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Posted on Jan 29, 2011 in Dear Diary | 43 comments

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.

43 Comments

  1. You are most certainly NOT the first NOT alone in this struggle. Those of us who spent our childhood and most of our lives as “big” or “hefty” or “full-figured”, know that the struggle with establishing a healthy relationship with food is just that…a struggle. In some degree, it never ends. But that is why your approach and acknowledgment of the struggle is so important.

    You know, of course, if you crash into a diet and chase a specific number, you can reach that number and in half the time will bounce back to the old shape. But your determination to improve your lifestyle, in a healthy, measured manner is most likely to achieve permanent results. And acknowledging that your old habits still lurk just beneath the surface is an important part of it. Self awareness and self honesty are tremendously difficult…and I am really impressed at your facing up to it all!

  2. The fact that you are able to admit it to not only yourself, but to all of your readers, is a huge step. As you said, you are not the first, and definitely won’t be the last, to struggle with food issues but you have made such fantastic progress. Look at where you were and where you are now. And the fact that you DID resist the burrito (even though you indulged in more food than you really needed) is still an accomplishment. You’re going to have good days and bad days. Know that we’re here to support you and if you’re ever having these moments please call me! Let’s figure out what the underlying causes are. You have come so far and I know you can keep this going! :)

  3. Gretchen,

    I’m so impressed with how brave you must have had to be to push publish on this post. As you know, it’s far easier to sweep things under the rug, to pretend they aren’t an issue, to put on a happy face. What takes the real courage is being real. You’ve made tremendous progress since starting this blog – not only losing 40 pounds (!), but, arguably more importantly, in learning about yourself and how to be vulnerable in a way that is healthy and productive (ie: writing!) instead of damaging (binge eating). Don’t despair – you’re on the right track, and there will always be a few small derailments along the way to self discovery and a healthy relationship with food. But hopefully the difference is that now, whenever you start to feel alone or out of control or sad or even happy – you can turn to us instead of food. :) You are NEVER alone. Remember that.

    xo and hugs,
    Annie

    • Thanks Anne. I think you’re right, as hard as it was to post this entry, I hope I post others that are just as personal if it means I’m turning to writing instead of to food as a solution to any emotional issues I might be facing.

  4. hi gretchen….i just wanted to say that i thought your post was extremely moving. normally, i just flip through blogs casually reading (and very rare that i comment!) i read every single word of your post and all i could think about was how brave and real you are. thank you for putting yourself out there for others to experience…you really made me think about certain things i do when it comes to food and overeating. thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Thank YOU, Mary. I think your comment just made posting this entry 100% worth it. :)

  5. This is a great post. You’ve grown so much and will continue to. Keep up the good work. I love reading about your journey.

  6. You are definitely not alone in your quest for finding a healthy relationship with food. I too struggle with knowing when I want to eat because I am hungry or because my tongue wants its mini joy. I often feel overwhelmed by how many times a day I think about food, either because I am hungry, people around me are eating, or I am planning out my next meal. We live in a society where food is just EVERYWHERE. Luckily, we also have a strong support system here in blog world. <3 You are BEAUTIFUL.

    • I agree, Thais! There’s no way I could have come as far as I have if it weren’t for the amazing support of the healthy living blog community — I had no idea it would be like this when I started the blog and I’m so glad that I did. I know that it will be a constant struggle somedays for me, given how much I love food, love to eat, and my ability to be in self-denial haha. Thank goodness I now know I will always have this community to reach out to!

  7. Thank you for being so honest about your journey. I’ve also struggled with disordered eating for a long time…it’s much better for me these days and I’m rarely tempted by my old behaviors, but when I was reading your post, especially when you talked about going through the drive-through and ordering food for several people, I saw myself there. I used to do the very same thing. I stockpiled food in my room, I hid food, I lied about food, I ate out of boredom and sadness and confusion and even happiness. And on the other end of the disordered eating spectrum, I kept a daily calorie log and exercised constantly and thought the calories in mints were just TOO MANY. So…you are not alone.

    • That’s one my fears, too. Now that I’m taking steps in the right direction away from the binging part of my past, I know that it doesn’t take much to go too far in the other direction and become obsessive with the calorie-counting and exercise part of this new lifestyle. It’s always about balance, and I’m just trying to really learn that through and through. It, of course, helps tremendously knowing that there are so many others out there who have struggled and do struggle in the exact same way though, so thanks Cate. :)

  8. It is a struggle every day to make the right choices. Everyone has been there. I think about food all the time. Planning out every little thing that I am going to eat. I am doing Weight Watchers right now (again). I am really trying hard to make better choices. But it’s hard when you go to friends’ houses and there’s loads of chips and junk. I try to bring the healthier option, baby carrots, broccoli and hummus. But still there’s that enticement of ranch dip and chips.

    Food is just one of those things that you have to have, and it’s always there.

