Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lessons from the Fat Shrink - Step 1

There was a very specific reason why I named this blog Brownie Rehab. For most of my life, I've truly felt like an alcoholic who ate sugary confections instead of drinking. I frequently searched for an actual rehab, not for alcohol or drugs, but for food. I found treatment centers for anorexia or bulimia, but I never found a place just for compulsive eating. All of that changed when a good friend of mine underwent gastric bypass surgery recently. As part of her surgey, she had mandatory counseling with an eating disorder specialist. And luckily for me, she was more than willing to talk about what she learned.

The first step was to create an "Emotions and Eating journal". Now this is not your typical "track your food" advice that many dieters receive. The idea is NOT to log the day's descent from pious breakfast to afternoon binge. Instead, you are to track what you were feeling and what events were happening at the time you are eating. My friend and I were both shocked at how obvious our emotional eating was, once we started logging the correlation between events, feeling and food. Here is an example:

6:00 AM - tea, toast, peanut butter, fruit salad - house is quiet, kids are still asleep

7:00 AM - piece of cheese - making kid's lunch for school, starting to run a little late, mindlessly put it in my mouth

9:30 AM - yogurt and banana - running errands, getting alot accomplished

11:30 AM - grilled chicken sandwich - potato chips - at a restaurant and they came with the meal, so I ate them

2:30 pm - 3 cookies - boys home from school, cranky transition

2:45 pm - 3 more cookies - youngest son is having a temper tantrum and I'm trying hard to ignore it

3:30 pm - scoop of peanut butter straight out of jar - just got off phone with my Mom. She insisted on telling me all of the family gossip even though I'd rather just stay out of it.

You get the idea. I made it nice and obvious in the example above, but after a few days I really could see a blatant correlation between stress and snacking. My friend had a similar experience. A few years ago I would have told you "I'm not an emotional eater. I only eat because I'm bored, it tastes good, packaged food is easier and has a consistent taste, etc." But now I know better.  I've finally realized and admitted that I am a classic emotional eater.

Try it yourself for a few days. It might be an incredible eye opener for you. For years I felt like I had a good understanding of what I should be eating, I just didn't have the willpower to stop myself from sabotaging an otherwise healthy day. In fifteen minutes I could completely destroy ten hours of good food decisions. I was completely frustrated and angry with myself. But the emotional eating journal was truly my first step to finally finding my way to sanity.

After learning from my friend that counselors specializing in compulsive eating actually existed, I finally sought one out myself. And once I found one resource, many more resources appeared soon after. In the next few weeks I'll tell you everything that I've learned so far. If you've been spinning around the weight loss Merry-Go-Round, please follow my journey to get off the same Merry-Go-Round and reclaim my health, my body, my sanity and my life.

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