It’s crazy to think that just by exercising a little self-control with regards to what we eat or by monitoring our food portions, we can actually change the way our bodies look and feel. Boy, that’s a lot of power … AND a lot of responsibility! The key word here though, is a word most of us don’t like: “Control.”
Controlling our appetites – or better yet, NOT controlling our appetites is the main cause of why so many of us are unhappy with the way we look. The poor choices we make when we choose not to control our appetites is what leads us to despise stepping on the scale with any amount of frequency.
Because I’ve been at my ideal body weight repeatedly, I always find myself “stymied” as to how I end up regaining lost weight. Okay, that’s just my denial talking. The truth of the matter is, it’s really no mystery at all. I’m a person who chooses to feed my emotions rather than dealing with them in a healthy, balanced way. Name a feeling, and I bet I’ve got the perfect combination of junk food to throw at it.
Sure, I had times when weight gain was expected. Three pregnancies to be exact. But even then, I CHOSE to make poor choices with regards to my diet. That whole, “I’m eating for two,” really got the better of me. After my third and final pregnancy, I rejoined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time and eventually lost my baby weight. And then for good measure, I went to work for Weight Watchers to insure my weight loss success would be a lasting one.
But, as with most things in life … LIFE got in the way and had other plans.
I can remember the exact day in which I willingly stopped making good food choices and the moment I fell off the Weight Watchers wagon. And trust me when I say, I fell off that wagon pretty darn good and hard! I not only fell off the wagon, but I stretched out on the ground and let the wagon back up and run over me. Repeatedly. And it all started with a no-turning-back-the-only-way-to-go-is-down shove off the wagon by a Styrofoam container of refried beans.
These weren’t just any ordinary refried beans, mind you. These beans are indescribably delicious, and possess some sort of magic property that changes a person’s brain chemistry, elevating them to a near blissful endorphin euphoria. Hmm … perhaps, that’s a slight exaggeration .. but at any rate, these beans are still one of my favorite treats.
I turned to the beans shortly after my mother passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly. She passed peacefully in her sleep the day before Mother’s Day 18-years-ago. I was overcome with as much guilt as I was grief since she and I had a very challenging, oftentimes, difficult relationship. Her unexpected death left me with so many unresolved issues with no way of resolving them at that point. I’d had opportunities to work through our problems in the past, but always opted to wait until “the timing” was better. Now there would never be “a better time” to resolve anything.
My Mother, Antonina “Lena”
October 6, 1933 – May 10, 2003
After receiving the news that my mother had passed away, I was numb for days – a veritable advertisement for The Walking Dead. My father passed away three years prior to my mother’s death – so to suddenly find myself without both my parents was tough to process. Even though I had a husband, children and a grandchild and in my early 40s, I felt orphaned. For once in my life, rather than feeding my emotions, I completely stopped eating for an entire week. In my mind, my mother was dead and somehow it felt wrong to reward my body with any type of nourishment. It makes no sense, especially looking back at it now – but at the time it made perfect sense to me.
I lost about eight pounds from the day my mother died until we buried her six days later. The minute they lowered my mother in the ground though, something happened. My brain developed it’s own opinions on how I should grieve and flipped a self-destruct button to the “ON” position. I suddenly became ravenously hungry. My cravings ignited, my hunger and appetite were insatiable. My body wanted — no demanded — comfort food and lots of it.
My husband made a special trip into downtown Phoenix to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food restaurant (aren’t those always the best places to get authentic Mexican food), to buy a couple of pints of my favorite refried beans. These beans are so mouth-wateringly delectable and are likely made with pure lard and lots of secret Mexican ingredients, slow-cooked for days over an open fire by a hunchbacked Hispanic woman who is at least 104-years-old. (Okay, I made that last part up. I don’t know how they cook these beans, but they are worth the 45-minute drive into town and back again. Absolutely THE BEST refried beans you’ll ever eat this side of the Rio Grande.)
After I polished off the beans, it almost became a contest to see how much food I could “secretly” consume. I couldn’t let my family know the depth of my grief and depression, so when they were home, I ate “normally.” When they all left for school or work, it became a marathon of binge-eating anything and everything not nailed down. Almost like an out-of-body experience, I watched as I ate myself stupid, ending every day falling asleep in a full-blown food coma, having eaten to the point of feeling sick. Filling my body to excess to the point of extreme discomfort took the focus off of my grief, temporarily. At least, that’s what I fooled myself into thinking.
Because we all process grief differently my way of dealing with my mother’s death was to punish myself in a way that would hurt me the most. My self-esteem has always been tied to my weight and my physical appearance, so sabotaging my weight was the most self-destructive thing I could do to provide maximal pain to my splintered emotions.
The weight that had been so difficult to lose and maintain, returned almost instantly. As you would imagine, sudden weight gain is not the greatest endorsement for someone who works for a weight loss organization – especially one that requires monthly weigh-ins for their employees. I was forced to quit my job, siting “personal reasons” for my sudden departure.
In no time at all, the number on the scale that I vowed never to return to, was suddenly surpassed and at the highest it had ever been – including those months spent gestating a human baby inside of me. I was plunged into a pit of depression so deep, I thought I’d never escape. The years that followed were a blur of fad diets, yo-yo weight loss/weight gains and the darkest emotional times of my entire life leading up to the wedding of my two younger children nearly two years ago.
What makes me so sad is that my entire struggle could have been avoided if only I had sought the proper medical attention immediately following my mother’s death. Both my siblings and my aunt relied on treatment for their grief and depression with medication. I tried an anti-depressant for about a nano-second, but gave up almost instantly because I didn’t like the way the drug shut down my emotions completely. After that brief trial, I willingly chose to self-medicate with Double-Stuff Oreos, Cheesy Doodle Puffs and Bunny Tracks Ice Cream. These were my “go to” junk food staples I kept locked and loaded. And these were just a few of the caloric weapons in my total self-destruct arsenal.
In spite of the fact that I was a strong Christian at the time of my mother’s death, I fell into such a state of despair that no amount of praying, church attendance or Scripture reading could alleviate my self-induced suffering. It was as if I didn’t feel I deserved to be healed, healthy, happy or whole. I willingly chose to let the enemy, the master deceiver, the chief liar – Satan himself – destroy me … one lie at a time … one bite at a time.
If only I could turn the clock back and undo all of the damage the devil did to me way back then. If only I would have willingly chosen to chew on Scripture verses like Romans 15:13 rather than junk food … Think of the emotional pain I could have avoided.
Simply being a Christ-follower is no guarantee that we will have a perfect life free from challenges. And of course, merely reciting Scripture and praying may not ever fully alleviate our pain and suffering. But for me, it’s comforting to KNOW that I’ve got the Creator of the Universe in my corner. It’s encouraging to KNOW that He grieves with me, even collecting my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8) and that my suffering has not gone unnoticed by Him. God’s Word also promises that He will never leave me (us) or forsake me (us.) (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5)
Even after all of these years, my mother’s passing reminds me that I need to cherish my relationships and right any wrongs sooner rather than later. Falling off the wagon reminds me, that eating my way through any difficulty only makes the trial that much harder to bear. To avoid any future setbacks I MUST remember, FOOD IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE the answer to dealing with life’s trials! MY answer is a healthy mixture of Jesus, prayer, Scripture reading and memorization, portion control, exercise and making good choices TODAY!
In this season of learning from my past mistakes, I vow to fight with everything that is in me to never willingly be defeated by my food choices again. Not every day is victorious, but there are victories in each and every day. Life is for living one day at a time … one challenge at a time … one bite at a time … one workout at a time.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them. ~ Charles C. West