Thursday, February 9, 2012

I did NOT want to stop dieting

You can eat whatever you want. There are no restrictions in the foods you eat or the amount of food you eat.

As a person who thought of food all the time and struggled to not eat everything in sight, someone telling you to eat whatever you want is frightening. My therapist's word were eerily similar the words associated with intuitive eating. And while my stress level with food decreased significantly following the intuitive eating experience, I gained a significant amount of weight (~30 lbs).

When I began cognitive behaviour therapy, I was expecting to train my brain so I could diet better. I wanted to be a better Weight Watcher; say no to junk food without feeling as if I was missing out; be happy to eat healthy foods. Essentially I wanted therapy to make dieting easier. 

So when my therapist told me that I could eat whatever I want, I thought I don't want to eat whatever I want; I want to be happy to eat whatever will make me thinner. The Beck Diet Solution allows you to diet and retrain your brain to help you diet. Why can't I do that?

I was doubtful that I could change; I was worried that I was going to be overweight the rest of my life. I thought that food would always be this big issue in my life to manage and hopefully not pass along to my children. 

However, despite the unexpected start to therapy, I decided to put faith into the process. I also thought, I can always go back to Weight Watchers after all this is done.

Four months after therapy began, I made the decision to focus on choosing and eating healthier foods. 

Six months after therapy began, I finally stepped on a working scale even though my therapist asked me to start weighing myself back in September. At that point, I believed in third-party accountability and joined the local TOPS chapter for the weekly weigh-ins since it was economical and convenient.

I have to admit, when I joined TOPS, I considered following their plan to see what would happen. I opened the program information folder, flipped through a few pages and thought, no, I just can't go there. I closed the folder and never looked at it again. 

The next two months of weekly weigh-ins revealed that I was basically gaining and losing the same few pounds, despite an effort to choose and eat healthier foods. 

Eight months after therapy began, I returned to work and exercise became a consistent, daily event. My eating benefited by the fact that I brought my breakfast lunch and snacks from home. The best thing I noticed is that I was completely disinterested in all the fast /junk food that seemed to call to me before therapy. I started blogging about my CBT experience.

At this point, I wasn't sure if I could lose weight without a diet. However, I was reasonably confident that I wouldn't gain.

Ten months after therapy began, I had my final regular appointment with my therapist. I told my therapist that I had stopped writing down my eating plan, it was too much pressure. I agreed when she said that I could go back to writing out my meal plan (before eating) if I needed the structure. We talked about how I was noticing a slow, downward trend on the scale. She ended my session with a useful piece of insight: your brain needs to practice new ways of thinking.

I thought: maybe I can lose weight without Weight Watchers.

Twelve months after therapy began, I tweaked my food choices. I began eating salads at lunch and I finally started swimming with the local masters' swim club. 

Thirteen months after therapy began, I stopped going to TOPS. The weigh-ins were stressful. I decided to be accountable to myself, not to someone else.

I've changed. I can do this, I can lose weight on my own terms. I don't need Weight Watchers. I can choose to eat healthier foods and weigh myself. It's going to take a long time, YEARS in fact,but I'm OK with that.

What is the point of all this?  If the prospect of giving yourself the permission to eat whatever you want is terrifying, I know how you feel. I felt the same way. If you think that you can't lose weight without Weight Watchers or some traditional diet, I get that too. It took me ten months of therapy, time and writing about my experience to convince my psyche that I can lose weight on my own, less perfect, terms.

I'm hoping that by reading this post, that you open your mind (even just a little bit) to the idea that if you want to change, you can change (you may need help). It is possible to give yourself the permission to eat whatever you want; but happily choose to eat healthy foods instead of junk food. You can lose weight on your own terms without a diet. 

I'm telling you, if you change how you think, anything is possible.


  1. Our experiences are so very similar although I didn't have a therapist (at least not at the I do have a therapist but it's for anxiety)...I sort of used my blog as my therapy. I wanted to believe that I could lose weight without plans and programs and weigh-ins. And I was right. And yes, it's taking longer than others might find acceptable but the self-trust, self-awareness and the fact that I either lose or maintain is worth all the time in the world because before? When I was following plans and programs? I'd inevitably gain...

    1. I agree, writing has been very therapeutic and has enhanced what I learned in therapy.

      It amazes me what you were able to figure out and accomplish on your own. I agree, self-trust and self-awareness is so important. We give that away as soon as we go on a diet.

  2. I really enjoyed this post and think it is very helpful (to me). I am somewhere short of intuitive eating (like you and Karen), but still have foods that I do not eat because I think they are triggers. Before - like in the past years ago when I would "Diet", I would restrict nearly everything and find myself feeling mad and deprived and craving those things. Not so much this time. There are things I miss like a certain kind of bread that I limit or the fact that I cannot eat endlessly.LOL I laugh, but it is true. I get mad that I cannot eat whatever I want. I also ask my husband to remove something from the patry for a while if I see myself thinking wistfully about it too often (and then eating it) - like dried apricots. 500 calories in one day from dried apricots seemed a little excessive. I will eat them when I get over that. It passes. Recognizing it - the problem, has been big for me.

    OK now the thing that I keyed in on when I read your post. I like couching positive and healthful decisions for ourselves as things we choose. It is true. It is not restriction, but more a desire to feed myself better. It FEELS good to. It empowers me to do more for myself. It is true that good does feed more good. For me diets (like preplanned meals) have never worked. Eating for health does. I know - big revelation there Munchberry! But it is. Sometimes obvious is not obvious to me.

    1. I have those foods too that seem to trigger overeating, for me that would be Oreos. They aren't off limits, so I don't crave them as I used to, but if I buy them for whatever reason, I know that they may not last long.

      Asking your husband to move trigger foods from the pantry is a good idea - keeping it out of sight, keeps it out of mind.

      An awesome revelation Munchberry, and it's not obvious to many of us - the dieting goggles fog up our vision!

  3. Of all the bloggers I follow, your story intrigues me more than most. Because I can see myself in it somehow. Our stories are very different. But I do think I have screwed up my thinking about food and eating and I need to change that. I wonder what my eating would be like without "a plan."

    1. Thanks Karen - Wow!

      Our stories are similar in that we've both been yo-yo dieters for years, and dieting negatively affects how we think about food and eating.

      It's a relief and you'll love it.

  4. Great post! I tried eating intuitively for years and at the end keep going back to dieting (after gaining because of inability to eat truly intuitively). It's so hard but I know it's a goal worth pursuing. Who wants to count calories/points/etc for the rest of their lives?!


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