I have written about different people that I met and different experiences that I had, but in this post I want to speak about my longest and most difficult relationship- my relationship with food.
I feel addicted to food. I don’t mean to use the term loosely or to disrespect anyone, but it is the only word I have in my arsenal to explain how I feel. There are times where my brain just clicks and there is almost nothing I can do to stop the amount of food that I eat. Those times propelled me to 310 pounds at the age of 17.
I want to share some habits that I have picked up that have helped me become more healthy and disciplined with food.
- Buffets are the worst. Any place that will give me unlimited food is not the place that I want to be. One of the most successful ways that I have tempered my food consumption is by limited the amount of food that is in front of me at any given time. If I only have one serving of food in front of me, then that is all I eat.
- All or nothing, I choose nothing. There are people out there that are capable of eating only one slice of cake. I don’t (yet) have that capacity. There are many times when I ate one slice of cake, and then thought “well, might as well eat the whole cake.” And then I did. I know, that sounds crazy. It is easier for me not to eat any cake than to eat only one slice; so I choose not to eat any.
- Wedding, here I come. The most disciplined I have ever been with food was the 6 months leading up to my wedding. I got down to 190 lbs, which is the lightest I have been since the age of 13. There was no cheesecake that was going to get in my way. But beware of relapse after you hit goals (I have never worn the suit that I bought the day before my wedding because it no longer fits).
- Accountability and comrades. There is nothing like public shaming and some support to make me buckle down. When I ran a half marathon for charity, I told everyone I knew. The shame I would feel if I didn’t run after getting 140 people to donate money to the cause was enough motivation to go out and train. At the same time, I started running with a friend of mine on Sunday mornings, which made the training very enjoyable. I had the possibility of shame pushing me forward and the novelty of a good time pulling me in: great combo.
- Get it off your mind. My willpower immediately depletes when I have to make choices about food while hungry. So I plan out and cook meals days in advance. My days are much less stressful when I don’t need to think about food. I get hungry and I know my lentils are close by to satisfy that hunger.
I still struggle with food. I am currently trying to get to the point where I can leave some food on my plate, become more aware of whether or not I am hungry, eat one portion of cake. I tinker with different strategies, some stick, most don’t. Counting how many times I chew doesn’t help, walking to the bathroom in the middle of a meal and washing my face does (surprisingly). I am working on getting to a point where I enjoy eating more.
Luckily, I have gotten to know myself well over my lifetime. I know how I act at a pizza buffet, at a long dinner with friends, at a wedding. So I build systems to help me control the different urges that I have. It’s a work in progress, but I am happy with where I have gotten so far.