In my Very First Blog Post I boldly declared that ‘food items are obviously approved Items of Need but only when my fridge/pantry is without these items.’
Hmmm, that hasn’t really happened.
Nope, that hasn’t happened either.
It appears New Chocolate is a frequent visitor to The Tree House.
I don’t even know what I was thinking putting that in writing.
I’m just not good with deprivation.
The more I deprive myself, the more I want the Item of Deprivation.
Thankfully this hasn’t applied to Everything to do with The Year of More (although, yes, there have been a few confessions along the way and no doubt there will be a few more to come) but limiting myself when it comes to chocolate and sweets, has definitely proven near impossible.
I was once publicly shamed at a Weight Watchers meeting for admitting that I’d eaten two squares of Lindt chocolate. Apparently - at two WW points per square - that’s A Very Bad Use of Points and quite a few people felt absolutely fine judging me for my choice.
I seriously think they were considering burning me at the stake.
And as soon as she mentioned it, all I wanted to do was eat it!
That’s so naughty isn’t it? It’s little wonder I didn’t attend too many more WW meetings after that. Everything they warned us about, I desperately wanted to try.
I resisted the urge to go straight from that WW meeting to Hog’s Breath Café to throw myself head first into This Devilish Dessert but I still think about it whenever I walk past a Hog’s Breath and I have a quiet little giggle to myself.
Speaking of giggling, in 2005 the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee conducted a study about how many calories we burn off by laughing. Apparently it would take about an hour of pretty intense laughter (I’m thinking some snorting would definitely need to be involved) to burn off just one chocolate bar but seriously, eat a chocolate bar then laugh for an hour.
So about nine years ago I decided to get off the diet merry-go-round because let’s face it, there isn’t much merry to be had on it.
I simply don’t believe that diets work long term.
If they did, people would only ever need to go on one.
And the diet industry wouldn’t be as massive as it is.
Because People Would Only Ever Need To Go On One.
Some diets may be effective for initial weight loss but they’re just not sustainable and most people struggle to maintain their new figure long term.
A Google search informs me that ‘During 2014/15, Australians are expected to spend $603 million on weight-loss counselling services and related low-calorie foods and dietary supplements’.
That’s an astounding amount of money. Although it’s minor compared to the $16 billion which will apparently be spent on fast food during the same period! Wow, that’s just incredible.
[Nerdy stats from www.ibisworld.com.au]
So nine years ago when I decided to get off the merry-go-round, I did a workshop about emotional eating and it was fascinating.
Who knew I was an emotional eater?!
I ate when I was sad to stuff down the emotions I may not have wanted to completely feel but I also ate when I was happy, as food is such a wonderful celebratory friend.
We were all given a small Easter egg and had to sit with it for a little while before we were allowed to remove it from it’s spectacularly shiny and enticing wrapper. We then held it in our hands for a few minutes (excruciating minutes I might add) and finally, finally we were given permission to take a bite.
Just one bite.
It was seriously the best piece of chocolate I had eaten in my life up to that point.
But it was a fascinating exercise. For me, mindful eating is the key to healthy weight management. At that workshop I bought a book called ‘If not dieting, then what?’ by Dr Rick Kausman. It has been The One Thing which has inspired me to create a more loving relationship with food and my weight.
So part of my plan was to build a better relationship with food. Which, like any relationship, takes time and energy and the desire to succeed.
I’ve always adored food and I’ve always had a particularly strong and close relationship with All Things Sweet. I get it from my Mum. She would tell me stories about spending all of her pocket money as a child on a Big Bag of Lollies, just as I would do. Until my pocket money was upped and I was able to save up to buy a book (and a small bag of lollies of course).
I realised early on in life that Lollies, Books and I were to be lifelong friends and I went from spending pocket money on them to spending large chunks of my salary on them. I am therefore extremely proud of not buying any books so far during The Year of More.
But I was to discover fairly quickly that wanting a better relationship with food wasn’t going to be easy after my enduring love affair with All Things Sweet. Relationships can be tough and this one was no different. Especially as I knew I would be the only one making any effort or changing. Lollies, chocolates, cakes, pastries and biscuits weren’t going to taste any less scrumdiddlyumptious were they? And my fat cells weren’t going to all of a sudden dislodge and float off into the atmosphere.
So I knew it was entirely up to me.
And I instinctively knew that willpower wasn’t going to play a part in this relationship.
So the first step in my goal to eat better was to eat worse. Yes, I know, that’s not what you were expecting to hear was it?
I gave myself permission to eat Anything and Everything I Wanted and let me tell you, I was very very good at it!
Within a couple of months, I had gained 7 kilos. I think I eventually upped that to 11 kilos which I thought was a pretty darn good effort!
I know this sounds rather ridiculous but I had a long-term goal to Farewell the Merry-Go-Round Forever, so I had to keep looking at My End Goal rather than getting bogged down by the fact that I was purposely putting on weight. I was at the point where I knew I had to do something different in order to break the cycle I’d been in my entire life.
Because during that time, I had truly believed that losing weight would bring me happiness.
I truly believed that fitting into smaller clothes would make me feel better about myself.
