Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Walking in Circles

Sometimes I feel like I am walking in circles with my eating. Actually, I feel like I started walking in circles some time ago... years ago... and have not stopped yet. It is dizzying. Does it ever stop? Or do the circles just get bigger?

I don't know when my food obsession/eating issues began. I really can't pinpoint it. I used to be normal. I used to be a kid who played and laughed and dreamed, and eating was a great fun thing sometimes and an annoyance at others, but I never remember having food in my head and wanting it so bad it drove me nuts. If I wanted a candy bar in the store, it was simply because I saw it in the checkout aisle. If my mother said no, so what? I forgot about it the next minute. If she said yes, that was fine too. I'd eat it, enjoy it, and forget about it.

Even in college, I was normal. There was a little sandwich shop near our apartment, and they had the most delicious subs. In the year that I lived by that sandwich shop, I think I ate there 3 times. They were the kind of subs that *now* I would obsess over: they handed you a checklist when you walked in, and you simply checked off all the ingredients you wanted on your sub. You could have 4 kinds of meat and 3 kinds of cheese and a flavored mayo and some cream cheese and olives on it or whatever you wanted, on one of many kinds of freshly baked bread. And it was amazing. But I never, ever in that year obsessed about going there for a sub, even though I had to walk past it every day. I never wished and hoped and scraped my pennies together to go get one. When I got one it was good, and when I didn't, I just didn't think about it. I was normal, and I wasn't walking in circles with my eating yet. I was walking a straight line. And I was thin.

Even when I started gaining weight, which was after I lost a baby (my second pregnancy), it wasn't really about food or dieting or obsessing or anything. I was just not as aerobically active because I had a little one to care for, and I was eating more because I was hungrier while breastfeeding, and I was learning to be a better cook so there were yummier things around to eat. That's all. I had some pregnancy weight, I ate a little too much, I had 20 pounds to lose, so I did. I was still not walking in circles yet.

I am not sure exactly when it happened. It sort of snuck up on me. I think I started eating more when I was stressed out with several little kids to care for and my marriage started falling apart. I didn't even know I was turning to food for comfort, or that I was eating my feelings, but I was. That loaf of bread I baked began to disappear much faster than before. The big pot of cheese soup didn't make leftovers for 3 days anymore. And I somehow got all the way to 200 pounds. And I felt fat, and I had to lose weight pronto. And that, I think, is when my walk became a little more crooked and a little less straight. That first circle turned into another circle and another and when I ended up divorced with four little kids ages 1 to 7, I was walking in spirals so tight they'd make your head spin. Eat, diet, indulge, restrict, eat, diet, get fatter, fatter, fatter... it was insane. All the emotional turmoil and no one to turn to for support was just too much. I was in dire straits then. I was actually an emotional wreck. And my eating habits reflected that.

I worked, I stressed, I ate. I went to the food bank for nourishment for my babies and came out with a grocery cart full of day-old bread and cake and donuts. It was discouraging. I cried because I "should be" grateful for the free food they were giving me but I knew it was not what I should be eating, much less feeding my children. But when you have 19 cents in your checking account, there aren't a lot of options.

I hit my all-time high about then: 227 pounds. Then 245. Then I began what turned into a seemingly endless cycle of lose weight, gain weight. Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, "lifestyle change," calorie counting, OA, support groups, you name it, it "worked" but then it didn't. I wasn't ready. I was too stressed. I *needed* to overeat. 229, 262, 245, 270, 237, 278. Yep, 278, which I hit in 2005 about the time I got pregnant with my daughter. I did get down to 257 after she was born, but then went right back to 278 again (the doctor's charts say 282 or 283 at one point). And that is when I started this blog.

The circles have continued, but have loosened. I lose a chunk, I regain slightly, maintain a bit, then start losing again. The stretches between gains is much longer, and the gains themselves are remarkably smaller. There was no "maintenance" back when I was circling madly. It was up and down, up and down with barely a pause at the lower weights and a massive rebound to a new high often followed. Now, the circles are slower and larger. I feel more stable. But they are still happening.

I wonder if they will ever stop. I often think about what it would be like to be normal again... to walk a straight line with my weight and eating. Do you think that is possible? Can a person who has spent decades spinning like a top in regards to their eating put on the brakes and just BE? Can the food obsession end... not just for weeks or months, as I have experienced, but forever?

