I met a wonderful women. She has spent years of her life dieting and blaming herself when things didn’t work out. She has wasted hours, weeks and months thinking about food. About what she can have. About what she’s not allowed. About what she’ll eat next. About what she shouldn’t have eaten.
But never once did she stop to ask herself what she wanted, or how hungry she was. Or how full or satisfied she was. You see, she didn’t know it mattered. And worse, she had lost all trust in herself to make her own decisions about food. Food called the shots. Food dictated how she felt. She was either on a diet, being “good” yet feeling strangely dissatisfied, or off a diet being “bad” and feeling guilty.
Despite the years of dieting, she still wasn’t happy with her weight. She thought this was her fault. She contacted to me to help her to lose weight. But she needed to find something, not lose something. She needed to find her food confidence, she needed to find her ability to trust herself, she needed to find food pleasure, she needed to find a way out of diet culture.
She knew that finding these buried treasures would necessitate digging around in layer upon layer of diet culture mentalities. But she took on the challenge head on. She was brave enough and honest enough to admit to the thoughts that dieting made her have.
And she was surprised when diet mentalities started to lose their grip, which allowed her to see that the quest for control that diets promise can be precisely what leads to a sense of being out of control.
And if all that wasn’t enough, she was selfless enough allow me to use her words. So they may help you. Help you to see that chronic dieting causes negative experiences and damaging thoughts. There is nothing wrong with you. The fault lies squarely with dieting. So here they are. The un-edited words of a reforming dieter (names changed, except mine!). It’s amazing what can happen within the space of 2 weeks….
19 November 2019
Lunchtime: Felt hungry. Ate last night’s leftovers. How do I feel right now? Satisfied. Thinking mindfully. Saw a french fancy in cupboard. Do I really want it? I can have it if I really want it. Not really. Surprised to realise that. Before I would have just reached for it and ate it without thinking. Moment has passed……..Keep telling myself. Relax. You can eat whatever you want. Baked potato and cheese for dinner with butter. Tasted amazing. Enjoyed it very much. Hesitated re the butter. But trusted Kate and went for it. Hey. I have a satiated feeling in my tummy. If I hadn’t had the butter I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much and wouldn’t have been satisfied. Adam cut slice of cake for me for supper. I said I don’t really want that. He said sure the girl said you can eat what you want?** But I didn’t want it or feel the urge to eat it. Had 2 plain biscuits instead. But if I want the cake I can go back and have it. I didn’t.
**Side note from Kate – Adam is misunderstanding the point here!
20 November 2019
Breakfast. I love porridge. Usually make it with water then add splash of milk. Made it with milk. Plus banana instead of usual blueberries. And so enjoyed it. Shouldn’t eat bananas when on a diet? So I was really facing all my screwed up beliefs. Lunch: Adam gave me 3 slices of cheesy crusty bread with butter. He said the girl said you can eat this. I ate 2 slices slowly. Was delicious. He coaxed me to eat 3rd but I stopped to think. Felt I was content. So left it. I wouldn’t usually stop and think. Dinner. Adam made chicken and pasta soup with side of veg for me. Stopped after 3/4 to think am I full yet? I was. So stopped eating! And felt just content! I always clear my plate. This isn’t a food diary like Slimming World Planner. It’s my thoughts about food. And I’m not planning. When you have to plan in such detail all you think about is food! And when I ate over the daily syn allowance I felt so disappointed in myself. Is this why SW never worked for me? The thought process it triggered in me? I was in a battle with food and when I won I was ecstatic. I was a success, so disciplined. Such will power. I’m in control again….. but when the food won in this points equation I felt such a failure, weak, undisciplined, confused, beaten….again. A rollercoaster of contrasting emotions. Any wonder I feel permanently stressed? Never able to relax. Always needing to be in control. On top of this. And when I’m not on top of it I’m trying to get back on top!!!! I’m an intelligent clever strong woman who has coped with so much in life and I couldn’t make Sw work for me? And yet a lot of people could lose weight on it. People who didn’t seem to be that clever or as intelligent as I am. Sorry if I sound pompous but I think Kate will get what I’m trying to say. Judy -v- food. Not to be enjoyed. To be controlled or food would win. And what’s the worst that can happen if food wins occasionally? Will the world end? Does anyone care? Will I get sick? Will Adam not love me? That’s never going to happen. Not like ex husband who mocked me if I put on weight. Is this the final piece from the jigsaw of past that I’m now strong enough to face head on. Food aka as ex husband? Is this weird thinking? He controlled me. Only control I had in my life was over food. I could put on weight. Go on a diet. Lose weight. Put it back on. Lose it again. Is this how this started? Kate, where has all this come from inside my head? Going to have a mini roll with tea later. If I want 2 I’ll have 2. See how I feel. I had 1.
