my struggle with weight: part two

June 17th, 2010   |   Life

As I mentioned yesterday in the Part One of this post, I have spent the last nine years of my life thinking about my weight and food more than anything else. I split the time almost equally going in both extremes of eating too little and too much. What was once a restrictive diet evolved into a emotional eating habit. Both were terrible in different ways, but at the same time, each led to the same result: I was miserable, and I was trying to escape bigger issues in my life by focusing on something more manageable. I distracted myself from heartbreaking events by creating a “designated problem” – my weight.

Luckily, I have gradually taken steps to get myself out of this mess I made for myself. None of these realizations came easily. And every step was necessary for me to finally reach the point I’m at currently: free from the bondage of weight. Below I’ll explain the steps leading from binge eating in college (there was a period of time where I couldn’t sleep with chocolate in my room – it had to be eaten that day) to eating naturally.

I Curbed the Emotional Eating

This step was incredibly tough, in fact, it took a few years. In the beginning, when difficult or uncomfortable thoughts came to mind, I would “feel” hungry and would begin to eat. Often, I would eat until I was incredibly uncomfortably full. I didn’t have a grasp on what satiated really meant for me. After a binge like this, whether it be privately in my dorm room or after eating with friends at Olive Garden, I would double my pain: not only did I still have the same uncomfortable feelings I had before, but I then felt guilty about eating too much food.

Slowly, I began to recognize when I was binging while I was eating. And eventually that step led to identifying the urge to binge before eating. And ever so gradually I started to find ways to distract myself from the urge to binge. After that, I came to a point where binge eating didn’t come to mind when facing something difficult.

Here’s a poem I read back in college that helped me see this process clearly:

I:
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…
I am helpless.
It is not my fault.
It takes forever to find my way out.
II:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
III:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in…It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
IV:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.

- Portia Nelson

I Tried to “Healthfully” Lose the Last 10 Pounds

Once I had a more normal view on the emotionally eating and restricting calories, I admittedly did drop 10 of the extra 20 pounds I had gained in college. But I was still quietly determined to get back to my “goal” weight range (which I asked my doctor to tell me, I didn’t trust my own judgment with something like that anymore). During this period I tried eating smaller portion sizes, using a nutritionist’s chart checking off each carb and protein I consumed, running two marathons, and setting moderate calorie ranges for myself. But the needle on the scale barely moved.

Though the emotional toll of these measures were more gentle than the extremes of my past, they didn’t free me of the obsession with weight. And because I had a healthy BMI, there was a part of me that was ashamed that I still wanted to lose the extra weight. Almost selfish. I thought that if my friends and family knew what I was trying to do they would disapprove. Or worse, that I might eventually actually get to my goal weight and plummet back down to 103 pounds again – without anyone stopping me.

Looking back on these fears, I see that they aren’t logical or even probable. But then again this fascination on my weight was not logical either. This period of my life lasted up until February of this year.

I Tried Weight Watchers and Asked for Support

In February of this year I read two stories about how bloggers lost weight using Weight Watchers online. I was inspired by the fact that both ladies had healthy BMIs and were not severely overweight, but still wanted to be at their personal best. I decided to try it myself to see if I could get the same results. And at the same time, I came out about my struggles with weight to friends. I told them my story and told them my goal was to be 5-10 pounds lighter and that if I ever reached a certain point, that they needed to say something. Setting a boundary on the weight loss goal helped me eradicate that lingering fear that I might someday be underweight again.

The Weight Watchers program itself was great. I do strongly support it for those who don’t know the basics of healthy eating or for those who do not use weight to distract themselves from bigger issues in their lives. In fact, of all the things I’ve tried in the past nine years, this is the most sound program I’ve ever done. I even lost some weight while doing it myself. But over the months I noticed that I would fluctuate between the same five pounds, no matter how many times I counted my points. And to be honest, most weeks I didn’t meet the plan’s point restrictions. When I was good, I was good. When I was bad, I was bad.

Besides the healthy habits that WW helped me form (I started eating salads again!), I think the most important outcome from this period was that my friends knew about this goal and supported me. What I thought would lead to criticism and shame actually was accepted. They didn’t care nearly as much as I thought they would. And that’s when it hit me:

Maybe this whole weight thing isn’t such a big deal after all.

Oh man, that was a huge revelation. It started to click at this point.

