Every time I was feeling down and low, my mom always offered “What comfort food would make you feel better?” My answers ranged anywhere from a candy bar to my mom’s homemade mashed potatoes. I quickly learned that when I was sad (or just wanted to feel sad), I got tasty foods in reward. At this point in my life, I was still fairly active and did not gain too much weight. My weight gain did not truly start until the end of high school and all through college as I developed more independence and had the money to buy my own food, my own comfort.
I soon discovered I was in a horrible cycle that revolved around food and depression. You know that part in Austin Powers where Fat Bastard says “I eat because I am unhappy, and I am unhappy because I eat.” That was the cycle I was in. When I am depressed, I like things that do not require much energy to accomplish so eating out solved all my problems: convenient, quick, low energy. Something about the salt and grease just eased my emotions for just a little bit. As in, I felt fantastic for the all 10 minutes it took me to devour whatever the heck I was eating, whether it was a greasy burger from a fast food joint or 4 servings of Chinese food. Those 10 minutes were heaven…until after I was done eating. None of the food I ate made me happy afterwards. I felt gross. My skin felt greasy. I became lethargic and sleepy. I blamed the depression when I should have actually been blaming the food.
I knew I needed to change. I was going up through sizes faster than I could blink (ok, maybe not THAT fast but it was pretty darn fast). Before I knew it, I was a size 18. A size I swore up and down I would never reach. I promised myself I would not exceed that 18, and though I came very close to doing so and wore a lot of sweatpants ALL THE TIME, I never bought a size 20 pant. I cut back on the eating out so it was not so every day, and more like every week, but it was still enough to keep me from gaining too much more but not making me lose any. I hated how I felt and how I looked. My self esteem was rock bottom. I didn’t even know why people would want to be my friend. I was a sad, lazy excuse for a human being. Those types of thoughts did not motivate me to make a change though. What finally motivated me to make the change was realizing other people were losing weight and succeeding everywhere! It was something that could be changed, and it was amazing how happier they seemed.
“That could be me,” I smiled with glee as I studied how they made the change. First step, BUY A SCALE. I was trying to lose weight for YEARS without even owning a scale. I had no idea what my weight was doing. If I felt like I had done some exercise that day, I ruined all the exercise by eating way more than I should. So that’s what I did. I bought a scale and got on it that first day and almost fainted. 267! How could I have let it get that bad! I promised my body I would never make it carry that much weight again. No wonder I was tired all the time.
Step two, stop browsing all the aisles of the grocery store. Your new best friends are the areas around the aisles. Fresh produce, fresh meat, dairy. I do admit that when I first started my journey, I relied on frozen meals from Lean Cuisine, but they are full of sodium, but they did help me stay conscience of serving sizes. I was eating way more serving sizes than I was supposed to. It should have not been such an eye opener that you do not have to fill a giant plate with carbohydrates and meat to have a satisfying dinner, but sadly it was a huge eye opener. Read the packages carefully. Just making small cut backs in your cereal (did you know most people consume more cereal than they are supposed to every morning? A cup does not equal a bowl).
Step three, small changes. Do not change your diet completely over night (unless you are seriously one of those people who can go completely cold turkey. I am not one of those people). Example, I used to have 4 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee EVERY morning. That is 60 calories that really did nothing for me. I cut back to 2 teaspoons for about a month. The next month, I went down to 1 teaspoon. Then by the next month, I did not have any sugar at all. You do not want to deprive yourself so you do not stick to a new eating plan. A lot of people believe you have to give up all your favorite dishes to lose weight. Though you may have to give up SOME (such as fast food), there are a lot of healthy ways to make your favorites.
Now if you are an emotional eater such as myself, you need to clear out your kitchen that may trigger an emotional binge. Get rid of the chocolate. Get rid of the ice cream. I instead replaced these goodies with other alternatives. I do have some Skinny Cow Ice Cream bars in the freezer on those nights I really do need to satisfy my sweet tooth. I have Vegan Boca burgers that are quick to heat up when I become down and do not feel like cooking. This keeps me from ordering out. For those that refuse to eat a veggie burger, pre-made turkey patties are just as good.
Identify your triggers and causes for overeating. Stay aware of your body. This does not mean you will never have a set back, but it helps when you do not set yourself up for failure! Every morning wake up and smile and know that you are in control of your day. You may not be able to control what happens around, but you can control what you put in your mouth. It will be a struggle, but nothing worth having does not come without some kind of fight.