21 November 2019
I haven’t eaten the ‘diet food ‘all week. But I am eating heartily and in a calm frame of mind. Mindful of my thoughts. But not obsessing and planning about should I eat? What should I not eat? Enjoyed dinner. Ate all of it tonight and was content. Even put pat of butter on the veg. Calories and fat content did cross my mind (old habits ) trust in Kate. Made a conscious decision to close my eyes and taste the flavour. Yummy. Had tea at 7.30pm. Usually have it at 9pm. At 7pm I wanted a kit kat. Didn’t want to wait till 9. So made the tea earlier and had 2 kit kats. Lol. Before this changed thinking I would have fought with myself. Wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about the chocolate. Till the panic started and the battle started and the negative thoughts started. Telling myself don’t do it. You can stick it out. Only when I finally gave in and couldn’t stick it out I had failed again. So feeling weak I would probably have another and another. Then feeling so disappointed in myself my mood would drop and nothing else mattered except how stupid I am! Relaxed the rest of the evening. Felt less stressed and had peace in my head today. Kate: Adam hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about half the time. He has such a straightforward attitude to food and eating. He thinks you have said I can have something. So it’s ok. You allow me. He thinks this is another diet. I know this has nothing to do with you allowing me. I’m thinking and doing what I want. When I want. How I want. But this feels different somehow. I ‘m not trying to control myself or food or anything else this time. Slowing my thoughts down. Surprised by some of these thoughts I’m writing down! It’s just me being me?
22 November 2019
Woke up feeling calm & rested. Not bloated. Tummy feels calm. Thought “Am I not as ravenous as usual?” Strange…..Enjoyed breakfast. Not thinking about food so much. Bread and cheese for lunch. Long time since I had that. Thought about not having the butter but changed my mind. And it tastes wonderful! Home early on Fridays. Always have a cuppa. Had a few quality street. Because I want them. Used to be because I thought I deserved them. I deserve more than food and chocolate. I deserve to be happy and loved. To have peace. To not always feel stressed. To have a healthy body and healthy mind. To nourish and protect my body with food that I want to eat and enjoy. And to make my own food choices. Not to be dictated to by diets, irrational negative thoughts. I am strong and I will make this happen. For me. (I never got what I deserved. Until the day I met Adam. He gives me love respect consideration comfort security. Unconditionally.) Today I just wanted a few quality street with my tea. Deserving food means it is a reward. Where did I learn that? I have to think some more about this. Possibly I never felt appreciated for how I worked full time and brought my 4 children up with very little input from their absent father who lived with us. I was on my own most evenings while he was out ‘working’. Did I reward myself with chocolate? Something to look forward to. I think I was pushing the loneliness and sadness back down with food. He never acknowledged until I left him that there wasn’t a better mother to their kids anywhere in the world. Was I rewarding myself with food to replace the respect and love that he wouldn’t give me and I craved. It felt good at the time then the guilt hit. Feeling ashamed. GUILT. And SHAME. Big words in my psyche. I’m good at guilt. (Discuss with Kate ) I’m beginning to understand me. …….Because I THOUGHT if I was perfect he would treat me right. I had to be perfect mum, perfect wife, perfect home. Always on eggshells to please him so I could maintain the perfect home life for my children. Protect them from his moods and anger. On a perfect diet to show him I wouldn’t let myself go and would have a perfect body. Never let him down. And then when I couldn’t keep it all going. I felt weak, felt I was useless anyway. Pushed it all down with food. Coercive control. Emotional abuse. I still find it very difficult to let my feelings out. Because I was everyone’s