    • I know what you mean. I think part of what is hard about my journey comes from knowing that for me, the struggle might never really end. I mean, I love food. I love to eat, and I so easily let that control me in the past. It’s not like different vices or addictions where it’s easier to eradicate it from your life completely – unfortunately, you can’t do that with food. I guess it’s just always going to be part of the challenge of trying to live a healthier life for me…

  9. What an inspiring story, dear. I can relate to your story. I recently lost 41 pounds myself. When it dawned on me that I would soon be 59 years old and a diabetic, whose mother died at my age with complications of diabetes, I had to make a decision.Through the encouragement of my family and reading Anne’s blog and her encouragement I knew I could do it. I’m glad you decided to do something while you are still very young. After having 5 children and not doing anything about my weight gain after each birth, the pounds piled on. I am still struggling, but it is getting easier. Putting yourself out there is inspiring to the rest of us who have had the same problem. God Bless You Honey.It is never too late. I’m proof.

    • Thank you, Renie. I think that knowing that I’m not alone in these struggles is one of the most comforting things that has come of starting this journey. Thank you for being a living inspiration to all of the rest of us!

  10. i’m very proud of you for writing this post. you are absolutely not alone. i still suffer from this from time to time but it does get easier. the most important thing is that when you have a setback, to just keep going forward and try not to let it get you down.
    x.
    lzp

  11. I’m so glad you wrote this… for a few reasons. First, I think it’s really healthy and mature to reach out (to the entire internet!) for support when you need it. You know we’re all here for you, supporting you a million percent! Second, it is really important to think about your relationship to food. It may sound silly, but it really is a psychological transition. You may laugh at this (in fact, please do) but I’ve gone through the same thing with Starbucks. I can absolutely identify with the bored/angry/sad/happy eating – I’m the same way about coffee and I’ve actually been trying really hard lately to change that – hot tea is helping. So thanks for putting this out there – it’s really inspiring. Third, I’m obviously thrilled that you’re writing more! :-D It really is such a wonderful way not only to express yourself, but to really figure out what you’re feeling.

    I am SO proud of everything you’ve accomplished. I think this is about so much more than weight loss, and I’m really happy for you. You’ve done some great things in just a few months – keep it up! And don’t be afraid to indulge once in a while… you can feel better about that knowing that your overall attitude toward food is changing for the better. Love you, roomie!

  12. I know everyone else has said the same, but I am extremely proud that you were able to put this post up. Chin up.

  13. Gretchen, you have grown so much since high school. This post is a testament to that and how far you have come.

    I’ll admit that even I struggle with food at times. The worst is when I’m at work and things are slow. I think to myself “maybe I’ll go out and just buy a cookie, or a croissant, or a this or that” and only half of the time I am able to win that inner-battle. The worst is when I am with friends. I can easily eat an entire pack of Chips Ahoy when hanging out with someone, saying to myself “it’s okay, this is social time”. But afterwards all I can think about is “There was no reason to binge that much on food. You could have stopped at any time but you didn’t. Bad Ai Rei!”

    So props to you for putting it out there and saying what most of us think on a daily basis but don’t acknowledge. Despite the fact that everyone else has already said this, I,ll say ti again; I’m very proud of you and how far you’ve come. Kanadia is on your side!

  14. Great post! Thank you for your touching post. Weight has been a struggle my entire life. Sometimes I tell myself I should be able to indulge in a treat and then end up eating much more than I intended. A voice in my head tells me that by eating more at that one setting I am preventing future indulgences. Sharing your struggles on your weight loss journey is inspriring.

  15. Thanks so much for posting this! I have struggled just like you have and can so relate. You inspired me to post about my struggles with food on my blog. I am just beginning my journey towards weight loss.

  16. Hi Gretchen!

    I came across your blog today through Healthy Tipping Point and I just happened to read this entry under “About Me.” Thanks for sharing. I’ve experienced so much of what you were experiencing before. I wasn’t ever heavy or overweight growing up. In fact, my university years were some of the thinnest in my life. I have no idea when I decided that I would become a “healthy” eater, and I developed a lot of compulsions from eating, bingeing to exercising. It was miserable and culminated in a couple of hospital visits for me before I finally realised that I couldn’t live my life like this anymore. Your story about the drive-thrus and the fish tacos really resonated with me, because that’s the sort of thing I used to do all the time. Once in a while, I still think about it, but a lot in my life has changed. I’m not sure if you watch Oprah lately, but I highly recommend Geneen Roth’s books. Her books single handedly changed my perspective on life and opened up myself to a lot of emotions that I couldn’t otherwise have uncovered. My favourites by her are Women, Food & God, and Feeding the Hungry Heart.

    I wish you all the best and I’ll be following your story. :)

    ~Jackie (from Ontario)

    • Hi Jackie! I definitely need to check those books out as I’m definitely still on the path of trying to uncover my healthy lifestyle! Thank you so very much for sharing your story with me. It is always so encouraging to hear that none of us are alone in these struggles. I still struggle with binge eating and my previously toxic relationship with food, but my life has obviously changed a lot too — and for the better!