I Dealt With a Difficult Situation Without Using Weight to Distract Myself

At this point you might be able to connect that while I was going through this whole journey I was also processing the (impending) break up. The personal growth I made dealing with the break up was life-altering, profound, and it all happened because I didn’t use my struggle with weight to distract myself from the pain. That’s right. I learned how to cope with a heart-breaking situation head on – face to face. I cried about it, I talked to friends about it, I prayed about it.

The only thing I didn’t do was eat about it.

Once I realized that I was handling this huge challenge without using food, I realized this invisible friend of mine, “Mr. Eat This Not That,” no longer served a purpose in my life. Sure the weight obsession distracted me from difficult things in high school, but I am stronger now, I am capable of dealing with things directly. I had grown up, and forgot to exfoliate my security blanket.

Two books also helped these realizations click for me: Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love and Geneen Roth’s Women, Food, and God.

I Fired My Ego

After I finally realized it was time to let go of this obsession with weight my ego had plenty of ammunition:

  • You could get really fat if you stop paying attention to what you eat. Fatter than ever.
  • Why do you think your body knows what to eat after nine years? Thinking about what you eat is the only way to stay in control.
  • What if you just eat candy and ice cream all day?
  • Blah, blah, blah.

Basically, it was like my ego was filibustering, stalling for time. And though I didn’t heed my ego’s fears, I did assume I needed to gracefully reach a point where I would be ready to hand my eating back to my gut/spirit/core.

But that didn’t happen.

One day last month I felt so miserable, bloated, fat, and disgusting while on Weight Watchers that I FIRED MY EGO!

I could no longer accept the crap lies it was telling me about how my “body wasn’t ready to control itself.” Given the miserable decade my ego had to “fix all my problems” by focusing on weight, and the recent failure to succeed at a tried and true method like WW, it was clear: MY EGO SUCKS AT CONTROLLING MY WEIGHT.

So at that moment, quite terrified, I prayed that my body take control of my eating. I prayed that I might eat when my body tells me I need food. And I prayed for the strength to stop eating when I was satisfied. I prayed that if I did gain weight from eating normally that I would be happy anyways. I prayed that the volume on my gut/spirit was turned up louder to drown out all the angry buzzing that was coming from my ego.

And you know what? I haven’t looked back.

What I’ve Learned While Eating Naturally

Okay, so I’m still relatively new at eating what my body tells me to – and this is why I’ve been waiting for the “right time” to talk about this here on MML. But you know what? The truth is, I am going to have to make the decision not to become obsessed or addicted to food every day of my life. And though my ego still whispers and criticizes me from time to time, trying to pull me back into the trap, I haven’t once decided “my ego knows how to eat better than my body.”

Nope. Not once.

In fact, looking at this objectively, the results are fascinating:

  • I don’t think about eating nearly as much.
  • I stop eating when I’m full.
  • I am lighter now than at anytime since the binge eating began.
  • I feel free.
  • I still workout, but I’m not obsessed about it.
  • I run to clear my head and heart.
  • I look at my body as a whole and I like what I see.
  • I face problems by praying, not eating.

So I can’t promise you all that I won’t struggle with this da*n ego/weight thing in the future. As I mentioned, it’s a daily choice. But at this point, I haven’t found an reason to put myself back in the prison cell of weight.

It’s time for me to be free and move on with my life.

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  • http://anniesbutterworth.blogspot.com Annie

    I continue to be impressed with your honesty and bravery in telling your story in a medium that so often offers only perfect glimpses into people’s homes and lives. Thanks for sharing some of your struggles with your readers~ you’re right: Your story will inevitably be exactly what someone needed to read today. Thanks again!

  • http://onesydneyroad.com Piper

    Jess, you are truly amazing and so brave for talking about this. I think it’s so hard for alot of us to talk about our weight issues. So thanks for being so open and honest – and it’s so great to hear that there’s away to get out from under those issues! You are so inspiring and your story really resonates with me…thank you so much for sharing it!

  • http://www.estilohome.blogspot.com Flavia

    Jess, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing so much with your readers over the past week. I so admire your strength to be able to evaluate the challenges in your life and strive to turn them around in a healthy, positive way. I think your approach can help anyone suffering from any personal challenge. You are such an inspiration!

  • Rosie

    Thank you again for sharing such personal issues with us. Truly inspiring.

  • http://treasures-found.blogspot.com Erin Prais-Hintz

    Wow, Jess. I am very impressed at your courage to post about this. Obviously, you have been through so much and learned so much so now it is time to see if your words can help others.

