Can’t Eat Just One

by Emmy on July 18, 2014

First step

Pretty early in life I recognized that I have a personality, or chemical predisposition, or something that lends itself to addiction. Thankfully, I recognized it before I gave any drugs or alcohol a try. I have had a few drinks in my life, but I could probably count them all up for you. Alcohol doesn’t taste good to me, and I knew if I forced it down to “acquire” the taste like people say you have to, that I might well be an alcoholic now. I was scared of drugs and smoking, so I never did either of those. But, I found other outlets over the years. I’m not sure you’d have called me a shopping addict compared to some things I’ve seen on TV, but I went through a period of time where my habits where pretty out of control.

But recently I’ve realized that I’m a food addict. I know that term is trendy right now, but for me, it is completely accurate. I read this post by Hank Hanna not long ago, and screamed “Thank You” to him through my computer. In Weight Watchers I was taught to work my indulgences into my daily points target. Heck, they even give you extra points for those things. Most conventional diet wisdom tells you to have a “cheat day” or “cheat meal” because if you don’t, you’ll just binge on those foods later. You must learn to work them in, or they’ll take over. I know a ton of people who this works fantastic for, so I’m not knocking the idea. But, this doesn’t work for me.

Last¬†¬†night I made a dozen cookies for myself and the boys. Tonight, there is one cookie left, and each child has had one cookie. No one else lives here, so guess who ate the rest? Once they were around me, I couldn’t think of anything else. I had a conversation with my ex husband this morning about our youngest son. I see the same tendencies showing up in him, and I told my ex that we have to control the home environment, because we won’t be able to control the outside world. He’s not familiar with this, because he’s not a food addict. But, he understands addiction, so he knew what I was saying.

It seems weird to people who don’t deal with this. I’d love to be one of those people who can take or leave a food item. My oldest son is that way, and I’m so jealous of it. He easily turns down food all the time. I can be stuffed to the point where I don’t feel good, and still eat something else. My brain tells me it is stupid, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s not logical, and in many ways it is uncontrollable. But, I have to eat, and like Hank said, that means I have to control my environment.

I know that there are plenty of people out there who don’t believe food addiction is real. They think it is just an excuse not to make changes. But, it is very real to those of us who deal with it. I am not using it as an excuse not to do what needs to be done. Quite the opposite really. If I don’t accept this part of myself, and work to fight through it, then it will cause me even more problems down the road. If I didn’t acknowledge this part of myself then my weight problem would be even worse than it already is. What it means is that I must control the environment. I simply can’t have those “cheats”. For me, those cheats are like telling a drug addict to have just one hit. It simply doesn’t work.

I have to have food to survive, but accepting this addiction is the first step on the path to a healthier life.

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I have a love hate relationship with Weight Watchers. Well, more like a love dislike relationship. If you’re a reader from the beginning of this blog, you know that I lost sixty pounds on Weight Watchers, and have since gained back most of that weight. At the peak of my weight loss, I also attended leader training and had the priveledge to lead a few meetings. I also spent some time as a receptionist, and met some amazing people along the way. If you know the Weight Watchers program then you know there are some big differences between the things I share on social media, and this blog, and the Weight Watchers program. So, I felt like I should explain why I still support WW, and still attend meetings, even if I really don’t agree with everything they do.

Let’s start with why I like Weight Watchers, and why I still recommend it to others who are starting their weight loss journey. Prior to WW, I knew that my habits were unhealthy, but I really had no idea how to begin changing them. I’d been struggling with my thyroid condition, gaining weight steadily, and just felt really hopeless. I had no idea just how much I was eating, what my portions should look like, or where to begin with exercise. I needed help, and Weight Watchers gave a lot of that. The point system showed me what I was consuming in a much easier to understand format. I could grasp the fact that my tea from McDonald’s was eight points and that was going to cut into my allotted 30 for the day a lot better than I could wrap my head around calories, sugar, and all the rest. It made sense to me. Why would I drink all of that when I could eat a lot more food for the same points? That opened my eyes very fast, and I was able to make some changes that I probably wouldn’t have made on my own. It also quickly became evident that healthier foods were less points and so I started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables.

Even more important though, and the reason why I’m still a member, is the support. I’d tried doing Weight Watchers online before meetings and wasn’t very successful. I needed that weekly weigh in, and the knowledge that I’d be getting on the scale. I also needed the other members, and the leader. I learned so many simple recipes and awesome swaps that helped me really be successful. The support from everyone in the meeting is probably the main reason I was successful.

 

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Now, for what I don’t like about Weight Watchers. Through the course of learning how to change my habits, I became very interested in learning about nutrition and where our food comes from. I explored these topics a lot more than the average member I’m sure. About halfway through my weight loss I decided to give up meat. I’ve talked about my reasons for that on the blog before as well. Weight Watchers has some things that they want you to have in your diet every day. One is dairy, and the other is what they deem “healthy oils”. Over time I’ve found that I don’t agree with these recommendations. I feel that dairy is one of the largest dietary contributors to cancer, and that oil is just concentrated fat which we’d be much better off getting through the food that it came from originally.

Weight Watchers has changed their program in recent years to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and less processed food. This was a big and welcome change. But, they still push a line of their own products which are highly processed, and not all that healthy. It’s also still very easy to eat a lot of junk and still stay within your points and lose weight. Weight loss is most people’s goal, but that doesn’t mean your insides are healthy. So, I’d really like to see them move away from making these products, and encourage a lot less processed food. Their new Simple Start program is a great step toward this, and I hope it continues.

A lot of people believe that the calculating of points leads to an unhealthy obsession with counting, and scrutinizing every bite you eat. Truth is, I don’t know a lot of people who come into Weight Watchers who aren’t already obsessed with food. Most of us have been counting calories, or trying fad diets for years before walking through those doors. Most of us need that control. But, I agree that it did make me far more obsessive over what I was eating and how many points it was worth. I’m not going to say that this is something I totally dislike about the program though. It take a long time to change habits, and even though it made me more obsessive, it did make me pay more attention to what I was really eating. I paid attention to the little things that you eat without thinking about it and realized how much they can add up. Again, they’re also really pushing the Simple Start program now which moves you away from counting because it asks you to only track what is not on their list of approves foods.

Another issue I have is with how your goal weight is determined. But, even this I’m only slightly unhappy with. Your goal is set by you and not a leader which is great. Once you are within your target rate, you pick your goal weight. After that you need to maintain within two pounds for six weeks to become a Lifetime Member. But, goal weight ranges are determined by BMI charts and we all know how much those suck. They’re not a good indicator of health at all. Weight Watchers is a business though, and they have to have some way to determine that you’ve met your goals. BMI is still the tool many doctors use, so I don’t blame them for using it. They can’t exactly send a doctor to every location to check everyone out. They also allow you to get a note from your doctor to set your goal weight outside of those parameters. So, while I don’t like that part, I don’t really blame the company for it. That’s a standard that needs to change in general, and I don’t really expect them to lead the fight.

 

So, there it is. I don’t really track my points like I should (and I should). I don’t follow all of their health guidelines, and don’t really push others to do so either. I tend to just keep quiet in meetings when those things come up. But, for all of their flaws, they provide the one thing I need most. They provide a safe, supportive environment. They are a therapy of sorts. The people in those meetings get me. They know where I’ve been, where I am, and want to see me get to where I want to be. It may not be the perfect system, but we all have to find what works for us

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