Me vs. Me
Today, I struggled.
I struggled with my former self, the old me creeping back up into my new way of living and threatening to take me back to being that person. I spent so long–most of my life, let’s be honest–with an unhealthy, toxic dependency on food:
Bored? Let’s eat.
Angry? Let’s eat!
Sad? Let’s eat…
Happy? Let’s eat!
One of the biggest turnarounds in my weight-loss journey so far has been severing that dependency and growing towards a much healthier relationship with food. I have tried very hard to change my perception on what food is for. It is for energizing and revitalizing our bodies. It is fuel, to power us through each day and allow us to do amazing things. I know this. I’ve read, I’ve researched, I’ve both heard from and talked to people about this. I know how to eat nutritiously, healthily, and how to lose weight because of it. I’ve lost 40 pounds so far utilizing that knowledge and banishing my old habits! But… sometimes, it’s a struggle. It’s still hard not to slip, because for so long that was the only way I knew how to cope.
I used to use food as a crutch for my emotional issues. In college especially, anytime I felt hurt or sad or lonely, I would hop in my car and head for the nearest drive-through. I’d toss around words and phrases like “we would like” and “for us” to make it seem to the person behind the window like the multiple peoples’ portions of food really was for multiple people. I would ask for multiple sets of plasticware or order two sodas (diet, of course), only to throw one out later. I would shove chicken nuggets in my mouth in the car on the ride home, or hide an extra burger or two in my purse so that I could hide my shame once I got home. You know, just in case any of my roommates were interested in what I had gotten. “Mmm, that looks good!” they might say, and then I’d go to my room, close the door, and it would commence.
If the guilt got bad enough, if I really ended up eating that entire pizza or that whole bag of chips I might have tried to, well, compensate one way or another. But more often than not, I wouldn’t even bother. That Triple Baconator AND Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger AND double order of chicken nuggets AND large serving of fries (dipped in ranch, of course) would sit like a ball of lead in my stomach, and I would just go about my (completely devoid of exercise) life: write a paper, watch a movie, and probably still have dessert later. I might wander down to the kitchen before primetime TV kicked in complaining “I’ve barely eaten anything today!” before making up an entire box of macaroni and cheese for myself. I had tricks, and I had denial, and for a very long time that is how I lived.
Today, I struggled again. I woke up around 11 AM and had a large, fairly healthy breakfast this morning: a small homemade healthified banana nut muffin and a Thomas’ Bagel Thin with lox and a smear of cream cheese. Then, around 3:00 I got ravenous. So I started thinking about what I wanted to eat. Nothing in the fridge seemed appetizing, so I decided I would go out and get something. I hopped in my car and made my way down to Baja Fresh, my mind set on some grilled fish tacos. Highly recommended by my Eat This! Not That! book as a lower-calorie, nutritious “faster food” option, I thought I was in good shape. And then as I was standing in line, the thoughts began. Why not get a 900 calorie Burrito Ultimo instead? I loved them. They were delicious. They filled my stomach to the point of wanting to burst with steak, rice, peppers, and came with a side of chips to boot. In fact, why not get two? I’d done it before. And it was hard to resists with those old rationalizations and justifications running through my head:
“I should just do it. It’s not like anybody will know.”
“I can just not eat anything else for the rest of the day and it will balance out.”
“I’ll just go running tomorrow to make up for it, no big deal!”
In case you were curious, I did end up ordering the fish tacos as I originally planned. I drove back home and ate them. They were very good and I was stuffed after eating them (the meal came with two.) That didn’t stop me, however, from continuing to eat the rice, beans, and complimentary chips that came with the meal too. And after all that, I helped myself to a large bowl of chocolate Cheerios as “dessert” too. Granted, the overall caloric damage wasn’t that bad, especially compared to what it could have been if I had caved to that burrito craving. But the underlying issue was still there: Why did I continue to eat even though I was full? I thought I was past all this.
I was looking over some old photos of myself on Facebook, from my senior year of college and my first year out in the “real world” (i.e. from when I was rapidly climbing to my highest weight.) There were some photos up that I remember being hilarious at the time (thus why they were not immediately de-tagged, haha), but looking at them now, they are really just sad.
In them, I am shoveling burgers into my mouth, eyeing plates of cookies hungrily and making jokes about huge balls of butter that came served with my dinner. I obviously must have thought they were funny at the time they were posted. And I supposed that objectively you might be able to see how they could be: it’s a little gross and it’s capturing a moment in a photo that most people aren’t supposed to see. If the person behaving so gluttonously didn’t normally do so, it would be especially funny. “Caught on camera,” as they say. But of course, that is also precisely the reasons why it’s so sad. Because it’s not someone else in those pictures, it’s me. And maybe I was in denial, but it’s obvious to me now that the scenes being depicted are pitiful. That’s who I used to be, and who I obviously still am to some degree, based on today. That, right there, in those pictures, that was what I was all about: food. And the loud, laughing, joking girl with that over-the-top personality behind the food? Well, she was just there to fill in between meals.
I like to think that I’ve changed. That I’m both literally and figuratively becoming a shadow of my former self. But, on days like today, it’s hard. And sometimes the support that you need doesn’t come, and sometimes that makes it worse. After all, my friends and family aren’t mind-readers, I can’t expect them to be. So, I’m here, trying to talk about it, make sense of it. Get it all out. It is, of course, difficult for me to write about all of this. It’s hard for me to put it out in the open, to make myself so vulnerable. But the truth is, I’ve been dwelling on writing a post like this for a while — today was just the tipping point.
I’m not so self-centered to think that I’m the only one who has ever struggled like this. I figure, if I went through it, someone else must be going through it now. And maybe–just maybe–one day, they’ll read this blog. And maybe–just maybe– it could help. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have the strength to click the publish button on this post if I hadn’t been reading something just as raw and exposed on Keelie’s blog earlier.
Sorry for all this dumping of emotion (though if you know me, you know that emotion is what you get, unfortunately), the overshare, the potential definite TMI (although who I am kidding? I love TMI.) I don’t blame those of you who jumped ship but I’m proud of those of you able to navigate through all 1,328 words (!!) and make it to the other side. Proud, but also a little scared. Scared of what this–really putting myself out there, that is–means. I can only hope that this will bring me on step closer to my goal, that I’ll have this day, this night, this moment to fall back on in another time of weakness. Because, let’s be honest, I’m sure there are still many more to come.