Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A New Normal

For the last couple of days, I have not been hungry. At all. I got to dinnertime, rolled my eyes and heaved a heavy sigh because I knew I had to eat. I didn't care about food, or dinner, or any of that. I would've gladly gone without.

This is a feeling I have wished for, cried for, and coveted for decades. I'd hear thin people say "Oh, I forgot to eat" or "I'm just not hungry today" and I'd wonder how to get ahold of whatever magic elixir seemed to be coating their brain cells. Not hungry?? Forget to eat?? Absolutely foreign to me. I *never* forgot to eat and the only reason I ever had for not being hungry was because I was so stuffed I would vomit if I tried to take one more bite. I felt like I was *always* thinking about food, the next meal or snack, how to get it, how it would be to eat it, and how much could I possibly stuff into my body before I'd burst.

There were two times in my life... after I began having these binge/compulsive eating issues... that I actually felt sort of normal. Once was when my doctor put me on Phen Fen in 1996. I weighed all of 180 pounds so *of course* it was worth the risks of medication to lose the weight. *Of course* I was willing to stop nursing my baby so I could go on these weight-loss drugs and "get my body back." I lost all of six pounds before my husband begged me to stop taking them when I was so unwell from them that I literally laid down at the top of the stairs one day after crawling up them because I was too exhausted to stand up. I remember lying there wondering what was wrong with me. Yes, the drugs affected me badly. I stopped taking them, and then they were taken off the market for potentially fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problems. I am lucky I didn't die taking that stuff. It was *insane* to take it at all. But you know what? When I was taking it, I felt normal about food. I was not obsessed. I didn't think about eating all the time. I felt like my brain was "cured."

Then again, later, in the year 2003, I found something that helped me feel close to normal. It was not quite as dramatic; I still has some food cravings and obsessive days, but being on the South Beach Diet was very close to feeling *fixed.* Like I was a recovering addict... not an addict in the full throes of food insanity. I remember starting out South Beach at 270 pounds; I was desperate to lose weight. Morbid obesity was affecting my life. It's no easy task being a single mom to four kids and being that heavy. So I did South Beach, I got down to 237 pounds in 4 months. I felt freed... until I started doing "legal cheats" like sugar-free Fudgesicles coated with sugar free dark chocolate and peanut butter. Which is fine, unless you are eating 12 of them in a sitting. I was not free.

In 3 1/2 months I went from 237 to 278. In fact I was 282 on my doctor's scale. And I was so unhappy. I had tried everything, and everything had failed. I had failed. It was hopeless. Food seemed to have some kind of grip on me that I couldn't shake free.

Then my little girl was born. What a wonderful blessing! But it wasn't until she was 2 years old that I started this blog, weighing 278 pounds and so out of shape I could barely walk.

When I started learning how to eat, and focusing on fruits and vegetables and nutritious stuff instead of sugar, I had no idea that this time would be *the time.* The time when I finally started to *get it* and stuck with the effort for more than 3 or 4 months. I have *never* lost this much weight, kept off ANY weight for this long, or felt truly changed the way I do now. I felt that way *before* I started Medifast. But it has been a great tool to help me continue even further on this journey and reach new levels of understanding about myself.

I feel *normal.* I am not, so far, obsessing about food. I feel once again like my brain is "fixed." I understand the science of what's going on because I have read Kessler's The End of Overeating which explains the effects of certain foods on the brain. But at the same time, I know this "fix" could be temporary. I know that if I decide to eat a cupcake or a candy bar, I might be right back where I started. It's scary. I wonder sometimes if I can do this (eat healthy and not eat junk) for the rest of my life. I wonder what will happen when I have a bite of cake or ice cream or cheesecake when I am thinner. Will it be something I can live with? Will it send me spiraling into weight-gain hell? I don't know. That's the scary part.

All I can do, for today, is do what works. Eat what I need to eat, one step at a time, and get the weight off. Hopefully I will come to understand what, exactly, I need to do to maintain the loss over time. I have faith that I'll figure it out.

36 comments:

Kyle Gershman said...

This is wonderful Lyn and a very peaceful place to be. As a fellow food addict, each meal for me was critical and each bite of food had to be exactly what I wanted it to be and if I couldn't decide what I wanted, I'd just get them both.

