The Secret to Overcoming Self Sabotage
& Yo-yo Dieting! ©
By Lauralyn Bellamy, MA, Mdiv, RNY*
The first time I was put on a diet I was 4 years old and restricted to dietetic foods like “No-Cal” soda with saccharin, popsicles and sherbets rather than ice cream, and skim milk that was bluish it was so watered down. No surprise, therefore, that I was in pre-school when I began sneaking food. I would helpfully offer to carry our lunch trays to the kitchenette and when the teacher wasn’t there, I’d peel off the ¼ inch-thick slab of chocolate icing that sat lightly atop the Entenmanns’ chocolate cupcakes, fold it in half and greedily stuff it into my mouth where it would slowly melt down my throat with a minimum of telltale chewing.
By first grade I knew who I was: a fat kid on a diet. In high school I managed to fit into a size 13-14 by smoking cigarettes, drinking gallons of Tab & Fresca, and counting calories like Scrooge counted lumps of coal. In college, I could turn to one or two sympathetic psychiatrists who would prescribe the latest diet pills (amphetamines). My wedding day was two weeks after college graduation, and I walked down the aisle a relatively svelte 160 lbs. in a size 12 gown.
I worked in advertising, journalism and public relations, so living off of cigarettes, Tab, coffee, press conference Danish, and interview lunches was easy.
My identity as a fat person on a diet was set. I was a professional dieter. I could lose weight on any diet I tackled. That’s what my life was about: dieting. And if that’s what your life is about, you have to keep gaining it back in order to give yourself the opportunity to diet again.
Of course, I didn’t see it that way. I saw myself sabotaging my lifelong goal of having a normal, healthy body. I saw myself at war with some sick part of my psyche and turned to psychotherapy to learn WHY I kept doing this to myself. I have spent most of my adult life working with psychologists and psychiatrists to better understand WHY I sought refuge in my fat. I have a collection of intimately detailed and illuminating insights into the psychosocial dynamics of my childhood development and family systems dynamics. Many of those insights were purchased with heartrending sobbing on the couch.
No insight into my past, no library of insights, ever produced a healthy, permanent change in my addictive relationship with food and obesity. Working with fitness trainers and life coaches turned me toward my future and have kept me moving forward for the first time in my life.
By the spring of 2002, I’d begun hearing about laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery for the morbidly obese. Incredibly, at 280 lbs. wearing Women’s 3X jumpers, I didn’t consider myself a member of that club
The decision to turn to weight loss surgery (WLS) brought me face to face with my profound revulsion at having to live in a physical body; a revulsion so deep that I lived most of my waking life “up in my head.” I was so oblivious to my body that the sight of me in a photo would catch me totally off guard. “Do I REALLY look like this?” I’d sometimes ask my husband or best friends. They’d just nod in the affirmative. I had absolutely no emotional connection with the huge woman in the photos, the woman whose smile was determined to hold your gaze above her neck.
Dr, James K. Champion, in Atlanta, performed my proximal lap-RNY on 2/13/03. At my 3-week check up, I was told that it was time to begin weightlifting, in addition to the daily walks for cardiovascular exercise. Providentially, LA Fitness had just opened a new center not 2 miles from my home. I not only became a member the next day, I signed a contract to have a personal trainer give me 3 weightlifting sessions per week for 6 months. So far, I’ve renewed that contract twice!
And this, Dear Reader, is where I began the adventure that led me out of the lifelong drama of dieting/gaining. I knew the only way to cut the string on my dieting yoyo was to learn how to enjoy living IN my body.
So why didn’t I sabotage my weight loss regimen when I started looking “normal?”
Here are the keys I discovered to overcoming self-sabotage and yo-yo dieting:
Construct and imaginatively inhabit the future life you want to live and the body that will support the life of your dreams!
1. Commit to daydreaming, visualizing, recording in words and pictures, the person you will be, the work you’ll be doing, the way you’ll dress for work and fun, relationships you’ll be enjoying, where you’ll be living, how you’ll holiday, hobby, entertain and be actively physical.
2. Devote some time daily to this work of imagining your future, always adding new details and chapters.
3. Place visual reminders of the future you are moving toward all around you – be creative and playful in keeping your “eye on the prize!”
