The Agony of Weighing & Measuring My Food
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
A word of encouragement for you Maggie. I am one of those lucky people who never had to worry about weight gain; I currently have a BMI of 21.1 at age 62, and most of my life I was called “Twiggy” and “Olive Oyl” among other things, as I was underweight in my youth. However, diabetes runs rampant in my family, though none of us are overweight, and I got the family curse as well. Which means that I, too have to weigh and measure my carb portions at the very least, because I am faced with the exact same issue as you: I grossly underestimate food portions on a regular basis. And yes, I also hate and resent having to weigh and measure food. It stinks. But if I am going to manage my disease, which I am determined to do, it is something I must do. So hang in there, and I know you will get this under control. I have found power walking 3 times a day is my best means of keeping weight gain at bay, by the way.
What a lovely perspective Merilee. It helps get out of my “poor pitiful me” mindset. I’m prediabetic, or at least I was. With the 60 pound weight loss all my blood sugar and a1c numbers have been back to the normal range. I walk over 15 miles a week and swim about 2 hours a week too. I agree with you that the exercise really helps with blood sugar control. Plus, it just makes me feel so much better. That alone is reason enough to keep doing it. I’m hopeful that weighing and measuring will have a similar effect. That I will just feel so much better that I’ll want to keep doing it. Thanks for the encouragement. It helps even more than i can describe =).
Hi Maggie, You are so encouraging! I love your website–I noticed that unlike other blogs, I don’t see any advertisements or annoying things popping up while I am trying to read. I love that but realize that it must mean that you are doing this to help others and for no personal gain. Thank you so much! I communicated with you a year ago about Thanksgiving time about weight loss and I am sorry to say that I haven’t made any progress–I’ve fallen off the wagon–infact, I hop on the wagon in the morning and start dangling my legs about 10 am and by noon, I’ve usually fallen off! I am no good at sticking with my diet. have even gained about 8 pounds since we last communicated. I am right with you weighing in at 189 this morning………sigh. My daughter graduates from homeschool this May and I would love to look a little thinner when we greet and visit with all the relatives. We also have a trip to visit grown children this summer in Florida and I really want to look “better” in my modest swimsuit when we go to the beach. I am at the point where I avoid the camera at every turn. I know this is not healthy for me. I am going to try to start this again thanks to your encouragement. One more side note, my daughter is experiencing stomach upset after carbs or sugars–just wondering if gluten free is something which might help her. I’ve taken her to the doctor and he said that he has seen this before and he could run her through a lot of tests but still not know what is causing her trouble. Blood sugar has been ruled out though. Thanks again for your encouraging blog. I feel like I know you!
Hey Val, good to hear from you again. I completely understand about dangling your legs, and then falling off the wagon by noon. Hee! I have spend decades do the exact same thing.
Weight loss is one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. It requires that we change the way we live, eat and think, from the core of our beings. I could not do it without the support I get from Celebrate Recovery and Overeater’s Anonymous. I attend meetings every week and they help me change the way I relate to food so that I can change the way I eat. I am amazed that anyone is able to lose weight by willpower alone. I cannot do that. I have tried to do it. Over and over and over and over and over again. It simply doesn’t work for me. No matter what diet program or diet book I have followed, I don’t believe it is possible for me to lose weight unless I attend a support group. I get good support on the internet but it’s not the same as face-to-face support from an entire group of women who are trying to do the same thing I am. I don’t think there is any one diet or food plan that is best for everyone. I think we each need to customize our own food plan to meet our own dietary needs. Everyone’s body is different. For me sticking to a diet isn’t about finding the perfect food plan, it’s about getting the support I need to keep myself on track. I need the accountability of writing down what I eat and planning it in advance. I need the accountability of sharing what I eat with another person (or here on the internet). I need the accountability of a group of people who are on the same journey. I also need to exercise 6 days a week. It is work, but I do feel better than I have in years. For me the work is worth it.
For your daughter, the best I know is to give gluten free a try and see if she feels better. Gluten free is work too, but the results have been phenomenal for my family. Every week I hear from someone who has tried gluten free and is amazed at how much better they feel. For some people it does the trick. For some people it doesn’t. The only way to know is to try. Good luck to your daughter and to you. 🙂
Hey Miss Maggie, just a note to say I am thinking of you and miss chatting with you!
love and hugs