First, let me start by saying you are reading my 100th blog post. I started this blog in 2010, and was very active for a while, but then kind of dwindled down to one post a month and then one post a year… Until I started up this past December with renewed vigor and excitement. I’ve posted more in the past 7 months than the previous 3 years put together. And, I truly appreciate everyone who bothers to read my musing.
I have one close friend (IRL) who surprised me recently by telling me that he reads every post. He rarely likes or comments but he is a faithful reader. He has been with me through all my ups and downs, when I took Fen-Phen, when I lost over 100 lbs on Weight Watchers, when I gained the 100 back and then some, and for all the “diets” and exercise programs over my lifetime. “So what makes this different?” he asked me the other day, and I had to think about it for a minute.
I told him that the fundamental difference that I could see was that this wasn’t about losing weight, or fitting into a size, or any of my old goals. I really was just trying to break free from a lifetime of being controlled by food. I talked to him about the way I came up with my new food plan and how over time I have managed to be more in control. I talked about these steps I’ve taken to get here: the emphasis on self-love, my new approach to exercise, and the ways I deal with food. I also told him how I never, ever go hungry any more. I make sure I’m always nourished and this has had so many positive side effects.
And after listening for a bit he said, “It sounds like you are in recovery.” After thinking for a minute I replied, “Yes, yes I guess I am in recovery.” My issues with food are very much an addiction. I have had to learn new patterns of dealing with food, because unlike other addictions, you can’t go “Cold Turkey” with food (unless starving is part of your game plan). I’m not necessarily doing a 12-step program, I have had what I call mini-awakenings on my journey which are just as critical to my recovery.
Here’s the thing about recovery: there is no end. It isn’t like at some point I’m going to reach a place where I can go back to normal food, any more than an alcoholic can have one or two social drinks or a smoker can have one cigarette at a party (believe, me I know how that story ends). Sure, it might work sometimes. Or for a while. But little by little the old habits come back and the next thing you know you are eating Ben & Jerry’s by the pint and having a bag of Sour Cream & Onion Ruffles for dinner. Wait, what?
The line between in control and out of control is so thin as to be almost invisible. I have my safety foods (yogurt, almonds, rice & beans) and my splurge foods (peanut butter, frozen yogurt, pea soup, popcorn). When I eat these foods I do so without anxiety and without really thinking. They are pre-measured, contained, and manageable.
But then there are the questionable foods… Like the fish I had the other night. The menu said pan-seared tilapia, but when it came it was breaded with nuts. Or the pizza my daughter and I made the other day (that’s a whole other post). These fall outside the program, but are they allowed? Do they follow the rules? There is an anxiety with each food decision. Will this choice send me into a food spiral I can’t climb out of? Or will it just be a little diversion to an otherwise bland and repetitive food program? When have I strayed too far?
That’s the problem with coming up with your own recovery program. There’s no guide-book or list of rules to follow. You have to make up your own rules and figure out if they are working.