Email from a Reader: When You Slip Up on Your Diet

by Andie Mitchell on January 22, 2012

Read the rest of this series: Email from a Reader: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Hi Andie,

First of all, thank you.  You give me such an immense amount of hope.  I believe that you will help more people than you could ever know- all because you helped yourself.  My question is about mental roadblocks.  I’ve been overweight since I was ten years old (now 26).  Food is my drug, and I have been desperately trying to recover since middle school from this powerful addiction.  It’s obvious that you have struggled in a similar way, so I am wondering if you ever found yourself stuck in the “all or nothing” way of thinking like I do.  Even if I tell myself that tomorrow is another day, after that initial binge, I feel completely sapped of emotional strength.  I am so weakened by my choice that my “healthy switch” turns off.  Nutritious food (that I generally love) seems unappetizing.  Exercise (that usually fills me with joy) seems daunting and joyless.  I go from feeling energized and stimulated to just wanting to zone out in front of bad reality tv as my life passes by.  It is horribly depressing.  So my question is (if you dealt with this) how did you overcome black and white thinking and get to the balanced place you’re in now?  How did you forgive yourself after slipping and binging?  How can I make myself realize that after a binge (or simply after an indulgence), a salad is still good for me later in the day, and working out is not a pointless act?  Thanks so much, I know you get a lot of questions and I really appreciate the time you devote to your readers!!

Sincerely,

J

…………………………

J,

Thank you.

This is the honest truth: It’s tremendously hard.

HARD with caps lock jammed and unrelenting.

I wish that I could tell you more. That I could say one thing to make it all click for you. That all the ideas of how and why you should stay the course could flood down in one perfect stream of water- water that would make you feel full. But I can’t.

When I decided to do it- to really do it, I was more ready than I’d ever been. And like everything in my life- I viewed it as an extreme sport. I’m intense and passionate and wildly eccentric. I have a very hard time doing anything less than completely, anything less than as perfectly as I’m capable of. I’d almost always rather pursue something doggedly than not at all. I, like you, am so often black and white in thought. All or nothing.

And so, knowing this about myself- my extremism, that is- I stayed in one color zone- black (it’s witchy). I sided with the ‘all.’ I committed to losing weight, and I married it. I put a ring on my finger, figuratively, and said to myself- “I can give it a year. I can give this everything I’ve got for one year. And then I’ll be free.”

But a year feels just so long, doesn’t it?

I’m impatient. I broke the time down.

I found that three days- just three days of solid, unwavering commitment to eating well- was enough to make me want to keep going. Then, three would become three more, and three more, and so on…

Day one, day two- they were dark. Dark and so difficult I fantasized about just staying fat forever. But at the end of day three, something changed. It was just enough time to 1.) Make me feel strong and proud of sticking it out, and 2.) Make me know that wrecking my hard work with a binge would make me feel like I’d just finished writing my book only to have my laptop crash.*

*Laptop don’t fail me now.

Consistency was all that mattered. Mini goals kept me going.

But yes, inevitably I slipped.

One day, the first that I spent living in Rome, I felt so unsettled, so jarred from moving to a big city from charming Florence, that I bought one full bag of fun sized KitKats and a package sugar wafers and ate each of them, entirely, in my new apartment. I felt that guilty gravity that I’ve come to associate with letting myself down. That evening, to compound what I’d already done, I visited the pizzeria on my corner and popped arancini (fried balls of risotto) like they were vitamins.

I started over the next morning.

And I did not look back.

The thing about messing up is this: you get to start over. And the thing about starting over when you’ve eaten a cake is: the only way you can start over is by doing the hard part. It’s not like speeding in your car, getting a ticket, [cursing profusely,] and then just paying the fine. You cannot simply write a check and drive on.

Losing weight is, for better and worse, daily work.

Every, single, solitary day, I woke up and recommitted to my goal.

I spent more days faithful to that health-pursuit than unfaithful with some floosy cake I barely liked. And when I did cheat, I did that damn starting over thing. Every damn time.

But hear me:

The slip ups, the two steps backward, they’ll become fewer and farther between. The further along I got, the more weight I lost, the less I wanted cake to be my antidepressant of choice. It’s the beginning that’s hardest- the most desperate. Trust that your will to push on- your resolve- it gets stronger with time.

All the good things,
Andie

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda January 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm

This was something that I really needed to hear (slash read).

