Ten years ago, I weighed 100 pounds more. Yep, I'm a food addict. There, I said it. But now I'm coming out of the closet with my secret as I celebrate 10 years of food sobriety and keeping that 100 pounds off.
How did I get so big in the first place? By the time I turned 40 years old, I weighed a whopping 227 pounds. My stomach never registered "full," and 30 minutes after a large meal I was already grazing. It had been that way since I was a teen.
Sweets was my downfall. Not only did I have an arsenal of artisan recipes, I enjoyed everything I created. It wasn't uncommon for an entire Gateau Opera to disappear in less time than it took to create. And it's not an exaggeration to say that I went years without a fruit or vegetable. Cookies, brownies, cakes and pies were my entire food pyramid. Ashamed at my inability to control myself, I put in effort only to watch my weight go up and down like a yo-yo.
Credit: Toby Talbot/AP
So what was my turning point 10 years ago? I turned 40. And when I went for my long overdue annual exam, the doctor's scale gave me sticker shock. How did I not know I was clinically obese? It's easy to ignore the truth if you don't own a scale or full-length mirrors.
I knew I was a tight size 20, but inside I felt thin. I was intelligent, loving, caring, and compassionate. I was a good wife, a good mother, I volunteered in the community, and had a soft spot for the underdogs of society. But those qualities were invisible to most, because my book was judged by the cover. And that hurt.
But facing the truth of weighing 227 pounds at my 40-year tuneup really worried me. Struggling with so much additional weight, my knees were beginning to really hurt and things I loved doing, such as gardening, were becoming physically hard. Instinctively, I knew that if I didn't start taking better care of my "vehicle," my mileage was limited. The sticker shock of the doctor's scale was my catalyst for change.
So ten years ago today, my neighbor and I started walking. She had a puppy that needed exercise, and I was determined to overcome my addiction before the damage to my body advanced beyond repair. So off we went every morning like clockwork. We walked my kids to the bus stop and, when the bus pulled away, we continued on to the nearby cemetery that offered flat pathways, scenic trees, and a peaceful ambiance. Every morning Monday through Friday we walked an average of two to three miles.
I also changed my diet. I didn't weigh portions, I didn't count calories. My only diet rule was that whatever I put into my mouth had to be nourishing.....it had to be useful to my body. If it came from a box or a can, I knew the artificial additives cancelled out most nutritional value. Which meant that processed food of any kind was not only on the naughty list, much of it was downright harmful.
At first, everything tasted bland and boring. Carrots and celery were considered "rabbit" food, and I missed the satiny texture of rich chocolate ganache. But I remained determined. And sooner rather than later, and much to my delight, my taste buds recalibrated and healthy food actually began tasting good (who knew?!).
Since I didn't own a scale, on the first of the month my neighbor brought her scale to the top of the driveway so we could check my progress. Between the morning walks and my eating for health, I lost 10 to 12 pounds every month. I didn't have a set weight I wanted to reach. My goal was to get healthy, not wear a bikini. But one day the scale revealed a triumph my neighbor and I never expected: I had shed 100 pounds.
Ten years later, I've kept the weight off. Has it been easy? Some days, yes. Some days, no. When faced with life's worst curveballs, I worried my heartbreak would find me crying into the sweet, creamy layers of a mille-feuille. Yet somehow I remained steadfast. For a food addict, all it takes is one warm slice of shortbread, and down the rabbit hole I go.
But now I know my weaknesses, and I guard against them as best I can. Fatigue, sleep deprivation, and hormones are the devil in disguise. As are the sweet ears of a chocolate Easter bunny just begging for a nibble.
For the most part, my neighbor waiting for me at the top of the driveway every morning keeps me honest. And our hour-long walk has become a treasured part of the day. In the past ten years, uninterrupted gab fests allow us to laugh, vent, cry, and brainstorm. We have walked through life's ups and downs including the death of her nephew in a car accident and the death of my daughter in a car accident. We walked through our children growing into adults, getting married, and the delights of becoming grandparents. As we walk through morning sunshine, spring rain, autumn's foliage display, and winter's bitter wind, we share life's challenges, joys, and sorrow. We giggle like schoolgirls at life's humor, and brainstorm over how to solve world problems.
Today as I celebrate ten years of healthful living, I also celebrate my inner courage at admitting I'm a food addict. I'm not going to lie: even at age 50, it's scary to share something so intimate and shameful. But I'm not alone. According to Eating Disorder Hope, over 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. also share my struggle. So if we don't open the dialogue about eating disorders, who will?
Someone has to be brave, and it might as well be me.
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