One of the things I had to learn, or un-learn, rather, as I was losing weight and recovering from binge eating disorder was that food, and eating, was not my full-time job. For a long time, I acted like it was. Food and eating was on my brain not just 8 hours a day, but pretty much all my waking hours. I remember well how that felt: waking up and my first thoughts being "what can I have for breakfast? Is there any leftover pizza left?" I'd get up and get all the kids to school and then spend the morning... not cleaning, decorating, socializing or doing other stay-at-home-mom things... but eating. Baking, not for the kids, but for me. Sure I'd make enough for them most of the time. But I'd spend hours poring over cookbooks, food magazines and recipe websites trying to find just the thing that would hit the spot. I'd go to the store and buy ingredients and come home and bake, eat, bake. I'd make runs to McDonalds and the donut shop, take a really long time grocery shopping and picking out binge foods as well as dinner supplies, and stand staring at the bakery and deli cases whenever I shopped. When I was not eating, I was thinking about eating. I spent a lot of time waiting for my overfull stomach to empty just enough that I could comfortably put more food in there.
I am not proud of that time in my life. But I am no longer ashamed of it, either. I realize it was a disease... a disorder of the mind and body that led to a food obsession and compulsive eating. It was, I believe, caused by emotional overload... by post traumatic stress disorder, perhaps. Triggered by such events as the loss of an unborn child, a very difficult divorce, the traumatic death of my mother in my arms, poverty, and the birth of a critically ill daughter who barely clung to life for weeks, I ate. I ate to cope. I obsessed about food because it was easier than feeling the worry, the pain, the reliving of those excruciating moments. It was a distraction. It was my drug. I was a mother; I could not go out drinking or getting high because I was all my children had. So I ate, because it is a safer, more acceptable way to numb, to cope. No one loses their children because they binged on pizza. So I binged. I binged and obsessed and ate like it was my full time job.
I had to unlearn it, even when I stopped the binge eating. Lingering in the space where the binge used to be was a milder, yet persistent, obsession with food. It lingers still, when I am not paying attention. I have to work to squelch it. When I am not looking, I can sometimes start to food obsess again when I am stressed out. It is easier for the mind to attend to thoughts of cheese and crackers than it is to deal with feelings of sadness or worry. But I am watchful. I catch myself, sometimes, and refocus. I say to myself, "No, this is not about a donut. This is about xyz." And then I work to figure out what, if anything, I can do about the xyz situation. And if there is nothing I can do, I just feel that, and try to be okay with it. And pray.
The food obsession can transfer to a diet program, sometimes. You can just as easily start to spend hours obsessing about every carb and calorie, thinking constantly about what you'll be eating next or how many calories you burned on the Stairmaster. You can let food, eating, diet, and weight become your full time job, too. And though I've seen some folks recommend this... treating "health" and "weight loss" as a full time job... I can't recommend it. I don't think it takes that much, in most cases. Part time, maybe, while you figure out the logistics and spend time exercising and preparing food. But what I mean is, if food is taking up your brain nearly every waking minute, that's not healthy. that's obsession.
Instead, it is good to free our minds to our *real* jobs, whether that be employment, motherhood, homemaking, or whatever else *you* have decided your life will be about. Fitness and eating is a part of that, but on the whole, I have found I am happier and a better mother and person when my full time job is actually being the mother I always wanted to be, the dog trainer I have longed to become, the writer I am so proud of, and the compassionate friend I have always wished I had for myself. The dieting, the eating, all of that is a part. Just a part, and not a full time job.