favourite little girl. Sweet. Clever. Polite. Kind. I wanted always to please everyone. Liked that feeling. I got attention. Why do I overeat when I’m stressed? Push the hurt down. Hide it. What I do very well. Because I fear no-one would like me if I reveal too much of the real Judy. The Judy who is human after all and isn’t always sweetness and light. …….Hey! Because I’m just like everyone else! Darkness and light in all of us. Strength and weakness. Happiness and sadness. Love and dare I admit it ….hate. Strong word…..If I let my guard down. If I show I can’t cope makes me appear weak. Vulnerable. Then I might be a target to be bullied and abused again. All irrational thoughts. Not true. Adam loves me totally. My children and grandchildren love me. My oldest friends love me. My newer friends love me. And Adam adores me. Healing started when I met Adam. Now I want to fully recover. This is what I want. I can have what I want. I can do this. I want to let the hurt go now. Let it come up and out. No more pushing it back down and holding on to it. It won’t kill me when I let it out. I won’t die from it. I don’t fear it. I’ve already let it out on these pages. It’s out. Kate: how has food thoughts diary led me to this breakthrough? P.s. shared portion of fish and chips with Adam for tea tonight. Was sufficient. And felt confident enough to share. I felt content and really enjoyed it. No negative thoughts at all. I normally would order a full portion for myself and feel rotten physically and mentally after scoffing the lot.
23 November 2019
Had porridge made with milk and sultanas. The banned dried fruit with all that sugar in it! Didn’t phase me about that. I wanted sultanas in it and was the best ever! Grocery shopping for Mike. Looked at fresh cream cakes in Sainsburys. And looked away again. I didn’t feel any reaction. Either good or bad. Tempted or not. Just stayed neutral. And calm. How come??? Straight home. Made a shepherd’s pie to take to them. Peeled potatoes for our dinner as that’s the one thing Adam hates to do. Peel potatoes. Had cheese sandwich and cuppa. All I had time for but I sat down and took my time over it. I had stopped eating bread a long time ago because of the carbs. Sure it made no difference. I was still putting on weight. And I missed it. But didn’t realise. Fed baby. Changed him. Settled him in moses basket. Let mum and dad have a nap. Tidied the kitchen. No time for food thoughts. Happy happy granny. Just thinking about wee Alfie and trying to relieve a little bit of pressure for a short time off my son and his wife. Grandchlidren the reward for having children! I was glad to get home to Adam. And our life. Dinner was steak. Chips. Fried egg. Such a feast! Cooked by my lovely husband. Lit the gas stove. Watched a movie with Adam. Had a cuppa with a biscuit. Off to bed. No struggle with food today. Not much thinking about it. Just the thoughts about bread. And the strange non reaction to fresh cream cakes. A good day I think….
24 November 2019
I slept really well last night. Very relaxed about eating and food in general. It’s so less trying to eat the same food as Adam. I made home made vegeatable & lentil soup. We had some at 3.30 pm with bread & cheese. Wasn’t hungry at 6pm???? My usual eating time. Before I started this food thought journal I would have made dinner anyway for 6pm and ate it. At 7 pm I sliced a pear for each of us. And had tea with small kit kat at 8.30pm. I’m not snacking. I’m listening to my body. If it tells me it’s hungry I eat till I’m satisfied. If I consciously stop and think and feel……if it tells me it’s not hungry, even though it’s my time for eating, I choose not to eat! All the restrictions and rules I made against myself around food had me so anxious and tired all the time. Always expecting to fail. Self – prophecy. Sabotaging myself. Negative thinking. I told Adam I feel the best I have felt for so long. Calmer. Thinking more positive thoughts. Happier. Food used to be at the front of my mind morning noon & night. Either eating it. Buying it. Planning it. Cooking it. Reading cookery books. Especially when on a diet. At the moment this isn’t the case.