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kandice January 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

that e-mail could just as well have come from me. every last word.

thank you for the whole-hearted reply. i’m sure it’s a little difficult to give advice to people who are truly hurting, lost, etc but.. you do it so well. and you need to know that and read that every single day.

never have a landed on a weight loss/healthy/food blog and felt this way about it. it’s so real. so relate-able.

a million thank yous.
i know i can do this. it seems daunting… but i’ve done it before, you’ve done it, and others have done it. it’s possible. and the coolest thing really is that no matter how many mistakes we make, we’re always given another chance… the weight can ALWAYS be lost.

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Sierra January 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I love reading your responses, Andie. Thank you so much. Your writing is real & it speaks immense truth.
You’re inspiring!
xo,
Sierra

Oh, Just Livin’ the Dream
sierraainge.blogspot.com

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Dixie Redmond January 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

“2.) Make me know that wrecking my hard work with a binge would make me feel like I’d just finished writing my book only to have my laptop crash.*”

What a good image!!! I enjoy reading your site. I like to cook, I like to eat, I need to lose weight. It’s all here.

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Mary January 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Your past few ‘email from a reader’ posts have really struck a cord…so much of all this is a mental game. When I do hot yoga the instructors often talk about breathing through a pose and not letting our mind play tricks on us, telling us we “can’t” hold the pose any longer. And they say to just take it one breath at a time and use that breath to hold the pose a little longer. I feel like a lot of how you explain your weight loss experience is like that, one breath at a time. Just like sometimes I come out of a pose early, but I don’t stop doing yoga because of that, I go back in to the pose, I go back to another class. The food game is the same thing. Breath by breath.

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karinhope January 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Hi Andie, like both you and J talk about, I approach most things in my life in an all or nothing way. I don’t want to do ___ if I can’t do ___ to the best of my ability, anything less leaves me feeling disappointed in myself. Another blogger I follow had a post with what seemed like a wonderful idea to me. She used a calendar to mark the days she was successful at her goal, which let her look at things in a new way. If we think of the big picture and see the days we did well, and imagine how much we saved ourselves from on the good days, then the bad days just don’t seem as bad.

She says “being able to look at a month all at once helped put things into perspective. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t exercised in a week. It mattered that the week before that I had gone to the gym three times. I could see that things were being done, even if they were not happening every day.” Find the whole post here: http://eliseblaha.typepad.com/golden/2011/04/on-running.html (I hope this is enough to follow credit etiquette)

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Annie January 22, 2012 at 5:56 pm

this is perfect. I lost about 35 pounds a year ago and I’ve put 15 back on over the past few months. I keep sabotaging myself by eating healthy one day, and then deciding it means I can eat poorly the next. Plus I’m in college, and it can be hard to eat healthy consistently when I’m not making most of my food. When I lost weight initially, it was through breaking everything up into increments- five pounds at a time, etc. Starting out with the three day goal seems to be exactly what I need to get back on the right track.

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caroline January 22, 2012 at 7:36 pm

thank you, andie. thank you for being honest. i need to remember to fight for it everyday. i always think: if i never give up, then ill never have to start over. keep fighting. thank God its exhilarating. and i thank God for your blog :)
- caroline

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girlwithgoals January 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm

So true. And arancini are definitely the devils food.

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johnny January 23, 2012 at 2:16 am

Thanks, I needed that too! :)

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Melanie January 23, 2012 at 4:38 am

For me, I relized the big problem with slip-ups is, that it get’s me so hatefull and so self loathing that I just quit entirely. It took me years to accept the fact that a slip is not the end of everything. If I slip, I don’t hate myself and go to bed crying and feeling bad…that only makes me slip the next day too..and the next…

When I slip..I shrug it off..saying..ok..I’ve slipped…tomorrow I’ll work out a tad more and tomorrow I will do better.

After I’ve accepted my slips….I could also say no more easily. I accepted that I need a little bit of a treat onse in a while…and if I always say no and feel bad about the dicisions…then it just doesn’t work.

It took me years though.

Love the fact that you are totally honest in your answers. I don’t think nothing helps eccept hard truth.

xoxoxo
Melanie

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The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh January 23, 2012 at 4:38 am

Your responses are always so honest and heartfelt and for that I thank you!

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Mindy January 23, 2012 at 8:18 am

Needed this, thanks!

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J January 23, 2012 at 9:33 am

Thank you so much for answering my email. This really lifted my spirits today, and I appreciate your helpful point of view on this tricky topic. It’s definitely given me something to think about. Thanks again!

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LG January 23, 2012 at 9:55 am

Excellent post! Thanks for being so “real” about the struggles. It took me many “two steps back, one step forward” episodes like you mentioned (over the span of YEARS) for me to feel really quite “normal” about food. Once in a while I still have a “what the heck” day, but they are few and far between.