4. Make “field trips” to places that illustrate your future life:
A fantasy shopping spree at the store of your dreams, picking out clothes you would wear if you were already at your goal weight – then putting them back;
A visit to your dream work environment or a talk with someone doing the work you want to do when…
Create a Catalogue of Rewards and Comforts that celebrate your progress and calm you down when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Transformation is, by its very nature, stressful and anxiety-producing. You have made a commitment to leave behind the familiar to embrace a future that you haven’t lived in. Pay attention to your energy; learn how to give yourself good things that aren’t food related to remove the tension.
1. Feed your other senses: fresh flowers, scented candles or oils, perfume for the nose;
2. Fresh flowers, a new print, photo or painting to hang on your wall, a walk in nature, finding a spot to watch the sunset, for the eyes;
3. Beautiful music, table-top fountains for the soothing sound of waterfalling, windchimes outside your window, breathing meditation, birdsong and the whisper of the wind in the leaves, for the ears;
4. Massages, swimming, bubble baths, long showers, manicures, pedicures, love making, for the skin and whole body!
Research and plan for the life you’ll be living in your healthy body and start incorporating parts of it as soon as you are able! If you’ve been telling yourself that if you weren’t so fat you would be doing other work, having other friends, living somewhere else – take steps to discover if that’s a fantasy or something you actually want to bring into your reality! If some of your “if only’s” turn out to be pure fantasy, challenge yourself to come up with an alternative that you get passionate imagining and pursue it in the here and now!
Teach yourself how to eat for pleasure and for energy! When you hate living in a body, you hate paying attention to eating. Eating a whole pie instead of a small slice is not about enjoying the pie, it’s about the sensation of stuffing sweet mushy pie down our throats and feeling our stomachs get full.
1. The digestion process was designed to begin in our mouths, by chewing a bite-size piece of food slowly and thoroughly until it is reduced to a puree before swallowing it. This also gives you the pleasure of exploring the “mouth feel” of your food.
2. Stop and breathe in the aroma of your food, notice the colors on the plate.
3. Retrain your palette: you can lose an addiction to starches and sweets by finding delicious sources of protein augmented by fresh veggies and fruit. For example, putting Chinese shrimp on a bed of cooked spinach instead of rice,
4. Give up artificially sweetened sodas and other beverages that perpetuate your addiction to ultra-sweet tasting foods; dilute your flavored water 50% (that’s how I drink my Propel water).
5. It’s not about giving up calories, it’s about kicking the sugar habit that articificial sweeteners keep you hooked on!
6. When your taste for foods has been returned to its natural state, about 6 months, you can satisfy your curiosity about a particular dessert or starch your friend’s ordered at a restaurant by asking for a forkful and that will be all you’ll want.
Train yourself to become familiar and lovingly accepting of your body. This is a spiritual discipline as well as a psychological exercise.
1. Every day, take time to send the energy of gratitude to your body for carrying you around and looking our for you; especially thank your ankles, knees and hips !
2. Put a full length mirror in your home and learn to visit with yourself daily with the same loving devotion you would show a family member or best friend recovering from a life threatening illness!
3. Ask family, friends and/ or co-workers to take snapshot s of you every week and get that film developed at least monthly, so you can put the prints on display or in a portable album for your daily viewing. If your camera’s digital, put the images on your screensaver, print them out and put them where you’ll see them.
4. Learn to look at yourself as you walk past display windows and hallway mirrors, you’re no longer pretending to be invisible!
5. Wear clothes that define your body – not too loose or too tight. When clothes get too baggy, give them away or exchange them at a clothes swap.
Teach yourself new ways to have fun! Your ideas of how to have fun or relax were probably designed to meet the restrictions of a very heavy body. Become an explorer! Perhaps walking tours of parts of your city would be fun? Rollerblading, ice skating, surfing – you’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t get out of the house and try it!
Rehearse how to handle unwanted sexual advances and attention. Instead of letting the fear of flirts cause you to entomb yourself in flesh, imagine different scenarios in which a confident you deflects whatever you don’t care for with humor or intimidation (good cop/bad cop). You are an adult; you have personal power and authority: use it! You are now committed to being your own champion, your own advocate, your own hero!
Ultimately, the key to overcoming self-sabotage is to make an absolute commitment to doing whatever it takes to not only save your life, but celebrate it! Once I entered into that agreement with myself and God, I became very resourceful and creative about making it work. I became versatile at brainstorming and “thinking outside the box.”
My life is an adventure and I get to be the hero! You can, too. Join me!
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Note: This article first appeared in the May-June 2006 issue of OH Magazine. Contact Lauralyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* RNY = roux en-Y, the type of bariatric surgery the author had performed laproscopically on 2/13/03.