I'm still an addict, but an addict in control. Whether it was just sytematic behavior modification or something to do with the chemical effects of the food choices, so be it.

Regardless, the other night my wife made a frozen pizza (one of my triggers). It was the first time, ever, that I had only ONE slice (and it was a smaller of the 1/8th cut slices) and stopped there.

I was able to enjoy the flavors and textures and simply say...yup... it is good and I enjoyed it. The remaining hunger was satisfied with a lite yogurt.

Like you, though, I know that I'll be ever vigil day by day to keep it this way no matter how my current level of peace or comfort may feel.

Megan said...

Lyn-
I just love your insights. It's such a comfort to have someone put a voice to these issues. Sometimes I feel you are doing all the work and I am benefiting from your insights. Thank you!!

Leslie said...

You're in a good place, Lyn. So happy for you. Like Megan - it seems like you do the work, and we benefit! We can only live in the present moment. It is where freedom and happiness reside. As long as we stay here and now, we can be free.

lindalou said...

Keeping it off...the holy grail...that is the hardest part.

skinnyhollie said...

I have been RAVENOUS TODAY! I don't know what is wrong with me, but the cravings are overwhelming. I want everything I can't have. I can't stop thinking about food.

Hopefully this will pass. Didn't you have a few "hungry" days?

Lyn said...

Hollie~

Oh yes. I was ravenous before my period. And for the first few days, just starting out. I think you might be battling for a couple days since you stopped Medifast and then restarted. But in a few days I bet it will get better!

Anonymous said...

It is truly amazing how sugar and refined carbs make us crave food and eating badly, and make us feel full of pain and unwell. We beat ourselves up because we think there are so many bad issues with us that keep us acting so horribly to our bodies, eating in secret and eating things that make us fat and so terribly unwell. We think that it is a defect within us, terrible things from the past that make us need food to calm our souls. This is very true in so many ways, but once we can get to a point in our diet and body chemistry that shows its really an addiction to certain foods that cause the vicious cycle of eating those terrible foods that is the bottom of a lot of bad eating behavior, we can let ourselves be free of so much guilt from thinking that its our minds and emotions that drive the bad eating behavior, and not a chemical addiction that keeps us going back for more.

Its so easy to be in this state of freedom, and for whatever reason (going back to "real" food, just having one little, little latté...) that can get us back in the bad spin without us even realizing that we are losing our freedom again, and once again beating ourselves up and punishing ourselves for what we think are totally internal defects in emotion and thinking. These defects are not who we are, they are symptoms of an addiction, that we can control, but its as hard as quitting smoking, quitting alcohol or any other chemical crutch humans have developed.

Good job, I hope that you can remember this simple little concept as you get to a point of cycling back into the "real" world. I work on this all the time. I feel so good all of the time, but can so easily get foggy and forget the freedom if I have just one little bad day. We know that one little bad day can lead to more months and years of struggle, having forgotten the freedom.

I liked your earlier post about finding time in your day that wasn't taken up by obsessing about food. Imagine, as you get stronger...how you could fill that up. Write a cookbook? Write a children's book? Scrapbook, paint...pursue a career that you may have put off while not wanting to "be out and about" with a heavy body that is sometimes not accepted in the career world? No judgement at all from me, I have worked through all of this and its good for me to remember what losing the freedom could cost me.

Kudos.

TeresaLynn said...

So interesting...I did fen/phen for about a month back in 1996, and I felt the same way about food. And the South Beach way of eating, which I've stuck with since 2008, has had the same impact. It is nice to feel normal about food...but I know that can change quickly. There are times the peanut butter and fudgesicles (and hummus...whole grain bread...more!) have to be banned from my house for a while, and times when they are just something in kitchen that I have every now and then, in normal portions.

Good luck to us all as we keep the normalcy alive!

Tony The Pink Panda said...

Hungry has always been an issue while on a diet (and really when not on one either).

I've told other people this quote from Tom Venuto; it's a great one:

"The hunger you are feeling is the fat cells shrinking"

I'm glad that you have been able to overcome hunger and obsessive food thinking! I wish I could say the same for myself.

Shelley said...