There’s an AA saying that goes “each day we live well, we are well”. I often think of that when the thought of living healthfully through my whole life seems boring or too “good-girl”-ish.

Also, the book “The Four Day Win” is one that I’d recommend for anyone wanting to make short little goals…it has helped me cut out several small bad habits which overall has been a big hairy deal. I’m on-time for work now and I don’t eat in the night anymore like I used to.

Finally…there’s a pot roast in our slow cooker for tonight and I used the recipe you posted last week!

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Erin January 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

Hi Andie,

I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and I tell ya, you have inspired me to work this thing out again… with both my mind and body! I have been overweight most of my life and adding a husband and two pregnancies (and two beautiful kiddos) to the mix just means disaster in the weight department! It’s so much fun to eat an entire bag of corn chips with a whole jar of salsa at every sitting, but losing that fourty pounds I gained with each kid… well, that’s not a whole lot of fun! HA! I am currently 72 pounds heavier than I was when I met my husband in 2005! woah!

So… a couple of weeks ago when I found your blog, I just kept reading and crying and reading and crying and sheesh! You are one inspiring lady! So, I kicked myself in the butt and woke up at 5:30 last Monday (and most every day this past week) to work out, I made better eating choices this week and this morning, one week later, I have lost four pounds! Go me and GO YOU! Thanks for writing the truth!

You rock!

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Alice January 24, 2012 at 7:50 am

Erin, you also rock for making that start and making those choices that are helping you reach your goals. Congratulations!

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Emma January 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Thank you. This really resonated with me. Thank you a million times over.

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Joelle (on a pink typewriter) January 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Your honesty is breathtaking, friend.

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Linda January 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm

A good dose of honesty and hope – great post!

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Lea @ Healthy Coconut January 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I like the idea of consistently doing things 3 days at a time. I have the same attitude as you, with all or nothing but if we can break-it-up in smaller time frame, that attitude can actually be helpful.

Thanks Andrea

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Sarah January 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm

If you stop brushing your teeth for a day or two, do you just give up? No, you brush ‘em well and keep on going :)

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Mandie January 24, 2012 at 8:43 am

I absolutely love the way that you write. It’s like you are in my head, and as evidenced by the comments to almost every single one of your posts, I’m not the only one. I went super intense for a few months, loosing 65 pounds. Then a few fallbacks and now I’ve had a difficult time for the past year getting back into the super intense mode to loose the last 20 pounds. Right now I am sitting on the couch eating what I can find in my pantry (which is not much) feeling bad for myself because I can’t find the motivation to exercise or go to the store for fresh produce after eating cookies all weekend while away. Thinking about it as just getting through the next three days of healthy eating and exercising is a lot more manageable than forever.

Thank you for your amazing motivation and understanding of the struggles of a completely addicted emotional eater.

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Shannon January 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm

This is wonderful. I have been a “big person” my whole life, and your responses make me want to try to be different.

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jaclyn January 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm

What a perfect post. The writer nailed a problem I think a lot of us have. Thank you, Andie, for not preaching and just acknowledging it’s just so hard. Your blog has motivated me to start my journey. I especially appreciate your sentiment about eating what you truly desire and not just what is momentarily enticing. See’s Candy isn’t going out of business, so I don’t actually need to gobble up four truffles in a sitting. Kind of simple, but profound. Thank you.
PS. I love how you describe certain foods as “lusty”….cracks me up.

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Miriah January 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Starting my journey with discovering myself at the healthy weight I should be NOW. This site has given me the strength to realize I am so in charge of this! I can do this. Everyday will be a struggle to get rid of the old habits but I am faithful in the mindset that with the shedding of lbs I will find new habits.
I am going to start my day; everyday. Looking at this site for inspiration and to daily reafirm my goal to be healthy and to treat myself with kindness and determination.
So excited for the rest of today..because it doesnt start tomorrow (thats an old habit to shed) it starts right now.

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Tammy January 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Whoa. This is exactly what I’m struggling with, and exactly what I needed to hear today. Crazy how the Universe puts you in the right place to hear the right thing when you need it. Thanks for the great advice.

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Amanda January 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Oh, Andie. You know what I appreciate about you? That you are real about how hard it is. H-A-R-D. But yet you make it seem (maybe because it is?) so do-able. And that’s why I keep reading…and part of why I keep going to the gym and tracking my food. So thanks. :)

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Jodi @ Jodeexi Writes January 28, 2012 at 6:29 am

You truly captured how weight loss is a daily pursuit. I think that’s something that some people really don’t get. Thanks for writing about it so beautifully!

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