    You are a beautiful soul. Someone that others look up to (read: me). I am so glad that you have this part of your life under control, that you are taking steps to live healthy. I think that we can all learn from this experience no matter what our own path is.

    I have never been a completely healthy person, and although I wouldn’t consider that I am a binger or something along those lines, I have never been fully satisfied with what my body is. I have learned to accept it to an extent, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.

    I know that I need to eat healthier, and more regularly, and make an effort to get moving (even if it is just walking around the office rather than sitting in this chair). Time is always an issue for me. I am on so many other schedules than my own, and my jewelry business is my 9pm-midnight (or later) obsession so there is always an excuse, no matter how legitimate it is.

    I was gone for a week and missed some of your recent posts. Now I know I need to go back a bit.

    You are fascinating. You are a child of God. You are beautiful inside and out. And I am glad that I found you.

    Enjoy the day, Jess!
    Erin

  • Olivia

    I saw your pics in this and your last post and I always thought you looked good. I guess everyone views themselves differently. I’m proud of you for taking control and firing your ego and recognizing what you were going through and how you handled it. Things like that certainly are not easy. Good job girly. Stay happy and healthy!

  • http://www.prettyasthemorning.blogspot.com Cara

    I appreciate your honesty and thoughtful reflection. Your story totally resonated with me. My own journey is very similar, and so I saw my story in yours, was reminded of my own convictions and encouraged to continue on the slow path towards a more balanced view of myself and my weight.

  • http://kikiverde.wordpress.com Kiki

    Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to share so much of your life with your readers. As someone who is on the journey of finding my authentic self after many years of self-doubt, self-sabotage, and self-hate, I can’t even begin to tell you how you inspired me. My most sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to you.

  • http://covetchicago.typepad.com Brigitte

    Oh, wow, Jess! I responded to your last post recommending you look into Health and Every Size, and you’ve already hit on one of the core tenants on your own — intuitive eating. You’re amazing!

  • http://justcallmesassy.blogspot.com sassy molassy

    Great post. It’s amazing how just becoming more aware and finding the strength within yourself to know when you’ve had enough is really the key to it all. I’m glad you found a happy ending to something that you’ve struggled with for so long. I know I still struggle and fight my body when I’m sick by forcing it to burn calories. Deep down I know that I do this because I’m afraid I’ll get “fat” in a few days if I’m not running or going to the gym like normal. The good part is that I’m aware of it and I know why I do it. And occasionally, I take it a little easier on myself. Thanks for sharing your story, Jess.

  • http://fiveoclockcrows.blogspot.com/ sara

    wow – this post really resonates with me too! I’ve been actively working (read: struggling) to get back to a healthy weight for the last few months. It’s definitely been a journey and a process, which is something I never realized before.

    I also never realized what a part my ego was playing in this process. Reading that part of your post was like a light bulb going off in my head!

    Thank you for your honesty, your inspiration, and your bravery! I don’t have the wherewithal write a post about my weight on my blog even though it’s something I think about every day.

    Thanks for being the amazing person that you are! :)

  • http://www.maggieroseonline.com Maggie Rose

    Jess, thank you for sharing this story with us! It just goes to show that put-together people aren’t always as put-together on the inside, and that makes me feel so much better! I’m at about the half-way point of your story in my own life. In the last four years I’ve put on (and lost some) about thirty pounds. And I was at a pretty healthy weight in the beginning. For a while I did Weight Watchers but gave it up when I plateaued – and since gained half of what I’d lost back. For me, I definitely eat to “treat” myself for the stresses I face – and then I make excuses for why I can’t exercise. It’s silly really, and I can see right through all of it but still can’t get over that hump. So I can relate and am so proud of you for overcoming even thinking about it! I still need to think about it for a while, get set in new habits, and then let go – because I tend to get obsessive about these things too. You rock, girl. Your daily struggle will diminish over time.

  • http://sweethearthome.wordpress.com JD

    Jess, again, thank you for your authenticity and transparency. I think one of your core strengths is your ability to ‘step outside’ to view yourself and your circumstances as objectively and honestly as possible. Of course, another one is your follow-through. Thanks for sharing your nuggets.

  • http://flourishtheblog.blogspot.com Jessica @ FLOURISH

    That poem spoke to me more than you can imagine…thank you again for your honesty and sincerity. We all have our demons and you never know how your testimony may help someone in a completely different situation. Thank you ten-fold!!!

