Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Have I learned to think like a thin person?

Comment Munchberry Re: Thinking about food all the time
Since your blog's name is the actual thing we are driving towards - you have far greater insight on such matters. I do wonder how to curb my obsession (I try) and how not to obsess on the curbing (so it won't take over my life - how it might become natural). I wonder if it is possible or if it is just going to be about finding work arounds. Any thoughts?

I replied: 
My thinking is changing, the connection and food obsession is loosening its grip on me. So yes, it is possible to change your thinking. In my case, there was no way that I could have gotten here on my own. Cognitive therapy was the key.
I know many people are happy and it works for them to use a work around. I couldn't live with the struggle any longer. Well I could, but the anxiety caused me to eat and eat and I was getting bigger and bigger.

I'll expand more in a blog posting....

I ate relatively normal, healthy, well-balanced meals, but I snacked horribly. This is how I described my eating habits to my doctors, therapist and nutritionists sixteen months ago.

I would overeat and even binge on snack food. Snack time was anytime that was not meal time. My appetite for snacks was insatiable. If ice cream happened to be in the freezer, I would eat a bowl before breakfast. If there was a package of Oreo cookies in the pantry, I would grab two or three or five at a time throughout the day until the package was finished.

At work, I would search the food court searching for the perfect snack to augment the lunch I brought from home. A package of mini Skor bars, mini Reese Peanut butter cups, or Hershey’s milk chocolate usually caught my attention. But I also munched on packages of chocolate wafers, chocolate chip cookies, two-bite brownies. I would plow through a package in a matter of hours, none lasted overnight.

I attempted to make compromises, but that usually meant drinking 500 ml carton of chocolate milk, instead of eating a package of chocolate. Or buying two cookies from Treats or Tim Horton’s instead of buying a package from the grocery store.

Of course, when I was in diet mode – snacking stopped – at least the unhealthy kind. But over the years, dieting had become increasingly more challenging. The amount of time that I could be in diet mode shrank and the time between Weight Watchers’ memberships grew.

Finally, I decided that I couldn’t be live like this any longer. Thankfully, unbeknownst to me, our family had just moved to a house that was located ten minutes away from a cognitive therapy practice. My hope for therapy was to change my negative eating behaviors into positive ones. I hoped to learn to think like a thin person.

So, have I learned to think like a thin person?

The best way to figure out that question is to compare my thinking before and after cognitive behaviour therapy:

Before cognitive behavior therapy:  I craved food all the time.  In particular, I craved snack/junk/fast food.
After:  Junk food cravings have decreased significantly. Instead of craving junk food, I now crave vegetables.

Before: I always ate everything on my plate, even if the food didn’t taste good.
After: I don’t feel the need to eat everything on my plate, including the food that doesn’t taste good.

Before: I would eat second and third portions of the starch/carb section of the meal.
After: I’m usually satisfied by one starchy serving. However, I will have second servings of vegetables.

Before: I was obsessed with taste. If food didn’t taste good, I would overeat other foods to satisfy this need for food to taste good.
After: I’ve accepted that sometimes food just doesn’t taste as good as I want. And that’s OK. If food doesn’t taste as good as I expect, it doesn’t trigger overeating.

Before: I could not keep ice cream in the freezer or cookies in the pantry.
After: I can keep ice cream in the freezer; it does not trigger eating. I actually don’t feel the need to buy ice cream. Cookies in the pantry will go faster than ice cream, but like the ice cream, I don’t feel the need to buy cookies.

Before: If I was out of the house (or away from the office) and I was hungry, I would use that as an opportunity (excuse?) to buy a junk food snack.
After: I prefer healthy snacks from home, so I take food with me. Or, I’ll wait until I get home or back to the office.

Before: At the office, I would hunt for food to satisfy a taste for junk/snack food.
After: I prefer the food from home. I only buy what I need for a healthy lunch (i.e. lettuce for a salad etc.)

Before: It was a struggle to leave any store without buying junk food.
After: It’s not a struggle. The need to buy junk food has vanished.

Before: If I went to a restaurant, I would favor an establishment that served high-fat, deep-fried, and processed food over fresh options.
After: I recently went out to lunch with friends, and I voiced the opinion that I was not interested in going to the pub or Swiss Chalet. We went to the Cora's instead.

Before: I would eat packages of chocolate bars or cookies at my desk in secrecy.
After: No eating in secrecy. I still eat chocolate (usually in the form of chocolate chips), but I have only eaten one chocolate bar (that I bought for myself) in six months.

Before: I preferred to drink hot chocolate for comfort on winter evenings.
After: I prefer peppermint tea that is comforting any time of year.

Before: The only way to stop the constant barrage of cravings was by using willpower, which was in dwindling supply.
After: If I have a craving, I let the craving come and go, I don’t let it turn into an obsession so it doesn’t trigger eating.

Before: Categorize food with "good" and "bad" labels.
After: It’s all food. Some food choices are healthier than others.

Before: Obsessed over the "bad" foods and didn’t want to eat the “good” foods.
After: I prefer to eat healthier foods (real food) now. I see fast food, packaged food, and most restaurants as fake food; food that satisfies your mind but does not fuel your body.

Before: Routinely rewarded good eating with treats.
After: I don’t feel the need to do this.

Before: Followed dieting rules only when I was a Weight Watchers member.
After: I know that following a structured diet program will trigger eating, but I also don’t need the accountability that a structured diet provides.

Before: I had to be a Weight Watchers member to lose weight.
After: I can lose weight without Weight Watchers.

Before: Weighed myself only when dieting, otherwise I avoided the bathroom scale.
After: I’m not freaked out by the scale. I don’t celebrate losses and I don’t freak over gains. It is what it is.

Before: Avoided mirrors.
After: Well, I still do that, but I do look every now and again.

Cognitive behaviour therapy has changed how I think about food and eating. I'm delighted to write that I don't think about food all the time. I crave healthy food, and the interest in junk food has diminished. It is much easier to lose weight with this new mindset. I'm not losing weight quickly - that is a big trade off, but what I am doing is virtually effortless. In time, I know I will be 20, then 40, then 60 (and so on) down to a healthy weight. 

Although I will never be a thin person with a naturally smaller appetite, I am well on my way to becoming a thin person that naturally chooses smaller portion sizes, eats healthy food choices, and indulges in higher fat food choices on occasion. 

Next post: How I learned to think like a thin person


  1. Good for you!!

    I am currently in CBT for my anxiety, but I achieved many of the same results you describe above over the years through a combination of a variety of therapies (including A LOT of self-therapy via my blog), practicing self-awareness and acceptance, as well as addressing some physical issues/imbalances.

    Having lost weight is certainly nice, but the biggest victory for me is the control aspect: food doesn't control me and I don't have to control it.

  2. Karen@WaistingTime - it's a lot less stressful way to live.

    KCLAnderson (Karen) - Yep, we managed to get to the same spot by taking two different paths! Unlike you, I would never have gotten here on my own. I agree with you, food no longer controlling my life is the biggest victory.

    What do you think of your CBT experience? Interesting that you mention anxiety since all the negative eating that I tackled stemmed from eating and food related anxiety....

  3. How do you let a craving pass? I have no idea how to do that. If I get a craving at the moment - I MUST have whatever I want. Sometimes I will think about it for weeks until I get it. How do you distract yourself and let it come and go?

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thanks for your comment/question. I'm posting your question in a post... Kara


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