I wonder. But for now, my focus is just on continuing to slow and widen the circles I walk, so that they don't affect me as much... so I can think and decide and choose the direction I am going instead of just flinging wherever the momentum takes me.


ssm said...

I feel the same way. I used to not even think about food, and I don't know what happened. I hope one day, for both our sakes, that the circles stop.

Cindy said...

when my life is filled with more fun stuff I eat less... no question. My soul is comforted by the FUN not the food. I definitely have to schedule the fun though or I get into a slump - tennis, vball, crafts, etc.

Marcela said...

beautiful post. Thank you.

Ferumbras said...

I was incredibly moved by this post, in part because last night I sat down and did my own soul-searching about weight gain. I think it is possible, in time, to turn that spiral into a curve, then that curve into a line. It's like straightening crooked teeth -- you can't do it all at once; it requires a little tightening over a period of time. But you can do it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was in a similar cycle like you. I found reading Geneen Roth books started me looking at my eating issues differently. Beyond chocolate-was also very useful.
I think the whole diet, restrict, binge, feel awful, so diet again patten can keep these circles going. Amazing blog and you write so beautifully. You have done an amazing job with the weight loss especially with so many family and life commitments.

Anonymous said...

I've thought the same thought many, many times. What's it like to be normal? And then, of course, one must define "normal". My eating goes back to very early childhood: parents sleeping off a bender, little girl is lonely, hungry and eats an entire box of potato chips (yes, they used to come in a box). Parents find this quite funny and a ritual of "using" potato chips to satisfy, calm, feed, (just fill in the blank here) perpetuates itself into a habit I can't seem to let go of. It did something for me as a child that nothing else would. How can I let it go ... and just BE, when I really haven't a clue how to do it.

LHA said...

I totally understand and relate to what you are saying. Many of the same actions, feelings and thoughts have haunted me for years. I don't ever remember having a normal relationship with food, though. I think my dependence on food as a tranquilizer began as an infant when I was fed the standard 1950's baby formula, which was filled with corn syrup. I had a bottle of it put in my mouth whenever I cried and even had a bottle propped over me in a crib so I could feed from it...kind of like the water bottle in a hamster cage. I was a fat baby who turned into a fat child.. teenager.. adult.

Regardless of how it started, I am the only one who can end it. I agree with Anonymous who cited Geneen Roth as being helpful and I also have a psychologist and a nutritionist who are helping me.

I wish you good luck and also to the rest of the commenters. We are all facing a tough challenge but continuing to try and not giving up are the only things that will get the job done. Thanks for writing an excellent blog.

jmak said...

I appreciate your post so much! You are definitely not alone in your struggles. I found inspiration in your photos too. I started my journey at about the same weight, and I'm about half way to my goal. I worry so much about the struggle I will have to maintain my weight once I reach my goal. For a brief time, I was free of my "circles" when I was doing something called The Lord's Table. Once I felt like I could maintain my weight without insanity, I decided to push on with additional weight loss. If you are a Christian, you might check it out. If you are not, it probably won't resonate with you, but I thought I would mention it. Good luck and God Bless.

Marilyn said...

I empathize completely, Lyn - having traveled those circles for more than 40 years! In my case, I remember gaining 20 pounds the summer I was 14, after I'd been fired from my first PT job (as a candy girl @ a local movie theater!) and taking another PT job doing filing, which I HATED! I'd "reward" myself with a little treat on every bus trip home and WHOOOMP, in a matter of weeks I'd gone from 140 to 160.

Since dropping 90 pounds (beginning May 2010), I've noticed that the siren-song of "goodies" is BEGINNING to become quieter when I go to the grocery store - I don't AUTOMATICALLY peruse the day-old baked goods as I have for decades - (hey, I'm thrifty as well as fat!) - and while I still have another 90 or so more pounds to melt off, I don't feel the same frenzy that they have to go NOW-NOW-NOW! Which is a relief, because I've tortured myself with that idea for as long as I've carried extra pounds! I'm still getting used to my less-stuffed body - THAT takes at least as much time as actually dropping the pounds.

