Hello. My name is Maggie and I am a compulsive overeater.
The problem with overeating compulsively is that I tend to underestimate portions of food when I eyeball them. For instance, a tablespoon of margarine looks like a teaspoon to me, especially when I just scoop it out of the tub. Half a cup of cooked rice, looks like 1/4-cup to me. When I eyeball my portions, I always put more on my plate than my food plan recommends.
This really stinks.
So, to stay on my food plan, and to keep myself honest, I have been weighing and measuring every single morsel of food that goes onto my plate and into my mouth. I gotta say, I absolutely HATE doing this. It makes me feel resentful and angry and frustrated. I think I “should” be able to simply put a pat of margarine into my skillet when I make my eggs in the morning, and it should miraculously be the 1-teaspoon I’ve budgeted for in my food plan. I think that only “hopeless cases” have to resort to measuring their food. I “should” be able to simple eat what I want, when I want, in quantities that seem appropriate at the time and then everything will work out the way it should and I will miraculously be 120-pounds with a BMI of 20.
In reality, when I simply eyeball all of my measurements and go by appetite alone, I wind up weighing 240-pounds with a BMI of 40–which is officially morbidly obese.
Aaarrgh! (This is a groan of intense frustration.)
It turns out that in fact, I am one of those hopeless cases that I am so worried about becoming. I was so busy denying that I needed to weigh and measure my food if I really wanted to lose weight, that I allowed myself to turn into that which I fear most. A frightened, frustrated, morbidly obese middle-aged woman who was frantic, afraid and absolutely crazy when it came to food. Jiminy Cricket! I thought I was better than that.
I think I have finally figured out that it is pride that keeps me (or has kept me) from surrendering to the obvious. I do not have normal or sane reactions to food. I do not see food the way “normal” eaters see it. I’ve used that to my advantage over the years, creating my website and blog. I’ve also let it take advantage of me, turning me into a 240-pound, unhappy woman. That’s where I was when I started my weight loss journey in 2013. Since then I lost 60-pounds, gained 9 of it back and am now restarting with a goal of losing 69 pounds. I want to go from 189 to 120, which is what my health care professionals have recommended as the best weight for me in order to relieve the symptoms of my PCOS.
Which brings me back to food. I don’t think it’s cheap food that makes people fat, or at least, I don’t believe it has to. I think it’s the way we (I) look at food, especially when we’re living on a low-income, that leads to overeating and obesity. When I have been my poorest, food has been one of the sole comforts available to me, with all of the added stressors of not having enough resources to meet my and my family’s needs.
Poverty has lots of stressors that are not experienced by people who are not poor. There’s the stress of making sure you have enough money to wash your clothes, including being able to afford laundry detergent. I remember counting my change to get $1.08 so I could buy a small box of laundry detergent to wash Fred’s work clothes. Work clothes are a high priority. Fred needed clean clothes in order to go to work, so he could provide the money we needed to live. It’s hard to go to work in dirty clothes, not to mention demeaning. I searched the car and under the couch cushions to gather enough money and almost cried when I was a nickel short. I was so angry, so frustrated that I grabbed up my broom and began sweeping the porch furiously while I fussed and fumed to God about how we were trying to do the right thing, but that no matter what we did, it always seemed like something set us back from where we were trying to go. As I ranted at God, my eye caught something shining on the sidewalk. I looked down and found a nickel, exactly what I needed, gleaming at me in the sunlight. I cried again, only this time in relief. God has always provided for me, even when I forgot I could to turn to him for help.
Being poor is extremely stressful. Determining which bills to pay and which to let go another month. Or not having a reliable vehicle to get to where you need to go, much less having the cash to buy gas so you can drive it, plus cash for the insurance to make it legal. Driving without insurance is extremely stressful. Not that I would have firsthand knowledge or anything. Nope, not me.
When there is no easy way to wash clothes, plastic diapers almost become a necessity, and making sure you don’t run out adds extra stress to the normal stress of raising children. The most basic elements of living become adventures in making do, such as stretching out the toilet paper to make it last until payday. People with enough money to pay their bills, never worry about running out of toilet paper and not being able to afford to buy more.
My point is that when life is filled with so much stress, its easy to turn to food for comfort and solace. All of life’s problems are easier to endure with a full belly. What happened to me though, what happens to a lot of people who live on a tight budget, is that we take this to the extreme. We start eating to help us deal with the stress of living the same way some people turn to alcohol or cigarettes or drugs. We do it as an escape, to lift our moods, to avoid having to feel the depths of our anguish over life’s problems.
Food, which can be an appropriate comfort at times, turns ugly on us and it starts controlling us and our behavior, instead of us controlling it as a normal part of living on a budget.
For me to take back the control that food has over me, I have to weigh and measure my portions. I have to plan them in advance. I have to dirty up a teaspoon by using it to scoop a single, level teaspoon of margarine out of the tub before I use it to fry my eggs. Then I have to wash that dirty teaspoon, dry it and put it away so I can be prepared to do the same thing again tomorrow morning.
I am coming to realize that I may have to weigh and measure and plan my food for the rest of my life if I want to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. That is a daunting idea. Definitely overwhelming enough to prevent me from even starting to measure and plan my food in the first place. I think that is where the old saying “One Day At A Time.” comes into play. While the idea of weighing and measuring (and planning) my food for a lifetime seems impossible, just doing it for today is an achievable goal. I don’t have to do it forever. I only have to do it for today, for this meal. For this moment. I don’t have to worry about forever, as my days add up, forever will take care of itself. All I’m really responsible for is today. Forever takes care of itself, if I take care of today. One day at a a time.
My pride has kept me from making the effort to weigh and measure my food for the past year, putting me in a weight-loss plateau at 180-pounds for over a year. I think I am finally able to set aside my pride, admit to myself that I cannot lose the weight if I will not do the work, and humble myself enough to weigh that blasted teaspoon of margarine every morning, so I can fry my eggs. Then I measure my soymilk and my coffee. Then I measure the egg whites before I fry them. When I’m done I know that I’ve only eaten the portions I planned. Even though I feel resentful about measuring it all, and even more resentful when I have to wash, dry and put away all of those measuring cups and spoons, I am also grateful–even relieved. I’m comforted with the knowledge that I’ve prepared and eaten what I’m supposed to. I’ve stuck to my budget. I’ve stuck to my food plan. I’ve lived within my means and I’ve eaten within my calorie limit. It’s a pain in the neck, but there is a peacefulness around food that I am still unaccustomed to feeling. I don’t have to second guess myself or feel guilty for not doing it right. I breathe a sigh of relief because I have let go of my pride, let God come into my food plan, and humbled myself to go His way instead of following my own carnal desires for gluttony, (and boy howdy! do I have carnal desires for gluttony).
It’s definitely not easy. For me, following a food plan is harder than sticking to a budget. But I try to live by faith. Allowing pride to keep me stuck is the opposite of living by faith. So I set aside my pride, and allow faith to reign instead. I trust that the effort is worth it in the end. Even when I don’t have the gumption to do something myself, I can trust God will make up the deficit. The same way he gave me that nickel way back when.
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. —Proverbs 16:18-19
And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him. –Jeremiah 50:32
And let’s not forget.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. —1 John 2:16