Monday, November 7, 2016

Peace or Distraction? Overcoming Overeating


When I was a young mother with a sweet four-pack of little children, I was exceptionally busy. Between motherhood, homemaking, and being a hardworking farmer's wife, I did not have any time to obsess about food. Reliving a McDonald's commercial repeatedly until I could get to a Big Mac meal was the furthest thing from my mind! First of all, I did not have time to watch much TV, but more importantly my mind was occupied with much greater things like caring for my children while getting all the work done in a day so that we could sit down together at the dinner table to a hot meal when their Daddy came in. Even if I *had* found the time to have a second thought about a cheeseburger, we lived a half hour from any fast food restaurants and only made a trip into town once a week... so there were no impulsive fast food trips for me anyway!

Fast forward to a move to the suburbs when the kids were toddlers and preschoolers. I could get to a 7-11, a McDonalds, or any of a dozen other fast food places within a 5 minute drive from my home. But it was still okay; we rarely ate out, as we were still too busy with kids and family. I did have more free time with a quarter acre lot than I did on a farm with miles of land, including a half acre garden, cows, sheep, chickens, goats, dogs, cats, and a horse, but I didn't invest that time into food obsession. Not just yet. Instead, I started watching a bit more TV and discovered the wonders of AOL in my new suburban-housewife "spare" time. I also had more time to eat.

The food obsession came later, though. After a difficult divorce and ensuing poverty, the combination of stress and scarcity of good food triggered binge eating disorder (when I had food... often cake and donuts from the food bank) and, when there *wasn't* enough food for a binge, obsessive food thoughts. The binge eating got me up over 280 pounds in less than a year, and continued when finances improved along with access to food. I found myself being triggered by TV commercials and running to get whatever food I was obsessing over in order to calm the urges. I have written about this extensively in my blog for those of you who are interested.

Through much effort, including the help of the Medifast diet for 10 months, I was able to completely stop binge eating, and that habit has not returned. But the obsessive food thoughts just got worse and worse the more I "dieted" and the thinner I got. Every calorie I counted, every step I tracked with the FitBit, every food plan I forced myself to comply with, just made the obsessive thinking and compulsive eating worse. It took completely letting go of diet, weight, tracking, and all worry about food to stop the obsessive thoughts. For now, they are gone. For now, I am not triggered anymore... by anything.

Someone has asked me whether what I am calling "peace" now is actually just distraction. I have made a list of things to spend my time on, and I am focused on doing them. Isn't this just distraction from the food? Aren't the underlying issues still there... food obsessions, cravings, desires to binge... but I am just keeping my mind off of that by staying busy? Well, no. and let me explain why.

There were many times when I was dieting that I used that very tactic to avoid eating. I'd frantically stay busy. When I got a craving, I'd run and clean the toilet or vacuum the carpets instead of eating. I'd go for a walk so I was not near the kitchen, or call a friend to get my mind off the food. That is NOT the same as peace. Yes, it is distraction. No, it is not peace. The emotion of "omg, I have to do something to stop myself from eating!!!" and then "Whew, I made it through THAT craving. Hope I make it through the next one!" is not peace. At all. It is white knuckling. It is stressful. It is a lot of work just to get through a brief, temporary desire to overeat. And it is NOT permanent. Who wants to do that for the rest of their lives just to try and stay a certain weight? I repeat, that is not peace.

No. Now, I do have peace about the food. Yes, I am busy, and staying busy and focused on other things is a joy. It is not a technique to stop overeating. I know this because there is no white knuckling, no anxiety, no fear of "failing" at avoiding food, no stress or relief in the process. I don't run to do the things on the list whenever I am faced with a magazine ad for French fries or a chance to eat a bowl of ice cream. And when I decide to just be still and watch some TV or read a book or chat with friends, I can see a commercial or hear them talk about making brownies or whatever and I am not triggered into food obsession and overeating. I am just at peace with this, whether I am busy or not.

Overcoming the habit and dis-ease of eating too much because of obsessive food thoughts and an inner compulsions to overeat is not an easy task. Heck, I have been at this for almost TEN YEARS and only now, after losing over 100 pounds and numerous trips up and down the scale including regaining most of that weight... only now and I finding that the real answer, for me, does not lie in the perfect diet or the right motivation or putting in enough effort at weight loss. It lies in letting go of the weight, diet, and food focus... not by distraction, but through true peace. I hope you, too, will find your peace... whatever that looks like for you.

7 comments:

maryecat said...

Lyn I can totally relate to where you are at. I am completely done with diet mindset as well. Kudos for trusting yourself above all else.

KerryC said...

Hi Lyn, I've only commented a few times over the years, but I love your blog. Especially lately! Reading about your peace and calm about food is so beautiful. I'm so happy for you! I hope all continues to go well, xo

Cyndi and Stumpy said...

Yup! I've dealt with food obsession since I was a child. Food was love. I'm still working on the "there is nothing wrong with me" thing.

Hopefully, I'm not far behind you!

You go, girl!

Margaret Wolfinbarger said...

Peace, elusive peace. What a treasure. My anxiety affords me only seasons of peace. I am going to learn from you on this as my compulsions and anxiety come and go like the tide. I feel sometimes like I am working one coping mechanism to the next. Thank you for sharing your journey.

1ac1a7ca-a600-11e6-a021-afad2b85d081 said...

Lyn, curious about your progress on the biking journey - since you mentioned you have three hours free now that your last foster has found its forever home, wondering if part of that time you're considering dedicating to your bike ride? I understand not wanting to focus three hours a day on losing weight, but I definitely think giving a portion of that time to physical activity would be beneficial for your mental/emotional wellbeing.

Lyn said...

Thanks all! I had a hectic day... my daughter is sick. But I think she'll be fine in a day or two. I am fighting a mild cold as well, so taking this as a bit of down time just resting and getting lots of fluids.

last commenter~

I haven't biked in a long time but the bike is still there for when I get the urge to ride. For sure I am using some of the time in being more active, and some of that time may end up being on the bike. Right now I enjoy more walking with the weather so nice, plus raking leaves.

Marianne said...

Hi Lyn,
So happy for you. Many times over the years, I saw you come so close to where you are now, and then you'd post a new food plan and I'd go away for awhile. I'm really glad to see the Cleanse didn't trigger obsessive thoughts. You have my very best wishes. I don't know many other bloggers who give so much honesty to their readers.
Marianne