My Journey

What is the point of diets, starvation, malnutrition, gym memberships and all the guilt, anger, frustration, resentments and deprivations if, at the end of the journey, you gain back the weight you tried so desperately to lose? Ninety to ninety-five percent of people who lose weight gain it back. The struggle really seems to come down to how to keep the pounds off.

I did not get to 385 pounds without overeating, eating the wrong foods, binging, taking short cuts, sneaking food or denying to myself that all of the above was true. The first thing that I had to do was to become honest with myself.

This was not easy. But as difficult as it was for me to become honest with myself and stay so, it was the first step in my journey.

I must constantly practice complete honesty in all things, even when I don’t necessarily like it. This most-important commitment to honesty has been the saving grace in my life in that the truth really has set me free. When you lie to yourself it can be hard to be honest with others.

I have lost 210 pounds (and counting) by:

- changing my food habits and behaviors
- being open to what has worked for others
- practicing a commitment to a way of eating and living
- and through the support of a fellowship of peoples who share this disease of food addiction and are seeking recovery

I can only continue keeping the pounds off if I continue to do what brought me to this place today:

- I still exercise in moderation
- I continue to weigh, measure and write down my food every day.
- I do not consume foods that lead me back into the hell of compulsive eating.

There have been many changes to my thinking. These are but a few that I honestly know to be true for me today:

- Cake and cookies are not a reward.
- Candy is not a treat.
- Pizza is not an alternative lunch choice.
- Cheese, cream and butter clog my thinking as much as my arteries.
- Nothing is worth losing the recovery I have today.

I have not taken some kind of sworn oath to abstain from these foods--I do not scream their evils from the rooftops, insisting that you must repent and expel these foods from your life. The foods I am addicted to may not be problem foods for you. Only you can decide what foods cause your problems. I only suggest that you remain open to possibilities.

I was a chubby kid who eventually became a chubby teen. I was a fat bride at age twenty, a fat mom giving birth to our first daughter when I was twenty-three. During that pregnancy my gall bladder had to be removed. Gall bladder disease is often caused by obesity, and by poor eating habits. Did surgery change my eating? No. The first food I had after surgery was gourmet ice cream, a whole pint. That was in 1985. By 2002 I was up to between half of a gallon and three-quarters of a gallon of ice cream on most days.

I was close to 330 pounds when I gave birth to our second daughter in 1988. For the next eighteen years I was almost always over 300 pounds. My top weight was 385 pounds in the year 2003.

On January 3rd, 2003 I started the Atkins Diet and, in five months, I lost sixty pounds. Though I was losing weight on this high fat diet, I was not in a healthy place. The Atkins Diet did not have a plan to get me through the rest of my life, and so I came off of it by August of the same year. In January, one year after I started, I had already gained back thirty of those pounds.

In early 2005 I went for my first complete physical in ten years. I was shocked to learn that the doctor could feel a mass in my abdomen. Tests revealed a uterine tumor the size of a honeydew melon. Imagine having something that large inside of you, and not knowing it was there! A biopsy came back negative for cancer, so my own doctor agreed that I could wait three months to have the extraction surgery, giving me time to try and get my weight under 300 pounds. I joined a women's gym, eliminated sugar, flour and potatoes from my diet "most days." My weight was down to 301 in time for the surgery, in which the tumor was removed, along with my uterus.

I figured this was my wake up call and I would now “be good." That wasn't the case. I was better, but still insane with food-obsessive thoughts and sick behavior. Even though I was sporadically eating the wrong foods and still not exercising enough, I did manage to keep off the eighty-five pounds I had lost prior to surgery, and I lost another ten pounds by the end of 2005. But it was becoming harder to not binge and not go back to foods I really craved.

In 2006 I was determined to increase my weight loss and I got tougher with myself. I wrote down everything I ate and accounted for the carbs, protein, fat, fiber and calories each day. I exercised at least three times a week.

I read Dr. Oz's books. I watched his show and paid attention to the gems he shared: stay away from HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), eat enough to keep my metabolism burning calories, and give up soda. I watched "The Biggest Loser" and cheered for the losers. I watched TV shows about food addiction and read books about food addiction and still did not find the answer to the one question that I had: How do I keep from gaining back the weight? Every diet ended with a maintenance plan. By the end of every book I read that I could now eat anything I wanted in moderation. None of the books told me how to get my brain or my body to understand what moderation meant.

Toward the end of 2006 I had lost a total of 130 pounds and was starting to slip into my old behaviors again. The triple crown of Holidays--Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas--were upon me. I was buying and eating Halloween candy. The Food Channel was showcasing food companies that would ship food to my door, and I was ordering baked goods from Fat Witch, and candy and cakes from Swiss Colony. When they arrived I ate them as I took them out of the shipping box. Most items had already been consumed by the time my husband got home from work.

I felt like it was hopeless. By Thanksgiving week I knew that I would eat poorly straight through December and Christmas if I did not get help. I knew it was probable that I would gain 30 or more pounds in that short time. Yet I was full of so much ego that I believed I could do this by myself--if I could just get through to New Year's Day. I had the crazy idea that I could go to a support group for compulsive eaters just for the limited period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would keep me from gaining over the holidays and then I could leave on January 1st and go back to “what I knew was best."

From that first meeting, I have never left. Today I can honestly say that I hope I will not leave one minute before my life on earth is complete. My appreciation for all that I have received from this twelve-step program did not happen all at once: my journey continues. I have days when I struggle not to overeat certain foods ,but inevitably what I have in my life today is worth the fight.

The course occasionally changes in unexpected ways. When I first started with a twelve-step group I insisted on eating the way I had eaten to lose weight up to that point. I dropped another forty pounds. Then , when my weight stayed the same for several months, I became willing to look at the experience of some other people in this program. When I adapted new changes into my food plan things got better and I lost another thirty pounds.

Then I began to feel the desire to overeat coming back. I found myself wanting food and trying to think up excuses to make what I wanted to eat to be okay. I needed to really look at my food plan and be honest about what was causing this repeat insanity. I honestly already knew the answer. What I needed was the willingness.

Once I became willing to give up all milk fat: butter, cheese, cream, non-skim milk and yogurt, I found the freedom I was seeking and was released from the desire to overeat. I tried sheep's milk and goat's milk products for a while but eventually came to realize they also caused me to crave and want to overeat.

Since that day I have learned to look at my food plan with an open mind anytime I am considering the idea of shuttering the windows, disconnecting the phone, canceling my appointments and ordering a large extra cheese pizza plus a gallon of coffee ice cream. In addition to milk fat I have removed sugar from my food plan--this has also increased my willingness to stay in a healthy state of mind, where food does not call my name. Today, food is something I eat to live instead of living to eat.

The story continues. My desire is to get down to 155 pounds. Any excess weight still on my body after that appears to be redundant skin. Someday, if I am blessed with the financial resources, I hope to have it removed.

So, for today, if you want some insight into keeping the pounds off, please read my blog. If you can find something that helps you - I am happy that I shared it with you here. If you have an idea that works for you, please leave a comment. Your solution could help me, too.

Now get to work Keeping the Pounds Off!