December 28, 2011

Falling trees

Last year, as I headed home for the holidays, I was a ball of anxiety. I'd been doing so well with my weight loss - down about 75 or 80 pounds - and had a killer routine of eating well, hitting the gym, and blogging daily. I was nervous about being back in an environment that not only had me apart from my healthy habits, but was the birthplace and breeding ground for the unhealthy habits that made me 23 and 345 pounds.

I made a very detailed plan - running maps, a little notebook for tracking my food, and even a list of the healthiest possible food choices at any of a dozen restaurants my family was likely to eat at. In spite of my good intentions, the allure of Christmastime-only things that my mother cooked (and some pressure from my family) was too much, and I indulged - within reason. I still worked out, still ran, and ate well every day except Christmas eve/day, and was able to return to Chicago and log a loss.

This year, I was oddly not nervous - my family dynamic has changed entirely, and there wasn't supposed to be a big feast. While the holiday itself was scaled back incredibly, the house is still filled with an abundance of a lot of foods that I do not typically eat or even trust myself to keep in the house - namely, refined carbs. Since moving to California and making close observations of my food patterns, I have remarked that eating processed snacks and refined carbs (like bread, crackers, and pasta) tends to trigger me into overdoing it with snacking. Perhaps because I like to get "the most" out of my calories and would rather have an apple or a banana and 25 grapes than 6 Triscuit crackers, or a few ounces of chicken breast and some veggies than a few ounces of pasta - fruits, veggies, and protein just fill me up more, and that feeling of comfortable fullness is important to me - not stuffed, but satisfied. Bread, pasta, cereal, etc., just don't do that for me.

I would like to be able to control my portions with them someday, but I can only reasonably work on one issue at a time. Right now, as a recovering binge/compulsive eater, it's easier for me to abstain and try to get my weight under control. When it comes to carbs, I'm like an addict ... one is too many, a thousand will never be enough.

Resisting trigger foods can be easy when I am on my own - especially when I'm focused on how lucky and how truly blessed I am instead of fixating on short-term problems like job and relationship stresses. But what I hadn't counted on with this trip back was being faced with the reality of my family situation, and all the emotions that came with that. I haven't been on the East Coast since this time last year; all of the changes here happened while I was away. It's been very difficult, and as an emotional eater, I've made my share of bad food decisions - both in terms of quality and quantity. It's a very poor excuse for actions inconsistent with the ones I know I need to be taking in order to obtain my goals. But in the moment, as I feel myself being overwhelmed and my heart being overtaken with anxiety, grief, and all the emotions I don't adequately deal with while living over 3000 miles away, it becomes easier to give in to old habits, to seek the familiar comfort of a carb crash.

I'll be heading back to Chicago tomorrow, and returning to California two days after that, and to be honest, I am not quite sure what to expect when I step back on the scale. I know how I look, how I feel, and how my clothes fit. But the number itself is unknown to me. There's no scale here, and as a daily weigher, that's been another challenge. Terrible pun aside, I need to find a happy balance for me with the scale. When I weigh daily, it can sometimes be discouraging. But when I don't weigh at all, I tend to feel like I am not in control of the situation. It's almost as if I don't trust my body to keep working unless I am constantly checking up on it's progress in this one measurable way. Sort of like "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" - if I eat well and stay active but don't weigh myself daily, will I still lose weight?

What about you? How do you stay in control of binge/compulsive eating urges while dealing with family stress at the holidays? How often do you weigh yourself? Any recovering daily weighers - how did you divorce yourself from the scales, so to speak?


Mom on a mission said...

I struggle with temptation everyday. I try to plan the best I can everyday food wise, so when those moments happen I am prepared:)

that TOPS lady said...

I do weigh daily. It also helps me to stay "in control" and focused. I like to know what's going on with my weight and how different things effect my weight.

The family/stress thing---is a hard one. I think all you can do is your best and just be thankful that the atmosphere is not a daily thing!

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I'm finding that so many people are overwhelmed with all the food and are abandoning such extravagances - and I'm glad. However, I didn't fare as well. I posted about it this morning!

SkippyMom said...

That is a gorgeous picture of you. I love the lighting of it and your smile.

Jillian said...

I don't handle family stress well. I've been in Ohio since the 17th, and things have NOT been going well. I don't have a scale here either, so I have no idea what kind of damage I'm doing. I'm trying not to completely lose my mind, but I will just go ahead and say that I have definitely been making poor choices. I think that getting back on track when I get back to my own environment in Alabama will be pretty simple. maybe one rough week detoxing, but I miss my healthy habits.

I hope your Christmas was meaningful, despite the fact that your family has undergone such big changes.

Charlotte said...

I have not done so well this holiday season. All the things I know and have been practicing for almost a year have gone out the window for almost a week now. The only thing I am proud of is that I kept going to the gym.
The thing is I know it`s all stress. Family members, change of job, finances, I have used food as an excuse.
But I don`t feel defeated, I want to get back on track and because I have been working out, the battle is half won over.
Have a nice trip back home..

Leigh said...

I weigh myself bi-weekly because that;s when I see my doctor. I used to weigh myself daily, but water weight drove me crazy, so I resigned myself to bi-weekly weigh-ins only. I have the exact same carb addiction as you. What you said about one being too many and a thousand never being enough, really hit home. I don't eat them right now, but am afraid for the day when I will introduce them back into my diet. I really don't know if I will ever be able to eat controlled portions of them! Here's hoping:) Happy New Year!

Hyla said...

Those are tough questions that honestly I dont know how to answer.

