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!!
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,