When I Cheat

I’ve been on low carb many times in my life, but when I started trying to lose weight in 1996, I finally stuck with it. I weighed 208 when I started. In December 1998 I got down to 137. I’ve been maintaining ever since then.

On maintenance I’ve discovered that there are some carbs that are worse for me than others and when my weight is down and I’m doing well I occasionally eat a serving or two of the safer carbs. But when I’m not doing well, those one or two servings a week can turn into one or two servings a day.

Last month was a real struggle. I’m always more susceptible to overeating the borderline foods when I am under stress, but last month I just gave up for a while and ate almost nothing but brownies and cookies.

On top of all the normal stresses of being a self-employed single mom trying to have a love life, last month I found a lump in my breast. To put this in context, I am the oldest any woman in my family in 3 generations has ever been without having had her breasts cut on or off. I wasn’t really afraid of dying as much as of being ill for a long time and not being able to earn a living or care for my son. Staying skinny didn’t seem like much of a priority, even though I had fought for four years to get there and stay there. I even told myself that I needed to put on a few pounds to handle the eight I would lose in chemo or radiation therapy.

Well, everything was benign and two weeks later, there I was up to 145 again. And worse, I couldn’t easily stop the comfort eating. I was still eating carbs for stress, but this time it was just little stresses like my workload.

Remember, I’ve been on low carb and lost weight before, but not kept it off. I realize that in the past, when I have been slim before on low carb, I would have and did blow it off entirely by this point. I would have been well on my way to blowing it off entirely and gaining it all back and more. But not this time!

I’ve identified five things that are different for me now than they were in the past. They are:

  1. So many of the carbs and other bad foods for me make me physically ill almost immediately now – like wheat. Those cookies and brownies I was cheating on were rice flour based. At least I no longer want to eat the foods that make me sick overnight.That rules out large food groups and I wish all the carbs were that way. So my cheating is at least a little bit self-limiting.
  2. I have accepted the fact that I am physically addicted to carbs. I understand now that in order to have self-control in my eating I must go through several weeks of acute physical withdrawal. I understand that even trace amounts can sometimes keep me enslaved to the cravings. So I seldom risk reactivating them by cheating.
  3. I am accountable to over 350 people as the moderator of a low carb list. I am accountable, and I am blessed by their support.
  4. I now understand that when I eat what I know is bad for me there is always an emotional reason. There is always something I want but am not getting in my life that is masquerading as a desire for a certain bad-for-me food. And, kicking and screaming, I have dragged myself to the point where I accept that it is a better way to live to confront my root desires, fears and angers. That’s been a blessing in every area of my life and has helped me more emotionally than physically, even though the physical benefits of going from size 22 to size 6 have been wonderful.
  5. I no longer think of myself as a fat person. I believe that this is the most fundamental reason that I so seldom cheat and that when I did this time I pulled myself out of the abyss of the physical addiction and am on my way back to solid, meat-eating, ground. If I thought of myself in my own mind as a fat person, then I think I might subconsciously accept the idea of gaining weight. But I don’t. I now think of myself as a trim petite little lady. And trim petite little ladies simply don’t allow themselves to outgrow their clothes. It doesn’t match their self image, so they don’t do it.

I don’t know any other way to explain it. I just think like a thin person now. I think it’s normal for me to be slim and an aberration to be promptly corrected if I gain weight. I no longer think it’s normal for me to be fat.

Sometimes it pays to remake ourselves from the inside out. It often takes a long time to lose the weight we want to lose. It certainly did for me. I now see this as a blessing because it gave me time to remake my self image along with my body. I’m so grateful.

And I’m back to 139, but still fighting a few cravings. But this time I’m fighting them again, not giving in. This time I’m confronting my stresses, not giving in. This time I’m keeping the weight off.

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