I'm glad to hear that you are feeling so good. Less than a month into this and look how the cravings have been lifted! I know for me, that if I eat sugary, carby foods, my cravings come back in triplicate and that's why I just don't eat that stuff hardly ever - I like the way I feel NOW too much to go through that again. Hang onto these feelings, Lyn!

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit said...

I think our brain hangs on to these wantful feelings for way too long, but they do diminish over time. I've been eating pretty clean for months and I seldom have any crazy cravings anymore. When I do, it's at times that I recognize an old association with eating, say on a long car trip.

Sounds like your body and brain are getting in sync on this mission to lead you to a better place. About damned time, I say...

Seren_Sighs said...

Wow. I seriously just posted a blog about wanting to be normal and about diet pills as well.

I took diet pills last year around this time and lost some weight. Not a ton of weight, only about ten pounds. But that's almost two dress sizes on my tiny five foot frame. And I didn't think about food either. I didn't really want food. I wasn't too interested in eating and I felt awesome because I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight. This was simply because most of the time I was eating healthy low calorie foods and when I did eat something higher in calories I didn't eat much of it. I also got a job a few weeks before I started taking the pills so I went from being sedentary to being decently active. So I would have lost weight anyways, but the pills gave me no appetite and made me feel energetic and happy.

I too loved that feeling of being free. Of being normal and not thinking about food all the time. Not wanting to eat because I wasn't hungry. I can't remember ever being like that before and I just loved feeling like my skinny friends.

Last night I binged because I was so lonely. It was the first time that I was really aware of my feelings and how food affected them. I noticed how eating really made me feel better. Take a bite and depression is gone. I've never been so aware before. I'm lucky that my binges are small and I'm not a food addict so it wasn't more than 1000 calories. But it really shed some light for me.

Last night I decided I wanted to get that feeling of normalcy back. Without the pills.

BB said...

Lyn, I just wanted to say hi and to thank you for sharing your journey. I'm just starting mine; I think I'm still in the "honeymoon" stage and learning. Reading blogs like yours are giving me a new perspective and the feeling of "I'm not alone" that I've never had with previous weight-loss efforts. I even decided to start a blog of my own. I also picked up the Kessler book thanks to your suggestions, and I'm learning a lot from it too. Best wishes to you!

Debbie said...

Hey I know where you are coming from. My post is about being a food addict. I am glad you are doing so great.. Congrats..

Dreidl said...

Lyn, long time lurker here. You have inspired me to get going on my journey and finally tackle my food issues. I have started to blog about my journey as well. It is very helpful to be part of a community of people who understand what you are going through. Thanks for being part of mine.

Blimpy Christian said...

My goal, much more than weight loss I think, is to have this peace of mind. :(

MB said...

Lyn, I don't know how you do it but you have a way of pulling the thoughts right out of my head. I've had success losing weight and each time I felt like I was "fixed" only to regain and start the process all over again.

I may not be losing as quickly as I'd like but I'm working on other areas so I can make it the last time. Yes, I have faith we will figure this out.

Rebekah said...

Lyn, First of all, you are doing AWESOME! you rock girl!

I remember years ago wondering if I could ever get out of the state of obsession. I am much closer to being out of it though not fully.

I think one thing I really like about medifast is that they seem to put jsut as much time and effort into maintenance and transition as they do actually losing the weight.

With that being said, i want to share something I read around jan 1, I think the first time it was posted on yahoo (sorry the link is now broken) Written by Dear Abbey

New year offers each of us the chance for a fresh start
Jan 01, 2010 12:01 am
Share |
DEAR READERS: Can you believe it's 2010? It's the 10th anniversary of Y2K. It seems like only yesterday.... But a new year has arrived, bringing with it our chance for a new beginning.

Today is the day we discard destructive old habits for healthy new ones, so with that in mind, I will share DearAbby's often-requested list of New Year's Resolutions — which were adapted by my mother, Pauline Phillips, from the original credo of Al-Anon.

Just for today, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.

Just for today, I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

Just for today, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot.

Just for today, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.

Just for today, I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.

Just for today, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.

Just for today, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully -- if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.