  17. I just found your blog. Thanks for posting – your emotion and honesty is refreshing.

  18. Just found your blog and really enjoyed this post…not only because it’s such emotionally charged material, but also because it’s so well-written! I often glaze through big chunks of texts on blogs, but you’re writing was so eloquent that I read every word. Any chance you were an English major?

    • Oh my gosh, thanks so much, Jenny! I didn’t go the English major route in college (I majored in Communication) but I took a few creative writing classes since writing has always been a passion of mine. I’m so flattered! :)

  19. This post is exactly what I needed to read :) I struggle to control my eating, and It’s as if something takes over my mind and I turn into a food buying robot at times, but this post helps to reinforce to me that it is possible to stop and get control back, so thank you! I’m glad I found your blog :)

  20. I just came across your blog and this post. Wow, you have put these thoughts and emotions into words in a way that most people couldn’t. Some of what you wrote about in the post sounds hauntingly familiar. It’s a relief to see that I’m not the only one who has those thoughts, and it’s even nicer to see that someone is working through all of it. Thanks for the post, and good luck with your journey.

  21. This is an amazing post. I’m a bit late to the party – as I just discovered your blog this past month. But really, amazing stuff. I have definitely felt this way before, when going through tough times.
    I’m still trying to lose some weight (what I call my ‘happy, relationship weight’ – eeks), and I need a kick in the pants. I come to you for that. Thanks! :)

    ~

    • I’ll kick you in the pants anytime, friend. ;)

  22. i read this.
    and it helped.

  23. Thanks for writing this. I found your blog through your guest post on Beth’s Journey and This is my first read. I can relate sooo much and am still struggling with that myself. I have a totally toxic relationship with food and the more depressed I get over my appearance, the more I want to eat. This is helping me right now.

    • Thank you, Leanne. I’m glad that you’re finding it helpful, though I know how hard it must be to be going through this all (like, literally. I know. Haha.)

      Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions, or just want someone to talk to who’s been there. Chin up. :)

  24. This post made me turn bright red.
    I felt ashamed… and then empowered.
    Your story and journey inspire me and help me face myself. Every day is a constant struggle for me. I actually went through a period about a year ago where I started losing weight (that I had meant to be losing for a long time) and then I hit a standstill. I was at a lower weight than my heaviest weight but it still wasn’t where I needed or wanted to be. I was still overweight and still am. I became comfortable with the idea that at least I wasn’t as big as I was. So I went into this limbo period for the past year. I would lose a little weight and then have it all come crashing on me in a big frenzy when I would give in to one of those “attacks.” So, I’ve made a new promise to myself to be strong and to face this upcoming future, every day of it, with a new mentality that I am strong and that I can be healthy and make the right decisions for my body and my life and be the strongest me that I can be.
    And you are a constant inspiration in my walk in that direction. I’m so glad I discovered your blog. I don’t feel alone anymore. Thank you so much!

    • Oh gosh Kristen, thank you for sharing your side of things as well! It’s still a constant struggle for me, and for everyone who has ever had these kinds of issues I think. Just know that your promise to yourself and your new mentality really is over half the battle. I’m so honored that you are inspired by my journey. You are definitely not alone!

  25. Hi Gretchen. This is the first time I’ve read your blog. I too have struggled with disordered eating for many years and am currently in recovery from it. However, today was a struggle to maintain that and I’m glad I came across your blog. I agree that is very well written and you are brave to display your emotions to the world. I wish you the best!

  26. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been struggling with binge eating myself, to cope with whatever sadness, loneliness, anger I felt. I’m trying to get better, but even though I feel stronger each day I walk towards a healthier me, I often get challenged by my old habits. It’s good to know I’m not alone and I can fight back.
    Keep going, beautiful!

  27. Thank you so much for this.

  28. You are inspirational. I was at a healthy weight two years ago, and allowed myself to gain 60 pounds in about 8 months. Fed up with myself and ready for change (the new year cliche), this past few weeks I have tried to be more introspective and self-aware regarding my diet. My relationship with food is, and always has been, unhealthy. I am really happy to have found a great blog by someone so smart, open, and level-headed with similar issues. Looking forward to reading more! (Also, I work at a government contractor and love writing. The fact that you published a book is incredible!)

  29. As a binge eater myself, I totally relate to this post. I too, like you started out at 246lbs (I was 5’2, though!) and I started to lose weight, was healthy for awhile, because obsessed and compulsive about my limited calorie allowance and my extreme exercising. I wittled by body down to 128, the lowest I have ever been, and then I snapped. This was midway through my senior year of college. I was depressed and obsessed and the binge eating crept in…slowly at first, so that when I graduated from college, seemingly the picture of happiness, I was about 145lbs. Then, more things happened in my life and the binge eating became worse and worse. I am currently 180lbs and trying to learn how to beat this monster so that I can be healthy and have control over my life again. You are inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

  30. First off, i think it’s very brave to put yourself out there like this. I can really relate to your story. I’m in a struggle with myself to. I wish you all the luck to win this!

  31. I love the post Gretchen. It has pulled at a few heart strings but so worth a read. Many Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us. x

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