This post is by contributing writer, Lori Manby.
When it comes to food, everyone overeats, or even “binges” when triggered by emotional events from time to time. Heck, in our society overindulging to celebrate life’s accomplishments is even EXPECTED.
So isn’t all this talk of “food addiction” really just a lack of willpower?
Doesn’t labeling it as “disorder” just give people ANOTHER excuse to be overweight?
What is the Difference between Emotional Eating and Food Addiction?
To understand the difference between “emotional eating” and “food addiction” I like to use this analogy: Take out the word “food” and replace it with “drug”…my behaviors were the same.
Bingeing was not something I could “kick.” I’d swear after each binge I’d never “do that again.”
And while everyone has some level of regret after overindulging, for me, the aftermath was paralyzing.
The obsessive thoughts of regret, along with the guilt and shame from not being able to “learn my lesson” consumed my entire life and eventually it affected my ability to make “good decisions” in every area of my life.
Once my mom bought me three months of Nutrisystem to give me a kick start to yet another attempt to lose weight.
The first week hadn’t even ended when I woke up in the middle of the night with an uncontrollable urge to eat, and it wasn’t because my stomach was growling.
I knew the feeling all too well. I tried to shift my thoughts, then flashes of eating would bring me back to the binge. So I told myself I’d just get something to drink… that was lie number one.
I was panicking… I knew the binge was back. There I was standing with the refrigerator door wide open just seeing what I had to drink… two seconds later I was eating cauliflower so frantically I almost choked.
But isn’t binging on better choices an improvement?
Perhaps, but this episode brought the same feelings of guilt and regret I’d feel after binging on “bad” foods.
But the fact I couldn’t even control myself with a head of cauliflower in the fridge was even more defeating.
It seemed like the only thing I was succeeding at was sabotaging every area of my life over the course of 40 years. I was slowly killing myself… with food.
How Did You Break the Binge Eating Cycle?
Time for the million dollar question: “How did you stop? How did you break the cycle?” This isn’t an easy, one line answer because it wasn’t a quick fix.
To understand “how,” you need to understand “why.”
I won’t repeat the article where I exposed my life as an addict and what led up to that “ah-ha moment.” You can catch up here.
Here are the “Cliffs Notes”: I loaded twenty years of photos onto a digital photo frame and almost fell to the floor when I saw myself. You know that feeling you get when you are dropped from the highest point of a roller coaster? That was it.
I’d been diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder two years prior, but seeing these photos was like being punched in the gut. I’d hit rock bottom.
Then, in the midst of this painful moment, instead of running to the fridge to find comfort…I had the most profound moment of clarity. I knew If I wanted to change my body, I’d have to change my mind.
And unlike the hundreds of times prior, that’s exactly what I did.
Breaking Chapter 1: One Size Does NOT Fit All
A lifetime of failed weight loss attempts proved there was a good chance I’d never wake up to chirping birds, anxious to drink a green smoothie and go to the gym (I get chills just thinking about it).
I tried the “you’ll learn to love it once it becomes a habit”… Blah, blah, blah.
Look people… Here’s the truth.
Running doesn’t take me to my “happy place.”
I don’t make better decisions at work because I’ve “cleared my head” with a morning workout.
And never once did I get that “boost of adrenaline” everyone talks about. I got that when I binged.
The only thing I DID get from exercise was a shaking body and pain.
Lots and LOTS of pain. And it’s not for lack of effort.
When I moved back to California in 2013, I made three more valiant attempts to improve my weight AND fitness levels.
Since I was vegan two years prior to joining Weight Watchers, I knew being vegan did NOT mean being thin.
So I sought the help of raw foods enthusiasts everywhere and reluctantly committed myself to the “Raw til 4” diet many people have great success with. Not only was it torture for me to eat uncooked food until 4:00 pm, I gained 5 lbs in my first week.
Turns out even “raw” nuts have to be portioned, just because they are technically raw (not roasted) are on the “list” of foods you can eat… does NOT mean you can eat any amount you want to and lose weight.
Then my sister roped me into trying the “make it a habit so you can enjoy it” thing I’d never understood, but for her sake, I tried it.
First, she got me a personal trainer, but as successful as she was, she didn’t know how to deal with my not being able to walk around the block without my outer calves seizing up. She trains people who were already “fit.” That was a disaster.
Next was counting calories with My Fitness Pal and she bought me a one month pass to Cardio Barre, since I used to love ballet as a teen.