Just for today, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

And now, Dear Readers, I would like to share an item that was sent to me by I.J. Bhatia, a reader who lives in New Delhi, India:

DEAR ABBY: This year, no resolutions, only some guidelines. The Holy Vedas say, "Man has subjected himself to thousands of self-inflicted bondages. Wisdom comes to a man who lives according to the true eternal laws of nature."

IDon'tEatGreenJellyBeansAnymore said...

I'm still fighting the cravings and the "what can I eat next" syndrome. I'm sick of being obsessed with food. Just thinking about starting a "diet" does that to me. Hello, I'm Anne, a carboholic. I've always known simple starches were my enemy. In order to lose weight at all, I have to dodge them like a lecherous relative at a family reunion.

Reading your posts help, but I have to get my mind in the right place. Did I mention I was stubborn, as well? Ah, back to baby steps and internal battles, much like your recent pizza skirmish.

Keep writing and I'll keep reading. It helps a lot to know I'm not alone.

lsalant said...

I've been enjoying reading your blog and hearing about your journey. I read a post from an MD on a weight maintenance blog today that made me think of you. Maybe this is one of the reasons Medifast is working for you...its regimented nature and your full compliance with the program. Check it out if you have time.
http://refusetoregain.com/refusetoregain/2010/03/the-faulty-metabolism-myth.html

Sammy said...

Wonderful post, I've just begun my weight loss journey and created a blog, but I find you so inspiring and have been reading yours for months, I'm so happy to hear what a good place you're in right now.

:) <3

KCLAnderson (Karen) said...

I feel your peace. I've been feeling very much the same way lately...I remember how angry I'd get when I was hungry for seemingly no good reason. Right now the answer seems to be that the more I fill up my heart, the less I need to fill up my stomach.

-J.Darling said...

One thing that's helped me in the "real world" (I kept 60lbs off from Medifast, and got off track, but need to get my "rules" back) - is the One bite rule.

Think about it. What's the BEST part of trying a good/new/yummy food. The first bite! It's all downhill from there, really. NOTHING tastes as awesome as that first bite. So I go for the first bite rule. I get 1 bite/day of something I want. I throw away or give away the rest. ;)

That rationale keeps me in check most of the time. It's when I forget to THINK that I binge.

My Lipstick Life said...

This is what scares me too. I thought I was cured back in 1999/2000 when I lost all my weight last time. Here I am again and I am scared of maintainance time when it comes around again. Hopefully, with blogging we can do this together!

Anonymous said...

Yours (and others') descriptions of not being hungry, and of feeling "normal" towards food (not wanting to binge), sound a lot like descriptions of a spiritual awakening or the early *high* of a religious conversion.

Kind of reminds me of 12-step group discussions about the drug/ alcohol/food cravings being *removed* by a higher power.

That's a really interesting phenomenon for many reasons.

For instance, I've often wondered if this phase in weight loss/dieting is a kind of placebo effect--a wonderful biochemical reaction created by our brains. Thoughts manifested as helpful neurotransmitters.

I hope we all find a way to tap into this lovely experience, whatever its source...and that it will last for decades rather than weeks, months or years.

My longest episode of this type lasted four years. Then it was gone as mysteriously as it arrived.
I was devestated.

MargieAnne said...

About never eating things like cup cakes again. Maybe some of us will always be in that group. A bit like an alcoholic who cannot let a drop of alcohol on near the mouth.

I am finding I can eat many things so long as they become infrequent 'treats.' The moment I think I can eat bread or other baked goods two days in a row I'm on a very slippery slope with little chance of recovery before I hit the bottom.

I still consider myself intolerant of wheat so I believe those foods are a kind of poison to me.

For now it's not worth pushing boundaries. I will find the complete answer when I work at maintenance.

Dinah Soar said...

Being realistic here Lyn--yes the time will come when you will 'be hungry' again. You're not now, but it will pass. There is no magic bullet. Whatever it takes to lose the weight is the same thing it takes to keep it off forever. I get the idea after having read your blog for these past 2-3 years that you believe that the majority of thin people can eat as they please. But the reality is they can't..they make trade offs. It's just not obvious to the casual onlooker and sometimes not even obvious to their friends. Many people think my daughter-- who is a bean pole-- can eat as she pleases. Not true..she is always using trade offs and self control. She will skip the starch in a meal if she plans on having dessert, for example. Very very few people are genetically thin. Each of us choose our destiny to a certain degree. Everyone has a cross to bear. I didn't realize this until I was much older. I was always seeing everyone else as having 'greener grass'. But guess what--they don't.