I truly believed that I would let go of my insecurities as I let go of the weight.
I truly believed that my self-esteem would rise, as the number on the scales got lower.
Because clearly none of that happened. To my utter shock and horror, each time I lost a large amount of weight, I remained The Same Person. Exactly the same! I couldn’t believe that was possible.
Surely Skinny Karen had a better personality?
Surely Skinny Karen was more attractive to men?
Surely Skinny Karen was funnier, wittier and more self-assured?
Surely Skinny Karen would live happily ever after without even having to try because she was more deserving?
Surely Skinny Karen no longer had a reason to beat herself up?
I had put so much faith in The Power of Weight Loss that I lost all faith in my own power to create A Most Wonderfully Fabulous Life.
And to love Me at any size.
That’s the power I set out to reclaim.
I wanted to break the cycle of ‘pigging out’ and then feeling guilty afterward. I wanted to get to the stage where I could eat whatever I liked without, (a) putting on weight; and (b) beating myself up about it afterward. Because although ‘beating yourself up’ sounds as though it might burn off a few calories, it really doesn’t. It’s all in our heads and it just perpetuates the cycle. We feel bad so we stuff those feelings down with food. And then we feel worse so we try even harder to stuff More Bad Feelings down with food, etc etc etc. And we never ever break the cycle and we continue to put on weight and feel bad about ourselves. And the longer it goes on, the worse we feel about ourselves.
I knew it probably wasn’t realistic for me to go straight from this cycle, to one of eating everything that’s good for me and feeling good about myself, but I figured a significant step in the right direction was to continue to eat whatever I wanted but to feel GOOD about myself instead of bad, despite how much weight I would put on.
My goal was to eat what I liked but to be a more mindful eater so I wouldn’t want to eat as much food. But of equal importance was my goal to be content no matter what weight I was at. That’s not easy for someone who has always strived to 'Lose A Few More Kilos'.
Clearly I found this more challenging than I'd expected, hence the weight gain, but I was pleased to discover that I honestly didn't feel bad about it. Something had definitely started to shift and this inspired me to keep going with the non-dieting approach to healthy weight management.
I have been a size 8 and a size 18, and obviously everywhere in between.
I kept that black velvet dress in my wardrobe for years after I could no longer fit into it, as I really thought it would make me happy to squeeze back into it again. It’s funny how we get so attached to things like that. Fitting back into a wedding dress or a pair of jeans. Part of me felt I had failed by starting to put on weight again as I moved into a happier chapter of my life. How sad that I wasn't simply celebrating My Happy New Chapter.
Perhaps marriage is book-ended by weight loss as many brides-to-be lose weight because of the stress they're under. Although, given my Low Bride DNA, there was little chance of that happening to me of course (refer to my Low Bride DNA post here http://www.theyearofmore.com/blog/do-women-really-need-dresses). All the High Bride DNA women I knew had me convinced I’d lose weight so I bought a size 16 wedding dress with The Brilliant Plan of 'losing all the pre-wedding stress weight' and having it adjusted to a lovely size 14.
Okay, so I was secretly hoping for a reduction to a size 12.
Just how stressful did I think organising a wedding was going to be??!!
So after joyfully gaining 11 or so kilos at the beginning of my plan to Kick the Merry-Go-Round To The Curb, over the following few years, I lost a few of the kilos I’d put on and my weight finally settled into where it was most comfortable – a size 14. In the years since then I’ve pretty much stayed within five kilos of the same weight. For the first time in my entire adult life.
And I no longer beat myself up about what I eat. Ever.
If I want to eat two bowls of ice cream for dinner (lovingly referred to as Main and Dessert) I enjoy every single spoonful. I wouldn’t do it every night but doing it occasionally and knowing I’m not going to feel bad about it, is so incredibly liberating. And I’m not opposed to sampling a Lindt ball or two while I’m cooking dinner.
Here I am in Guatemala eating a most delicious chocolate brownie before my main meal.
I now weigh ten kilos more than when I first joined WW all those years ago – when I JOINED, so clearly I wanted to lose five or so kilos back then – which means I’m now 15 kilos more than what I had once considered my Goal Weight.
I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I’m tall, I’m big-boned (thanks Mum for constantly reminding me as an insecure teenager that I’d inherited the big boned DNA from Dad’s side of the family!) and I shouldn’t be trying to weigh something a Supermodel would be aiming for. Clearly, I’m not a Supermodel but after playing The Weight Game for more than 30 years, I now feel the most comfortable I have ever felt in my own skin.
Besides, Supermodels probably aren’t likely to eat ice cream for dinner so why on earth would I aim for that kind of sad existence?
Wishing you the sweetness of life in whatever form that takes for you.
‘Losing weight is not your life’s work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater, much bigger, than shedding 20 pounds or tallying calories. What would happen if, instead of worrying about what you had for breakfast, you focused instead on becoming exquisitely comfortable with who you are as a person? Instead of scrutinizing yourself in the mirror, looking for every bump and bulge, you turned your gaze inward?’ Lisa Turner, ‘Losing Weight: What’s the Point’