  • http://meditationsonlifeandstyle.blogspot.com dayka @ Life + Style

    such an excellent post. thanks for being so open and honest about what has helped you. i too, find myself eating for no reason at times, and it’s definitely a hard pattern to break!

  • http://newenglandnoir.com Catherine

    Your lessons were definitely hard-earned, thanks for talking about them with grace and no shame. One of my biggest fears in talking about disordered eating or being obsessive is that someone would say, “You were never sick, you were never dangerously thin.” Just because you appear healthy doesn’t mean you are, and we all struggle with the nonsensical shame of feeling imperfect. It was great to hear another woman share her undiagnosed experience. :)

  • http://www.bonbonrosegirls.com/ Kristin

    What an amazing journey you’ve had Jess. Definitely inspirational! Way to be!

  • http://myquietlittlelife.blogspot.com rachel

    Jess, thankyou so much for everything you’ve written about this. It feels so familiar, most of it, it’s like it could’ve been me writing it. It is such an encouragement to me to know that I’m not alone, that someone else has come through pretty much the same, in pretty much the same way as me. It’s a day to day thing now, but inifinitely better than obsessing about everything.
    I hope you’re having a good day today :) love reading your blog, especially these sort of personal how-to posts…thankyou so so much for writing them xxx

  • http://spryonthewall.blogspot.com Jenny

    Wowza girl, you are wise beyond your years! So brave to share this story. I’ve been struggling with those last 10 lbs since I had my daughter 2 years ago. It’s like I forgot how to eat and deal with extra stress, but I’m getting back on track. Again, thanks for sharing, you are always an inspiration!!!

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  • http://www.annetheadventurer.blogspot.com anne

    Jess! Thank you so much for this post. I have been dealing with confidence and weight issues since I was a little girl. In highschool, I suffered from exercise bulimia like you, and had no idea how crazy I was about it! And when I finally got to be more healthy about it and not as controlling, my ego started telling me that I wasn’t taking care of myself and the guilt set in.

    It is such a hard road! But it really is a spiritual issue, and I am inspired by what you’ve written here. Thank you so much again!

  • http://purseonalsonline.com Abi Zimmerman

    I stumbled upon this post today and decided to leave a comment even though it’s almost a year later. The first reason is, I’ve been in those shoes before. Your words brought back some haunting memories of my college days. Some memories that I haven’t visited in a very long time. Second, I applaud your ability to recognize what is happening in your life, or what has happened. My journey wasn’t so poetic. I just became tired of working so hard for it and decided I would rather die of obesity than continue down the same obsessive road any longer. As soon as I “let go” I lost 20 pounds. (The yo-yo binging and starving had left me overweight.) It was liberating and the most healthy thing I could have done. Third, thank you for sharing your story. It takes courage. A courage I never had. I hope you continue to be so insightful and to write so honestly.

    abi

  • http://treatyourselfwell-online.com Caroline

    I found your blog today, and just stumbled upon this post. I have had a similar journey- and my blog is very much about putting pleasure and intuition back into food, and all around quality back into life- But I really love you put it: “Life with Intention”. Right on!

    “Women Food and God” is an amazing book. You look amazing, and I am so excited to have found your blog- its fantastic and inspiring. I may try to enter your DIY DYL this month… or maybe next month :)
    Caroline

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  • arielle

    Inspiring. Thanks.

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  • http://saturdaysstory.weebly.com Sarah Markle

    Hi there! New MML reader (sent your way from Lauren at StylizedEx) and then happened upon these two posts about your weight struggle. Sister we’ve got soooo much in common. I would say it took me close to a decade to figure out my battle with the result being kicking out the ego and finally being kind to myself mentally. Bikram yoga became my highway to health, opening up and feeding my body with positive mental power as well as cardio to shed lbs healthily. Thank you for being so candid and honest, it provides the real support and network we are all looking for as we conciously live the best lives we can. Cheers to you.

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  • Paige

    I just came across this post and I have a remarkably similar story. Definitely still learning how to eat intuitively and trust my body rather than counting calories. I’m going to read the books that you suggested. Thank you for sharing your experiences so bravely :)

  • http://www.pearlsnpeppers.blogspot.com Allison

    I am a new reader, and I just found this post. As someone who strugged with obsessive disordered eating thoughts my whole life, I commend you for sharing your story! It was a breath of fresh air to see that someone else understands the struggle with food and exercise, even though they are not diagnosed as bulimic or anorexic. I look forward to reading your blog!