I don't know that I'll EVER be "normal" when it comes to food, since I acted AB-normally for SO very long! But I AM improving, the better choices I make. And after living in a world where I had NO rules about food, I'm starting to embrace some new rules that help define my relationship with food. Just as I figured out that virtually no one but Shaq needs to weigh more than 300 pounds, I'm accepting the reality that there's no reason for me to eat after midnight. Period. (this is a big deal for a die-hard Night Person who rarely gets to bed before 5 AM!)

Thanks for your always provocative posts, Lyn - I always get something good from reading your blog!

XO - M

Barbara said...

Thanks for being so honest, Lyn. I know the road isn't easy, but there are so many people supporting you on your journey.

Dawn said...

I have felt exactly like this over the years. I'm sure everyone's circles are different ones and mean different things to them...but for ME I lived a life without circles until I started ...and i don't know when or how...but until I started binging. You know the trip to the supermarket planned in advance, filling the basket with forbidden treats and home alone to eat until way past full then eat more...the hide the packets and shame. For me stopping that binging, finding the way that stopped it for good ( accidentally) I hope is the key to stopping moving in circles. My circles were binge circles. Great post, really made me think

timothy said...

it's your story but it's also the story of us all. thanks for sharing sweetie and i know we'll all figure this thing out! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Jenny said...

I don't often comment, but I feel I need to this time. This was so beautifully written, Lyn, really it was. You've gone through so much in your life, and yet you're still such a positive person, a loving mommy to all your kids, and I'm sure a wonderful friend to have 'in real life'. I admire your strength. Sometimes it sucks to be strong, sometimes we don't ask for it, but you're doing a wonderful job with it. Remember, every struggle you've endured has made you the awesome person you are today. Thanks for sharing so much with us. :)

Lyn said...


thank you so much for that! What a lovely thing for me to read just before going to bed. It means a lot to me :)

Erin @ Me, Exactly Weight loss said...

I know exactly how you feel! Except I think I've had food cravings even when I was a kid and skinny. I realize now that I was addicted to sugar. Even though I was skinny and in generally good health I would sneak candy and food into my room for no other reason than I wanted it and it made me feel better for whatever reason.

It didn't change as I got older but my metabolism did. Between junior high and the end of highschool I think I gained 80 lbs ugh. You're doing wonderful by the way and you're a great inspiration for the rest of us out here losing weight and getting healthy. Keep it up!

Diandra said...

Was it really a "straight line" with your weight back then? I'd have guessed it was more like, lose pound or two, gain a pound of two, don't pay too much attention to it - or something similar. Sometimes the problems related to obesity and weight loss appear to be immense because we spend so much time stressing out about them, when in reality they are mostly day-to-day stuff.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for the last 2 weeks or so and I feel like you are documenting MY life. I'm not overweight but I used to be and my weight fluctuates by about 15 pounds and I am not happy when I'm at the top of that range (but when i'm at the bottom of the range i'm rather skinny). I'm also walking in circles and i just don't know when it started. I think it may have been when I LOST the weight and became desperate if it started to come back. I think about food constantly. I have to fight myself constantly. It's a mental battle all the time. So even though I've lost the weight I"m not "better" or "fixed". My point is that losing the weight doesn't fix the problem. I think you're on the right track with what you said about rewiring your brain. And i hope, for your sake and mine, that it is possible to reach some semblance of normalcy.

Anonymous said...

How can you write that "you had no problem with food when you were young"? You write stories about how you weren't allowed to have birthday cakes as a child and how painful that was. You write about eating out with your father and how that "always made you feel better" to eat what he ate at the diner. Your mother gave you chocolate ice cream for dinner because she didn't want to take care of you.

I think that if you got yourself into some therapy you might really get some insight into how food has ALWAYS been the way that you get and show love from and for others. And maybe once you can really know this- you can remove the emotional pull food has on you. Otherwise you will continue to walk in this same circle forever.

Lyn said...


hmm, you're probably right. I always think of those childhood issues as something else... since I really did not start obsessing about food until I was an adult. But the roots may have been there. The foundation for food issues was definitely laid in my childhood, as you have mentioned.

I appreciate all the insights and comments. I always learn from them, whether I agree with them or not. And often I have to agree.