Monday, 7 May 2012

Facing food demons

This morning I read a post on Runs for Cookies that evoked a lot of memories for me.  Katie was answering Reader's Questions and one of the readers was asking how she managed to avoid buying junk food at the supermarket.  I wholly understood both the question and Katie's answer - having been on both sides myself!  Let's face it, it does take willpower not to pick up a box of your favourite cereal, or a pack of your favourite chocolate treat at the supermarket every week.  It probably takes more willpower to not eat them if they're in your house!  But there comes a time when we all must face our food demons - and for me the best way to do this was to terminate the relationship forever!

I read an article many years ago that talked about overweight people and binging.  The article stated that most overweight people began a binge after consuming a 'trigger' food.  Basically, a 'trigger' food is something that you cannot possibly eat in moderation - it's something that, once you start, it is impossible to stop the binge.  Trigger foods are different for each individual person, so afterwards I thought long and hard about what my trigger foods might be.

I should start really by saying that this is not my first attempt at losing weight and maintaining the loss.  In 2004, I was my absolute heaviest weight topping the scales at 260 pounds.  I had not always been overweight, but the weight gradually crept on after I got married in 1995 and by the time I had given birth to two children (in 2000 and 2002), I was at my all-time heaviest.  The weight-gain, especially near the end, was largely due to binge eating and particularly binging on Ben & Jerry's ice-cream!

I remember going through a particularly bad patch in the summer of 2004 where I would consume an entire tub of Ben & Jerry's per evening - EVERY DAY!  I've just checked and the average 500ml tub of Ben & Jerry's contains 1,000 calories!  And remember, this was in addition to my already incredibly unhealthy diet!  So, somehow I took the decision to cut them off (sorry Ben & Jerry!).  When I started losing weight I knew that there were somethings around which I just could not control myself and this divine ice-cream was one of them.  Now, please don't interpret this as an anti-Ben & Jerry's campaign!  I know plenty of people who love the stuff and can easily remove said tub from the freezer and have an allotted portion.  I am just saying that for me, that's not possible!

It took time, like any addiction, but I can honestly say that I have not craved ice-cream, nor binged on it since that time.  Time does march on, however, and personally I believe that some of us are more prone to addiction than others.  Having beaten the ice-cream habit, and lost over 100 pounds from 2006-2008, the weight did start to creep back on.  Thankfully I took control before I saw 260 on the scales, but a gain is still a gain.

Looking back, there must be some deep psychological reasoning behind binging - we must be trying to fill a void of some sort with food.  The key, I believe, is to really re-examine our relationship with food and take the decision that WE will control what we eat and not let IT control us!  This is something that I've slowly been learning with baking and dieting.  Because my urge to lose weight is stronger than my urge to eat cookie dough as I cook, I am able to control it.  I have also found that I am satisfied having ONE cake, built into my daily calorie allowance, when I do bake something particularly yummy.  And, I don't bake all the time - but I do enjoy baking and I don't feel that I should give that up just because I'm trying to lose weight.  After all, once I lose all of the weight I will need to educate myself to maintain the loss and this will involve a constant struggle of self-control!

I suppose the message I am trying to share with this post is that just because we identify and give up a trigger food, doesn't mean that life is no longer worth living.  We need to have some pleasures in life, and there are still any number of foods that I love eating, but which don't have that binging effect.  So, like Katie at Runs for Cookies, I just don't buy certain foods at the supermarket and I've learned over time to be able to comfortably resist.  Another tip for resisting junk foods is to do your shopping online. I work full-time, have two young children and a very busy life.  Most of the time, I don't have time to go to the supermarket, or frankly, I'm too tired to go!  Ordering my weekly food shop online enables me to choose only the things that I need, and manage to resist those impulse buys!  I also find this saves me money because I check my shopping trolley at the end and ask the myself the question "Do I really need that?" for each item - plus you always see your running total.  Much, much easier to resist temptation this way!

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