I think that because you are aware of them and your actions, you should learn to expect at least a little greatness out of yourself ;)

screaming fatgirl said...

The first time I lost a dramatic amount of weight was when I was nearer your age in college and I did it the way you are doing it now. I wouldn't eat certain foods, exercised a lot, etc. I never weighed myself then, but I probably lost around 150 lbs. and got down to the 170's. I sustained that through two years after college because I had the sort of job that accommodated my exercise habits and complete control of my food choices.

After I moved across country and got married, things changed. I had a more regular job and couldn't exercise the same way (I used to work two 16 hour days, now was working 5 days a week like normal people) and my husband's preferences and habits were factored into my eating. The truth is that I was still an addict with food and exercise. I never learned to control anything. I just placed the things I couldn't control out of bounds and made up for eating too much healthy food by exercising.

This time, I knew that following some rigid plan wasn't going to work for a variety of reasons. I'm too old and too fragile at 47 to push my body so hard to exercise. The best I can do is walk. I also knew that I didn't want to spend my life resenting what I couldn't have, having problems eating in any social situation, or wanting to keep certain food out of sight to keep it out of mind. I decided that mastering food rather than deciding it was the master of me was the only way to do this forever. So, I learned moderation and unloaded the gun on every trigger food.

The holidays are no different for me than any other time. I eat treats everyday in small amounts so it's no big deal when more of it is around or different stuff is around. I think this is what people who don't have damaged relationships with food do - they just eat a little and are satisfied. I learned to do this. People can learn this. It's not easy and it's not "willpower". It's psychological conditioning.

I weigh myself once a month, if that often. I make behavior the goal, not weight. That way I know I'm doing the right thing everyday regardless of what the body ends up doing. So many things influence weight on the scale that I don't want to allow it to control my feelings. When I first started, I didn't weigh myself for 6 months, and only do it monthly now because I figure I should keep an eye on things now that my weight is low enough that there is likely a substantial slowdown in losses (I'm around 180 now).

As you say, you can only master one thing at a time. This is a smart approach. Eventually though, it is a good idea to put things back in bounds that have been placed outside of them so that you can master your interaction with carbs. In the long run, it will be very valuable in normalizing your relationship with food.

SG said...

i know exactly what you mean. i weight myself ONCE a week. any more and it sabotages me! i keep my scale in a cupboard all week until my weigh in day!!

Bluezy said...

You have done such a great job "cherie Marie"! That is a wonderful pic. It is important to stress that the behavior is the key. I appreciate that.

I have tried to concoct the couch potato or more sedentary end of losing weight...It is good for a small chunk, but burns out real fast.
You are surely a living example of how it is not a mouth to stomach is the whole body including the brain.

Poison said...


and seriously... you always know how to word the things I'm thinking. lol. I always get crap for weighing daily and I can never explain why I do it. I know I shouldnt have to justify my reasons to anyone, but sometimes I want to like with my best friends or my boyfriend. I want to be able to explain my logic behind it even though it sometimes gets me down if i see the number go up a tiny bit, i'd still rather weigh in every day and know where i'm at than to skip weigh ins!

Miss Carrie Ann said...

I honestly weigh myself probably 10 times a day. I'm crazy.

Anonymous said...

I haven't quite managed that at the moment but working on the eating issues when dealing with family stress.... I am sure next year I will have a handle on it. Thanks for this post

Ann said...

I don't have any suggestions re: the scale. I am a daily weigh-er too. I thought it didn't affect me until I started noticing my eating patterns change depending on what the scale said. I'm still not in a place I can address those issues yet.... one thing at a time. :)

Re: eating with family and stress of the holidays - I think it is SO SO SOOO important that you can recognize and acknowledge trigger foods, areas you struggle, and anticipated responses. And even if you didn't do 100% how you wanted, you still had the awareness of what you were doing and why. That is SO crucial for moving forward - and something I'm still working on! Props to you, Mary! Wishing you ALL the best this holiday season!! I can't wait to see what 2012 has in store!! :) <3

Tammy said...

I will admit..if I "lose control," by eating carbs or's hard for me to get back "in control." It's a neverending battle. Over the Holidays, I DID eat way too much..fudge, cookies, mashed potatoes, etc. etc. It was good while I was eating it, but I felt like crap afterwards. I was weighing myself daily..but it got to be too stressful...if I stayed the same or gained..I would feel bad all day. I was obsessed. I just started weighing once a week..this was my first wasn't easy. I had to put the scale out of sight. So I'm still working on that. The reason I'm so freaked out about not weighing every summer, I didn't weigh much at all..wore stretchy shorts most of the time, etc. I gained like 75 lbs!!!! I WON'T let that happen again. So that's why I'm having a hard time "letting go" of the daily weigh ins. But I figure if I'm not eating a ton of food and I'm exercising some..then I SHOULD be OK. I hope.

By the way, I LOVE the pic!!:) You're beautiful!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog today. I can't wait to get to know you more. Happy New Year :-)

Carissa said...

I think you really hit the nail on the head with this:
"When I weigh daily, it can sometimes be discouraging. But when I don't weigh at all, I tend to feel like I am not in control of the situation. It's almost as if I don't trust my body to keep working unless I am constantly checking up on it's progress in this one measurable way."
I'm a daily weigher. Sometimes multiple times through out the day. If I'm feeling fat one day a lower number on the scale can do magic. But a skinny day and a higher number does some damage. I'm trying to not let the number define my image of myself but it's easier said than done. I'm thinking in January it might be a good idea to hide the scale and focus solely on how I feel. I think it'll be tough to not weigh myself daily but hopefully in the long run it'll be a good idea!