25 November 2019
Busy day ahead today. Got Mike’s washing ironed as soon as I got up. Met Catherine & Rose off train at 11.30am. Lisburn shopping. Tea & scone and chat. Drove down to Mike’s so they could see baby. Rushed back home. Adam had made dinner. Potato croquettes sausage beans. M&S. Catherine only eats very plain & basic food. Took them to gt vic st for train. Got home at 7pm. Absolutely exhausted. Drank 3 large glasses of water. I was so thirsty. Realised I hadn’t had any water at all. I usually drink water all day long. Why I feel so drained? Dehydrated. Mindlessly ate 3 quality street. Then a piece of swiss roll sitting on the plate. Mindless eating………..because I’m tired? Or thinking the sugar would give me energy? First time this has happened since I began this food diary! Feel a bit confused and asking myself how could I be so stupid! Stop this. Falling into the old pattern here! Stop stop stop! But I have quickly realised this has happened. Used to be all the time I did this. This is positive. Because I’m feeling so fatigued I slipped into mindless frame of mind which led to mindless eating. I’ve been caught out and quickly turned my thinking round. Discuss with Kate. I will still have my tea and kit kat at 9pm. Because I want it and I look forward to it all evening. This time it’s not because I’ve fallen off the wagon. Not all or nothing thinking. Well done Judy…..
27 November 2019
I feel so much less stressed these days. I didn’t realise how rigid and inflexible with food I was before I started keeping the journal. Any wonder I felt so on edge and anxious and tired all the time. I was constantly shopping for food. Planning food. Eating food! Measuring portions. Checking fat content. Counting calories. How could I have enjoyed or gained any pleasure from eating. Food is supposed to be enjoyed isn’t it? Not for me. It was just something had to be done and if I deviated off my plan then I felt guilty, disappointed in myself. If I managed to stay on plan I was good and felt happy but not satisfied. Might have felt full but not content. There’s a distinct difference which I now understand.
28 November 2019
Birthday buns in office today…..again. They’re not even a treat anymore. It’s becoming the norm in our office now. And I can have one if I want one. But I don’t. I took one and brought it home for Adam. I just didn’t want one today. Golf club for tea after work. The golf club chicken goujons with pepper sauce and sweet potato fries is my very favourite meal. Recently I have suspected that my appetite isn’t as big as I always thought. Think this is because if I was eating ‘ normal food ‘ as opposed to ‘diet food’ I knew I was going to go back on the diet the next day and be deprived again. Didn’t know when I would next enjoy an actual ‘normal meal’. So I didn’t stop eating. Till I was stuffed. Also if it was paid for it had to be eaten. Wouldn’t waste money like that. Tonight I ordered a starter portion of goujons ie. x3 goujons. Normal portion is 6. I knew this time x3 would satisfy me. And I was correct. Had sweet potato fries. Not salad as I sometimes had with it, just ‘to be virtuous’. I did eat the whole meal. And at end had a wee quiet think to myself. I was full and completely satisfied. I didn’t fancy a dessert at all. As I was so enjoying the content feeling in my tummy. Not stuffed or bloated. Just content. Great not to be saying oh I shouldn’t have eaten that. I ordered what I wanted. And ate it. And thoroughly enjoyed it. Also happy that I was confident enough to know I only wanted the smaller portion. And I was right! Didn’t order a dessert. Adam had Xmas pudding with brandy custard. I wanted to taste it. Had 2 small spoonsful and stopped. That was enough for me. Just to taste. So good not to struggle with my willlpower re dessert. To give in and then beat myself up for being weak. And breaking the diet. Usually negative thoughts after meal out. Tonight I feel ok. Not down or up. On a level. No stress or anxiety. Content. Getting used to this contentment.
