Food. I am addicted to food.
If I’m happy, food! If I’m nervous, food. Excited, food. Sad, food. You get the idea.
As an empath, I feel strongly and deeply. Every emotion that I feel, I turn to food.
This wasn’t a big deal as a fourteen-year-old with twice a day cross country practices, made possible by young and springy joints. Nor as a twenty-year-old who enjoyed endurance cycling and marathoning, and used them as a stress reliever from a demanding college course load. It still wasn’t an issue as a twenty-five-year-old whose favorite hobby was spin class, in which the community was a supportive gift for a single woman who lived alone.
However, my addiction to food has now become a big deal. This pandemic has had a lot of us feeling the feels extra strongly. Having two tiny girls 16 months apart, who are my world, means a lot of the time I used to spend on fitness is now with them.
The final straw was not recognizing myself in a side-profile photo that my husband took of me with the kids in the middle of October 2020. That, coupled with a herniated disk in my spine and surgery on the horizon, meant I needed to do something quickly so that recovery and moving forward would be possible.
Granted, this body has done a lot in a few years. But it has a lot more years to get through, and it was time to make a change. It was time to break up with food.
In the past, I’ve eaten both Whole30 and Keto at separate times and had great success with both. However, as soon as I turned back to my old ways, my hard work was undone. This time, I couldn’t do a 30-day challenge, then return to previous ways. A serious re-evaluation of my behaviors and changing why I eat, when I eat, and how I eat was in order.
So this time, I chose to eat in a Whole30 and Clean Keto manner. I stumbled upon and was inspired by Natalie at Tastes Lovely – she happened to have two little ones close in age, and ironically, her starting weight and where she ended up after 6 months of changing her habits was very close to where I’m starting, and where I desire to be to feel healthy. I felt like I could truly relate to her – it wasn’t 15 pounds I needed to get off, it’s 50+ and that seems like a daunting task without help or guidance.
On October 26th, when my littlest daughter turned 8 months, I set off to break my addiction
Sadly, and to reinforce that I have issues, the first few days felt like total punishment. I grieved for not eating what I normally would. Being mindful of my choices felt like a lot of work. I had a few stressful moments where my brain shouted, “FOOD! FOOD NOW!” but I had to instead redirect. My internal dialogue turned from “Eat all the things! You deserve this! It will make you feel better!” to “Are you really hungry? Are you just looking to distract from how you’re feeling?”
It has been a lot of work. At first, I felt deprived, like I was missing out. Sad, even, like we have all felt after a rough and abrupt breakup where you know you can’t go back because they’re not good for you. I knew this way of eating and thinking was killing me and not setting a good example for my girls.
However, there’s been some light to this month. I don’t feel like I am done with my “challenge.” This is an ongoing challenge. Will I have a dessert at Christmas? Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be a plate full, though. After a month of breaking up with food, I am down 15 pounds. While I am not ready for intense physical activity yet, I am enjoying walking, keeping up with my girls, and I may even throw in a few bodyweight squats while waiting for my tea kettle to heat up.
Other and more important wins than the number on the scale:
- Feeling more desirable to my husband, even though he loves me no matter how I look.
- Fitting in clothes that had long been put toward the back of the closet.
- Actually looking in the mirror after I get out of the shower instead of closing my eyes or avoiding making eye contact.
- More confidence in my cooking abilities.
- Modeling healthy habits for my girls.
- Making a point to sit down for meals with my girls instead of grazing and finding other things to do during that time.
- A resting heart rate that is down 10 bpm.
Here’s what I chose to change and implement to support those changes:
- Emotional eating –> Mindful eating. The first bite tastes like the last. Wait, what? I don’t need 50 bites and seconds and thirds to get the full effect? No. Using smaller plates and bowls has made me feel satisfied from a visual perspective, as well.
- Eating my kids’ food and whatever is quickly available –> Meal preparation. Eating in this manner has meant a lot of meal preparation and planning. Is it timely? Yes. Expensive? Yes. But it has been so worth it. I tend to veer off course when I don’t plan correctly, so doing the work ahead of time sets me up for success.
- Libations and coffee –> Water, tea, and vitamins. Given the pandemic, stressors, and life in general, my hubby and I were enjoying at home happy hours more than we needed to. While I fully plan on enjoying a glass of red here and there, it will be mindfully. We were also splitting a pot of coffee that would be gone by 9 am. I went cold turkey to cut caffeine out – which I do not recommend to anyone – but having it out of my life has helped me greatly. My reaction to stopping was extremely concerning, as I was clearly dependent on it. I may have an espresso with dessert around the holidays and for special occasions, but that should be enough.
- Reading the news anxiously in the wee hours of the night and morning –> Reading books and making a point to get sleep. Can I function on four hours of sleep? Yes. Does it feel good? No. I can’t change what’s going on in the world, only how I respond to it. I have been making sure to fill my brain and soul with positivity during these tough times.
- Toxic relationships –> Positive relationships. With all of this, I’ve been mindful of the relationships in my life, where positivity lies, and where I enjoy spending love and energy. Including where friendship is reciprocated, as well as what may no longer serve me.
As with any tough breakup, the intrusive thoughts are still there. I imagine they will be there for a long time. That’s why I have to keep going. It took 31 years to get here, and it will take a long time to reshape my thought patterns and behaviors. I am a work in progress and will keep pressing forward.