I once was OBSESSED with food. It was all that I thought about. I woke up and I thought about food. I went through my day thinking about food. I went to bed and I even would dream about food. I was living in a food obsessed world.
WHY was I living like this?
Because I was deprived. I have only “dieted” a handful of times only to feel like a complete failure. Was I truly a failure? Well, no, not when I look back. But at the time, I felt like I had failed. I could not stick to a “diet”. The reason I could not stick to a diet was because it was too strict.
I have had a few experiences in my life when I would be going through a very stressful time and I would turn to food for comfort. I wouldn’t overeat. I would actually begin to diet during hard times. Dieting gave me comfort knowing I had complete control over something in my life when everything else seemed to be spinning out of my control. Looking back, I KNOW this thinking is wrong and I’ve worked through this. However, at the time I felt like dieting was my friend and it made me feel better…until I got hungry.
My diets would start out good. I’d pick a random number of calories to eat that day and I’d stick to that. My numbers were not crazy low, but they were a lot lower than what I would normally eat to maintain my weight. (I’d guess that I eat well over 2500 calories and I would slash my calories between 1600 and 1700). For the first few weeks I’d feel OK. Sure, I’d go to bed hungry, but that’s what supposed to happen right? I was dieting.
Then came the food obsessed thoughts. Cereal. Bagels. Waffles. Pizza. FOOD. I literally would dream of cupcakes dancing around my head. I was engulfed in food. I couldn’t stop thinking of food. I particularly remember running on a treadmill one day and I couldn’t get peanut butter off of my mind. I had such an intense craving for it (probably because my body wanted some fats). But I ignored it.
Binge. Restrict. Binge…a never ending Cycle.
OR is it?
I can tell you that I have never really been someone to eat ice cream straight from the carton or eat an entire box of cereal in one sitting. I am not that type of eater. I really don’t have a desire to do that. Overeating does not really comfort me. Unless I am restricting…
When I first restricted my intake (during my figure competition prep) and experienced my first binge episode, I was almost in shock. How could I have eaten all of that? And how am I even still hungry? It was like my appetite was never going to be satisfied.
It only happened at night. I would come home, make dinner…And then keep going back to the kitchen to eat. I would eat odd combos of food too. Oatmeal mixed with peanut butter, snack bars (crumbled in the oatmeal), milk, and chocolate chips. I had intense cravings for carbs and fats. In my “normal” state of living, I don’t eat things like that. I actually don’t crave things like that very often. But when restricting, the sugar and fat cravings come out like crazy.
How did it End?
Make the decision to STOP the cycle.
It ended when I gave up wanting that control. Sure, there are plenty of times where I still feel stressed out and feel out of control, but I don’t turn to food and restricting. I had to stop that habit for me to stop being obsessed with food. I made a conscious decision to end my food obsessed world and start experiencing what life is all about…not just dieting and exercise.
Stop any “purging” to “make up” for the extra food.
When I would binge, I would feel defeated and upset at myself. I would often eat to the point of being sick. I would also up my workouts the next day, usually the cardio portion to help ‘purge’ those extra calories. To stop this restricting and binge cycle, I first stopped the over exercising. I made a decision that even if I over ate, I could not “make up for it” later with exercise. This step is hard. Many times I would want to up my workouts, but I resisted. Over time, this helped level out my appetite as I was not doing so much cardio.
Every so often, I will over eat (I’m human!), but I still resist the urge to ‘burn’ off those extra calories. I just start the next day with a clean slate and forget about it. I move on. As time goes on, it’s not something I have to really think about. In fact, I don’t really think about it at all. But I will say that in the beginning of ending this cycle, it was a daily thing for me to say to myself each day that I would not ‘make up’ for those extra calories. Give yourself time to break this cycle, it won’t happen over night. So take each day at a time.
STOP restricting your intake.
This step made the difference in changing my thinking of food. I had to stop restricting. I had to almost teach myself how to eat again and get in touch with my hunger signals. This step also was difficult, but over time, new habits can form. No food is off limits for me. I truly eat what I want, when I want no matter what it is.
STOP labeling food “Good” or “Bad”.
Do you know that I used to eat oatmeal with blueberries and a side of egg whites every. single. day for almost 4 years? Sure, it sounds like a wholesome breakfast (and it is), but this was my “safe” meal. It was “clean” and therefore I had to eat this daily. I don’t remember the last time I had oatmeal now! I don’t eat it. I eat cereal, omelets, bagels, etc. If I crave oatmeal, I will eat it, but from eating it for so long I just don’t care for it right now. I stopped labeling my food and now I eat a wide variety of food and I eat what I crave. It’s amazing what giving up that control does! Food is such an enjoyable thing to me now.
Diets do not work. Lifestyles do. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, than start making habits that lead you in that direction. You need to be realistic with yourself and what you are willing to keep up with for life.
Love your Body the way it is NOW!
No matter what you look like at any point in your life, you need to love yourself. This sounds sooo corny, but it’s true. You can not change your body over night (unless you get plastic surgery…) so being accepting of who you are no matter what you look like is so important. You also need to come to terms that these are the cards you are dealt. Make the best of what YOU have in terms of you body…there is no point in staring at models in magazines wishing you were them…you are not, so it’s time to start accepting YOU.
I have more tips on what has helped me end my obsession with food, so stay tuned for a “Part II” of this topic!
**Note: I am not an expert in eating disorders, so if you feel you can not make changes on your own and are living day to day with unhealthy habits with food that are effecting your health, please seek help.
**Let me also add that I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, but as you can see I had very disordered thoughts and habits that needed to be handled. While I probably could have benefited from seeing a professional (and I definitely recommend doing so if you are experiencing anything like this and you can not end the cycle on your own), I was able to ‘nip it in the butt’ on my own. If I hadn’t, I would have definitely gotten help.