When my teacher gave me the okay to go on pointe, she followed it up with “don’t gain a single pound.” As if I wasn’t self-conscious enough in that leotard. I digress…
For one month, I counted every calorie and 6 days a week I pushed myself more physically than I’d ever had before.
I burned an estimated 250 calories in a one hour class. That’s approximately 1,500 calories a week which put me at 6,000 calories for the month.
Stay with me here, don’t get lost in the numbers, I have a point.
One pound equals 3,500 calories. That means to gain OR LOSE one pound you need to eat—OR NOT EAT 3,500—calories.
Based on that formula I should have lost, give or take, 2 pounds.
I lost 0.2… you heard that right. I lost 0.2 lbs.
And WHY did I only lose 0.2 pounds when I was busting my butt to its limits?
(You’ll want to lean in for this one)… Weight loss is 80% diet.
Need more proof?
The average marathon runner burns (give or take) 3,200 calories.
Did you catch that?
Let me repeat… the average marathon runner burns (give or take) 3,200 calories.
The moral of this little story is you can work out all day long, but if you don’t get your diet in check you’re running around in circles, literally. (Related: Why Exercise Alone is a Terrible Weight Loss Strategy)
My poor eating habits combined with binge eating led to my being clinically obese and were no match for all my calorie counting and exercise attempts!!!
That’s when it hit me: “One Size Does Not Fit All” means finding a plan to get healthy that is realistic and works with your lifestyle NOW.
While I’d hoped my fitness level would improve at some point, I didn’t build my strategy on that hope. If I did end up exercising, that would be a bonus.
That “One Size Does Not Fit All” strategy lead me back to Weight Watchers, which provided the structure I needed. Now I needed to figure out a way to make the program work with my lack of exercise and “junk food vegan” lifestyle.
This time around, I had ten more years of experience of how things work in life and it hit me, “Did I really think I’d undo forty years of bad habits just because I’m tracking things in an app?” It was a completely unrealistic expectation.
Look at it from this perspective: Michael Phelps didn’t wake up one day, jump in a pool, learn which stroke was what and become an Olympic Gold Medalist.
Yes, he has the natural talent, but Michael swam six-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week when training for the Olympics until he retired.
At age fifteen he made the Olympic Team and with the whole world watching, criticizing his every stoke, he failed to bring home a medal. He could have quit, said it was “too hard”, but he didn’t.
Instead, he worked with his coaches to analyze his scores, and performance, study what his competition did successfully and came up with a strategy to improve.
He trained for another FOUR YEARS before coming back to the Games where he won his first medal at nineteen years old.
Once he cracked the code he didn’t stop training.
He worked harder.
And over the next thirteen years he went on to earn 28 Olympic Medals before retiring in 2016.
There it was glaring me in the face: I needed to train, and continue to train if I really wanted to Break the Cycle.
To train myself to remain in control of my binge eating, I spend hours researching point values, comparing foods, and pointing things on menus.
Knowledge is power. I want the power so I have to gain the knowledge.
We all go scanner crazy when we start Weight Watchers. We scan everything in the store shocked when we see what that “cost us” right?
I CONTINUE to walk the aisle of grocery stores scanning different versions of things.
I scan new things, old things, different versions of things I scanned before.
I scan things I’ve never seen, can’t pronounce, and didn’t know existed.
I do that for vegan AND non vegan items. I ALWAYS want to know the points.
Take soda for example. I have not had a soda since 1994. But I know Coke Classic is around 10 points.
Even if I don’t remember the exact point values, I AM able to have enough knowledge to get me in the ballpark of almost anything.
So unless you have someone to buy, measure, and plan every meal for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to work for it.
Simply scanning and tracking won’t sustain you in the long run, you have to train every day to learn what food “costs” when you don’t have a barcode in front of you.
Be constantly reminding yourself that champions are MADE, not born.
Next Chapter: Retraining Your Brain
Breaking the Binge Chapter 2: How to Retrain Your Brain for Weight Loss Success
~ Lori Manby, Founder of Vegans of Weight Watchers
~ FB page Vegans of Weight Watchers: https://www.facebook.com/VegansofWW
~ Vegans and non-vegans welcome in the closed Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VegansOfWW/
~ Instagram: @VegansofWeightWatchers
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~ Connect: @Lmanby
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Vegans of Weight Watchers …Changing the World One Point at a Time!
Please note: Vegans of Weight Watchers techniques are based on my own experience. I do not consult with Weight Watchers coaches nor I am employed or endorsed by Weight Watchers Corporation.
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