By Linda Tate, Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation Communications Director
This week, we are going to talk about someone’s personal journey of weight loss. Me. I’m that someone. While this blog will be hard to write, I’m convinced there is at least one person out there that needs to read it. I hope to hear from you when this is over.
Maybe you are just like me, constantly on that roller coaster ride of lost five, gained ten. Maybe, like me, you’ve tried all the diets out there that there are to try. And maybe, like me, you even gave up trying because nothing worked. I’m here to tell you, don’t give up. There’s more to your story.
Over my lifetime, I’ve watched my friends gain and lose weight. For some it was a years-long event, others it took little effort, and then there was the rest of us. Gain, lose, gain, lose, with little ground ever being gained in the overall weight loss.
I’ve had well-meaning doctors and friends tell me how to lose weight using Weight Watchers, KETO, Paleo, Nutrisystem, Medifast, Isagenix, whole food eating, the “trade this for that” system, and more. I would watch my friends as they tried these diets, only to see them succeed at first, then fail and feel even more frustrated than they were before.
These observations didn’t encourage me, in fact, they scared me. If they couldn’t do it, how am I supposed to do it? Now, don’t get me wrong. Millions of people have seen success using the above-mentioned diets. They wouldn’t be in business if they weren’t helping people lose weight. What I’m saying is these didn’t work for me, personally, and it took me 55 years of my life to find out why.
After my dad passed away, I found myself eating more than I ever had. I started gaining significant amounts of weight and knew I had to do something. Since I didn’t know what else to do, I went into therapy. Given my history of trauma, I specifically asked for a grief and trauma experienced therapist. My world has since shifted in a way I cannot begin to explain.
I have engaged in therapy before, simply because when you work in the field of mental health, it’s important that you are fine-tuned. But this time, therapy was different. This therapist was a different kind of special and she was able to get to the heart of my weight very quickly so that we could stop talking about it and actually do something about it.
She started me with guided meditations, taking me back to meet the child inside who was, at that time, so scared being without parents for the first time in her life. She then led me through a guided meditation that addressed an assault I had experienced at 19. She gave me visualizations of growing a long root from the top of my head, intertwining with my spine, and finally rooting itself into the earth where I gave back all the negative energy I had about that experience to be recycled into the earth.
Right now some of you are going “oh man…that’s whoo-whoo stuff“. Yep, That’s what I thought too, but I was at the end of my rope and so I did it. I’m so glad I did.
At the same point that I was being led through meditations, she found out what my coping skills used to be when I didn’t weigh what I now weigh. Singing, writing, and swimming were what used to bring me joy. She encouraged me to entertain the idea of singing or writing the next time I headed to the kitchen.
She encouraged me to only eat when I was hungry, and then eat slowly, savoring the taste of the food. My coping skill didn’t have to be eating…it could be other things. “Just enjoy the food, and let it nourish your body“, she said.
We worked on identifying triggers for me. Arguments with my middle sister, my PCP mentioning my weight at our visit, getting the news that my hip needed to be replaced but that it couldn’t happen until I lost weight, and getting emails from my health care insurance, telling me that due to my BMI I should be worried about prediabetes and “would you like some education on how your weight will determine the outcome?” Stop. Just STOP. That’s how I felt. And I would then eat. I would eat a lot.
Those statements were really painful for me. It implied that I wasn’t educated, that I was too stupid to realize I was putting my health in danger, that I was incompetent and lazy. Now, I know that’s not what they said, but that’s what my brain told me they said. That’s an important distinguishing factor. This isn’t about them. It was about me. It’s always been about me.
I started taking back my life. I started singing for a set amount of time a day, writing (I’ve started a novel and written a song), and I said goodbye to toxic relatives and friends. I sent an email to my health care provider asking them to stop bringing up my weight. I found my voice.
The first three months were rough. I started in October and so I had to get through the holidays. I gained 10 pounds. I cried. Then I went back to therapy and just kept pushing. Since my “post-Christmas regret tour” I’ve lost 13 pounds, but what’s more important is what I’ve gained.
I’ve gained an understanding of why I overeat. I’ve gained an understanding of what I use for coping skills and which ones are healthy. I use them more than the unhealthy ones. I’ve gained the ability to really seriously enjoy food. I actually LIKE waiting until my stomach growls and I decide it’s time for nourishment. It feels good to actually be hungry. I feel like I’m in control.
Food tastes so different to me these days. For lunch, I had two slices of turkey and a cup of Greek Yogurt. In the past, Greek Yogurt would have made me hurl. I literally gagged when I tasted it. Now I can eat it and appreciate it for what it is and how it’s helping my body. I still drink soda, but instead of 12, 16, or 20 ounces several times a day, I’m drinking 7.5-ounce cans, one time a day.
None of this has been thought out on my part…it just fell into place. I found new coping skills first, and after that, everything just happened naturally. I never, ever, sit down to eat and say, “well, I can’t have that.” Ever. I can have what I want, as long as I’m hungry and until I’m full. That usually only takes a few bites. Anything past that is emotional eating and I need to stop and go find something else to use as a coping skill.
You aren’t a failure. You don’t fit into the same “box” as everyone else. Therapy isn’t as scary as it sounds. You are worth the effort. You deserve to feel good and be healthy. We all do. Will I ever regain weight again? Most likely, yes. But now I have the tools to not only try and prevent that from happening, but I can start over again if need be. As with any addiction, it’s a process.
Don’t let past trauma continue to rob you of your health. I know so many women who, like me, were sexually assaulted, so they eat to give themselves enough layers of protection, in the hope that nobody will ever look at them in that light again. It’s a safety net. I know you. I am you.
Please trust me…learn why you are eating the way you are eating, and make those tiny little changes in your life that will lead you home. Consider calling your physician today for a mental health referral. You won’t regret it. I promise…
I’m rooting for you.