I am very happy for you that you are doing so well and I think doing Medifast was just the thing you needed to get you over the hump...but it is not the fix. No diet or program is the fix. YOU are the fix, and only you can fix what ails you.

I think you are learning, as I too have finally learned, that making the right food choices particularly when it comes to carbs has a profound effect on our appetite. It is in our hands to eat the foods that help us meet our goal and to avoid the foods that hinder us.

Crys said...

You're really peaking my interest with MediFast. I've read the End of Overeating but I thought it was just too hardcore. Weight Watchers appealed to me because nothing was off limits but maybe therein lies the problem...

screwdestiny said...

That's really wonderful. I hope this feeling of being "fixed" lasts for you, and I also hope that you will be able to enjoy a treat once in a while without reverting to your old ways.

Diana said...

I really think it's from completely cutting out any crap food. I know you ate mostly healthy before MF, but I also know you ate sugar and sometimes other processed foods. I firmly highly processed food and sugar are the cause of our cravings.

Since I cut out the Weight Watcher ice cream bars and Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches I've noticed a world of difference in my cravings. They're almost non-existent.

Sleep really helps too. :)

I'm happy for you Lyn. You may have found the secret, that really wasn't a secret at all. I think we just didn't want to accept it.

Oh - and you'll be fine when you go back into eating regular food. Just try to stay away from the processed junk, even the "healthy" processed junk stimulates the cravings.

Go Lyn!!!

Steph said...

Lyn, thank you for constantly being awesome! I'm so glad to hear of this victory! I read your blog all the time (but rarely comment), and I appreciate so many things about your posts!

If you were back at the beginning, in the 270s, afraid you would never find the will power to eat healthfully... Certainly not the will to eat "clean." What would you do? Try South Beach and not give yourself the option of indulging? (I love the way you put it; it's so true: my indulgence is simply feeding the addiction.) Try Medifast? Again keeping in mind the ban on carbs and refined sugar... Work on eating clean on your own? I can't seem to stop indulging and binging. I don't want to have surgery or take pills, but I'm tired of making excuses and failing to work at it! I'm just tired!

Thanks again, Lyn. You are such a help and inspiration.

Jennifer said...

Hi Lyn. I have had this same experience. I just finished week 4 of Medifast and am down 17.5 lbs. I too have not been hungry which is a new concept for me. I dont feel like I am constantly thinking about my next meal and that is a great thing for me. If I get hungry it is just a hungry feeling in my stomach...not a emotional excitement of what I can eat now. I lost 40 lbs before Medifast and put 20 of it back on. And like you, I was doing it the right way but it was easy to get sidetracked when you get hungry. And that is why I like Medifast. I know I can maintain my weight once I get to my goal weight. I know how to eat properly. My issue is the actual loss and trying not to be hungry and consumed by food. Thanks for your post. As usual it is like you pulled thought right out of my head :) Would love to have you follow our blog. You are so motivational.

http://wecanlosethepounds.blogspot.com/

Kyle said...

You are such a great writer, Lynn. I truly have always loved following your blog and now that you've had all this success I'm blown away. Your determination and positive attitude never changes throughout it all.

I hope this last too for you.

Lyn said...

Dinah~

No, I don't think thin people can eat as they please. I do think that most thin people do not have compulsive eating disorders or binge eating disoders though, which is something that complicates the whole weight issue.

And as I've always said, there is no magic bullet.

Steph~
If I were back at the beginning at 278, I would do *exactly* what I did back then, which was focus on the Farmer's Market and eating more fruits and veggies and less junk. And blog! I think it worked wonderfully for me to get a very nice chunk of the weight off. Of course as time went on, I had other things to work out, and what I was doing was good enough to maintain around 225-230 pounds, but not to lose more. So I had to switch things up.

Steph said...

Thanks, Lyn. Congrats on 220!

Lyn said...

Isalant~

Thanks! I enjoyed reading that. Makes you think...