue cheese dressing? Yes, I can. Removing them didn’t feel threatening anymore. I wasn’t ready to let go until now, and that was okay too. I still lost forty pounds with them in my diet, but now I’m focused on maximum health and nutrition and am ready to go the step further.
You might be reading this and thinking “whoa there! You’re getting a little carried away. I’m not ready to give all of that up.” And I say, no problem. You just need to start somewhere. I am nine months into this and up until last week I had these things in my home, was eating them and feeding them to my child. I don’t think you’re bad if you use them, and I don’t think you can’t achieve success if you use them. But I do think that if you start on this path eventually there will come a day when you will no longer want them and effortlessly let go, and that’s the magic at hand.
Something else that happened completely organically as well along the way was the adjustment of the quantities I was eating. With learning to tune into my own hunger cycle and not forcing food on myself when I am not interested, my body has begun to be responsive and I’ve learned to pay attention to sensations which were long buried. The processed foods I talked about earlier are made to be so enjoyable that you lose any sense of portion regulation. One serving is never enough and only once you hit the bottom of the package or you literally cannot get another bite into your brimming stomach will you be ready to reluctantly stop. This is unnatural, I’ve learned.
The wonderful thing about healthy, natural foods is that they come with no mind trickery. When your food is unprocessed and made with only ‘food’ ingredients, not additives and stabilizers, your body will tell you what it wants and needs. Your cravings will transform from cookies to sweet potatoes and salad. I’m not joking!
I’ve also learned that when I am hungry and begin eating, the food tastes absolutely amazing. I only eat foods I like, so I already enjoy it on that level but the flavor is enhanced. The saying that hunger is the best seasoning, there is validity to that. Not to say that you need to be in the throes of actual stomach growling hunger to enjoy your food, but that your body has a nutritional hunger that it attempts to alert you to by adjusting your taste sensations. It’s hard to explain this to someone who is deep within food addiction and has a steady diet of processed stuff because your regulator is basically paralyzed. The meter is always set to “eat until maximum capacity is reached” and I understand that you can have genuine revulsion to healthy foods because your body is so programmed to is expectations, I did too.
But when eating a healthy dinner, like the other night we had leftovers (because of my back pain I couldn’t cook) of sausage, meatballs, peppers and onions in red sauce over polenta, the first few bites are so stimulating and flavorful, this is your body saying “yes, give me more of this, it feels great!” As you continue to eat, though, the flavors get a little more dull. The food that you were looking at so excitedly now begins to feel a little bit unwanted, until finally you look at the plate like, “ugh, enough of that.”
It doesn’t mean I no longer like the food, I’d eat it happily it again another time. It just means that for that session of eating, my body got what it needed. That was my cue to be done. I used to be a presiding member of the clean your plate club, and not just my own plate. If my daughter or husband left scraps on theirs I’d eat those too out of a refusal to waste food (from years of conditioning, don’t do this to your kids please). But now, I can set aside my plate with food left behind and felt no burning remorse over it.
One, I’ve peeled back the mental conditioning which goes a long way in and of itself. Two, my meals are now composed of whole foods that work with the body, not manipulate the body. Not chemically engineered, hyper-palatable compounds made to inspire your obsession. I hate to paint anything in the world as so sinister, but I do feel the food industry is extremely exploitive. It’s a bitter pill to swallow like a lot of the realities of life, but the food producers aren’t on your side. They’re in it to sell five cents worth of ingredients in a two dollar package and if you stop wanting it, they lost at their game, so those decks are stacked as much as possible to keep you coming back for more.
Genuine, all natural foods don’t come with obsessions. They come with nutrition and natural enjoyability but you will probably never be so overcome with gluttony over a pile of fresh fruit as you would be for anything with a shiny wrapper.
I know that years prior I’d have read all of this with venom in my heart for the writer, because I was so deeply entrenched into my habits and addiction. If my feelings on this bother you, I respectfully dare you to challenge yourself to a bit of introspection to work through why. It’s hard to admit that any aspect of your life has been taken out of your control, I get that. But please take the time to work through your feelings on the matter and why you might be triggered into defensiveness. Any drug in your system is going to fight for its place there. If you aren’t ready, that’s okay, but opening your mind to the possibility that there is another way is a choice that can pave the way to a life unrecognizable from your own.
It all boils down to making your own choices, and not punishing yourself for the ones you make. If you aren’t down with making your own bread, so be it. If you’re not ready to leave oreos behind, that’s okay. I want to keep it real, even though this is my stance, on occasion even I consume these products! 1) It’s hard to live in the United States in this day and age and never consume a factory made product. 2) They taste good, in moderation they’re enjoyable. 3) Never say never, say another time. Deprivation is the surest way to failure.
It’s simply a matter of lucidly consuming these products, knowing they cannot make up the bulk of my nutrition if I intend to have a healthy body. I am not shaming or condemning you for your food choices! You don’t deserve to be shamed over that, by me or anyone else. Just keep it all in a matter of perspective. We are all so programmed to be defensive of our choices, especially obese people. We have to spend our entire lives justifying every bite of food we ingest in front of others because our form displeases society and ourselves. It can provoke us to ‘show them’ by abusing ourselves even more.
Step one is making the choice to choose to pursue a healthier diet.
Step two is letting yourself off the hook for the steps you aren’t ready to take yet and eliminate the self abuse.
Step three is accepting that your success is in your own hands.
Step four is accepting that there are quick fixes, but no quick results.
What do they say? The best things in life are worth waiting for. I’m right there with you, still waiting for my body to catch up with the changes I’ve made. As an obese person, I lost years of my life to feeling suppressed, inferior, defective. I understand the desire for quick change, just like when I laid on the bedroom floor feeling my flesh so disconcertingly. Of course I wish it would just vaporize off my body, “hey I’m eating better now, get this stuff out of here!”
Life doesn’t work that way. Nor should it. Don’t forget the big picture, we are all here on a learning expedition. Part of my path and yours if you are suffering from obesity is to overcome that and experience a true rebirth. I believe someone who can overcome such an obstacle is someone who has displayed incredible effort and earned their transformation.
I’m going to provide cooking guides, meal plans and more nutritional advice down the road but for right now, turn within yourself to provoke change and progress.
There is no magic pill- be your own pill.