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  • http://twitter.com/suzyelsmith suzyelsmith

    This is exactly what I needed to read and helped me realize a lot of things about myself. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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  • http://www.ninavucetic.com/ Nina Vucetic

    Hi Jess, I just came across this beautiful blog today and it ruined all of my work plans for the evening ;) But I am glad. Your writing and style is amazing. But your vulnerability is the magic.

    I had very disordered eating for many years – about a decade. It would become very extreme and out of control, and then I would “WILL” myself back into a food program, diet, psychologist, psychiatrist, a shaman healer, silent retreats, 3 hour gym workouts and protein shakes… until the next round…
    I just wanted to share with you – with complete honesty and nothing to gain here – how it is today.
    I have been completely free and recovered for the last 7 years from all the dieting, food obsession, “healthy” vs “not healthy, yo-yo weight and more importantly – the mental torture and self imposed walls.

    The mental chatter that begins first thing in the morning – will I or won’t I eat that today, what should I eat, am I going to be “good” today. And so on. Zero space and freedom. Minimal presence in your life.
    Today I am grateful even 7 years ++ later that I eat exactly what I want, when I want, I stop when I am full, I know what full means.

    I really like my body! But I don’t think about it all that much. I am neutral to all of these things and an intuitive eater.

    I always had a clear vision – of being a “normal” eater. All the things I described above. Even when I was at my worst, I never gave up on that vision.
    I am sharing this because I found it hard to hear the message that you can be completely free – nobody seemed to be saying that. SO I made a deal with God, the Universe – whatever you want to call it – that I would share the message and help as many people as possible if I ever did recover completely.

    And I have. Complete recovery, no obsession, cravings or thoughts about food or my weight.

    I hope that helps. There is no difference between us so if I can do it – why not you?

    Nina

  • http://jesslively.com/ Jess Lively

    Thank you so much for sharing, Nina! In the three years that has past since I wrote that post you just read I can say the exact same thing! I’m free of the weight struggles and miraculously ended up getting to the EXACT weight that I was struggling to get to before for so many years effortlessly. I eat the way you said, when I want, what I want, etc.

    I don’t know about you, but I was always pretty neutral about weighing myself for the past three years. I would do it on and off just to see what my intuitive eating translated to on the scale. It was never in an attempt to control it, but to be mindful in a gentle way and also to show my ego that it is no longer necessary.

    However, this week I have made a decision to stop checking my blog stats and my weight. I don’t know that I will “never” check my weight again, and I wasn’t abusing it in the first place, but I just decided that tracking results in the statistics area (which is what I really wanted to focus on) could also apply to weight, so why not?

    So far it’s been an even more liberating feeling. To know that I’m no longer even monitoring my weight in any way – positive or negative – is liberating.

    I’m glad our stories can hopefully help people who might be struggling with this as well! : ) Thank you.

  • http://www.ninavucetic.com/ Nina Vucetic

    Hi Jess
    I am so sorry I didn’t even notice the date!!
    Hope that didn’t come off as obnoxious! I just remember (and from what I hear) that people who have recovered never talk about it and its sad because you really want to hear some hope at those times.

    As for scales – I was spared of having to deal with it because when I recovered I moved to NYC (from Sydney) and I didn’t actually have one. But I remember practically living on top of it in Sydney. Wow, The madness. I was always adjusting it – like 1/8th of a kg or something – it must be wrong. And I do remember people always saying that scaled are triggering because they are a mood changer – almost like a drug. That made perfect sense to me. That number would determine my level of happiness for the day (or until I got back on…)

    So lovely to meet you anyway and if you ever wanted to share your story I have a website for recovery — and they love to hear stories of hope, especially from a beautiful, successful woman. No pressure, I will leave it to you to decide.

    Nina

  • http://jesslively.com/ Jess Lively

    That is so great to hear, Nina! It’s nice to know that someone else lives ‘scaleless.’ : )

    You are more than welcome to share the posts I have shared here on your site if you like (with a link and credit back to these posts, please). : ) I don’t have the time to write a new post just for the occasion.

    However, I am thinking that I might return to this topic on my blog since it has been so long sometime in the near-ish future as well. So if you’d rather wait until that post goes live to share that updated story, you are more than welcome to!

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