Sunday, August 10, 2008

Changing What You Do

This morning, I was reading this discussion over at Half of Me. It's really about using pants rather than weight as a measure of change, but what struck me more was the discussion about food habits, about the kind of weird little justifications that we make... "I can eat anything because it's Christmas" "I can eat anything because I'm in California" and so on. Times when there are no rules. Now, I am perfectly willing to believe that the vast majority of the world has food habits that are less screwed up than mine, and that for some people, "day off" dieting is fine, and that some people can be trusted to go on vacation without coming home 50 lbs heavier. I don't think that I'm one of them, not yet. The link listed above talks about exactly the same kind of thing that I'd do... searching for an ice cream (that I didn't necessarily really want) because I was still in L.A., and I'd just have to cram it in, because I could. It's all-or-nothing thinking, and I'm a pro at it. Really, really good. And Michael is even better.

I am not sure that it is possible to change this kind of behavior completely. (I'm also not sure that it absolutely isn't.) But I'm fairly certain of one thing... a huge reason why so many people successfully lose weight but do not keep it off is because they lose weight using a specific set of "rules", and then they stop following those rules, because they've lost the weight. But the food behaviors that caused them to gain the weight are still there, and now there's nothing to stop them creeping back.... which they do, inexorably, and there you are, back at the weight that you said you'd never reach again.

Some years ago, I was... oh, more than 50 lbs thinner than I am now, down from a staggering 340, my top weight ever (ok, I was pregnant at that weight, but I really didn't gain a lot of weight when I was pregnant). And I was very fit. I got this way by (1) eating almost nothing except salmon, salad, and potato chips with Olestra. No, this is not a good way to eat, and (2) working out absolutely constantly. Walking and racquetball in the morning, weights and aerobics classes in the afternoon, karate in the evening. I was in the best shape of my life, and I was pushed there by a kind of obsessiveness that partly feeds on itself, and partly by a lot of emotional crap that was going on at the time. I thought I was fabulous. And I was, in a way, but the fact of the matter was that I got there by replacing one obsession with another, and when the big drivers of that obsession went away, I was left with the same behaviors that I always had. And I gained back most (though, fortunately, not all) of the weight.

Over the last two+ years, I've been trying hard to lose that weight again, and, let's face it, I haven't been brilliantly successful from a numbers point of view. Moving to a low carb diet has helped tremendously, both in losing weight and in causing my body to reshape, so it actually looks like I've lost considerably more weight than I have. But the one thing that I have done with some degree of success is work on the food behaviors. I no longer buy everything in the store because... oh, I don't know; I think that on some level I used to think that if I didn't get it then, it wouldn't be there when I came back. I am getting a LOT better about portion size. I am getting a lot better at stopping eating when I am no longer hungry. I am getting, slowly, a lot less weird about food. And I am very, very proud of myself about this.

But I'm also afraid because, let's face it, a huge amount of the effort that I've put into this and the reason why I've gotten so much better with this is because of accountability. Mostly Michael. A little because I write here. A little because... well, maybe a growing, small commitment to myself. But I always worry that if anything happens to change the current situation, all that careful retraining will fall away. Which why I know that I can never, ever say, you can eat all you want because it's Christmas. Fundamentally, I can't be trusted, and I know that.


Crabby McSlacker said...

Wow, what a great post!

I would guess that even if your current situation were to change, and even if you did stray for a little while, you'd bounce back. The way you've changed your thinking and behaviors sound very solid--like great fundamentals to build on again.

It's like Pasta Queen at the airport... sure the behaviors might come back, but I think there's a self-correcting tendency that kicks in once you've made healthy choices a habit for long enough.

Anonymous said...

I really like what you had to say, and I really agree with it. I think it is essential to come to that realization to maintain weight loss. I even wrote a long blog the other day about that kind of thing.

Good luck on your weight loss journey. You're sure to be successful, with that kind of thinking.