29 November 2019
Was at work in the morning. Took half day. Adam made lovely lunch of crusty bread, melted brie and ham. It was so delicious and lovely to have a couple of hours with him before I went away. He offered some crisps on the side. I ate a couple and left the rest. I thought to myself do I want them? Am I still hungry? The answer to both was No……..This is still surprising to me. My calm state around food that I previously prohibited. Unless I was off my diet. Now I don’t feel controlled by the food. If I want it I have it. If I don’t want it I don’t. Is it really that simple? Had a diet coke at the airport. Wasn’t hungry. Eventually got to Mary-Ann’s at 8.45pm. Just had a much needed cup of tea. A chat and bed. Exhausted. Not hungry …..? Think I was just too tired. Had been up and on the go since 6am. Usually when I’m dog tired I eat chocolate or biscuits. But…….because I can have them if I want them I don’t want them?????? What is going on with me?
30 November 2019
8.30 am. Out to watch Laura at football. Clark at tennis. Grabbed a banana on the way out. No time for breakfast. It was fine. I don’t feel so ravenous these mornings. Used to be I had to have breakfast before I even showered. Had brunch in Chelmsford in Jamaica Blue. My fav green scrambled eggs i.e with chopped spinach through them on sourdough. Usually I’d say this was a treat with the bread but today in my mind it’s a delicious nutritious breakfast. Baked cupcakes with children. They spent all afternoon decorating the buns. Pizza for tea. Which I enjoyed. Put 2 slices on my plate then took another. And stopped. This stop button in my head is registering with my tummy or is it the other way round? Anyhow, this has never happened to me before until now. And it seems to be recurring more regularly. We all had tea and cupcakes and a chat around the fire. Special times sharing with my family. I always bake with the children making memories with them which I hope they always remember. Just like the memories my kids have of my mum cooking and baking with them. Feeling so calm, happy and not stressed or anxious. At peace? Just missing Adam.
1 December 2019
Laura got me up early to make our usual pancakes with bacon blueberries & maple syrup for breakfast. Went down a treat with everyone. Because I could have some I had one with bacon and berries. That was just enough for me……previously I would not have had the pancake and felt so deprived, which for me is a negative emotion that I am learning I most definitely do not need. As I can so easily spiral downwards after feeling a negative emotion. I’m learning to protect myself from this. Horseriding lesson afterwards. Then home to put Xmas decs & lights up outside. We all missed lunch as the breakfast was so substantial. By 3pm we decided just to have tea and cupcakes around the fire. Then trees inside and indoor decs put up by others while Laura and I made our traditional Xmas puddings. We do this every year with my mum’s recipe. 6.30pm Don made a thai chicken curry with rice and naan bread. I don’t know why I am taking smaller portions of everything . Has my appetite really shrunk? Was delicious. I came to a natural stop and was aware I was full and satisfied. Someone mentioned mince pies about 8pm. I truly wasn’t interested. I wasn’t hungry. I don’t seem to be eating in between meals.
4 December 2019
Just a wee quick note. This afternoon out shopping we were discussing going in somewhere for a snack. I thought about it and said know what? I’m not hungry but I am very thirsty. Think I just want a bottle of water! So that’s what I had. Adam didn’t really want anything at all. First time I distinguished the actual difference between thirst and hunger. Adam made cup of tea at bedtime. He heated 2 mince pies each for us. I said I will eat one and see how I feel. I felt quite satisfied after one. And really enjoyed it. I waited for a few minutes. I didn’t want the second one. I know for a fact before I would have mindlessly just eaten both. Adam said his tummy was too overfull. I said if I had eaten both I would have felt so bloated. Instead of calm tummy. Went to bed feeling I’ve really got this now….
A lifetime of dieting versus 2 weeks of non-dieting. Which approach seems most useful? Case closed.