Saturday, August 30, 2014

Food orgy: curbing the craving

I have a confession to make: I am a food junkie. I love the smell, sight and especially the taste of food. I am addicted to sugar and particularly to chocolate.

I was tiny as a kid and a young woman. Chalk it up to an amazing metabolism, but not to my eating habits.

At my first job out of college, one of my office mates had taken our donut orders, knocked on my office door and delivered my donut. She closed the door and left. Thirty seconds later, she opened my door and said, "I gave you the wrong donut."

I wiped the donut crumbs from my mouth. I already had wolfed down that donut. The wrong donut. Someone else's donut. She didn't believe me.

"You're kidding me," she laughed. "No, really! Where's Julie's donut? How could you eat it so quickly?"

I shrugged. I've never been one of those girls who eats daintily like a bird, gnawing on seeds and maybe a lettuce leaf.

After bearing children, my unhealthy eating habits continued. I began packing the pounds onto my petite frame. In my profound unhappiness with myself, I medicated myself with food. I nearly doubled my weight in 20 years.

At midlife, I made major changes to reintroduce health--and joy--in my life. In the past three years, I've lost about 50 pounds through mindful eating. When I've found myself reaching for comfort food, I ask myself: "Why are you eating? Are you really hungry? Maybe you're thirsty or stressed out. Maybe you didn't get enough sleep." I've made healthier choices, chose smaller portion sizes, eliminated processed food and fast food.

I've worked my butt off by exercising harder than ever. I've paddled a dragon boat three times a week, hiked, kayaked, used a weighted hula hoop, did endless crunches, walked miles of trails. And everywhere I went, I chugged water.

I've dropped five jean sizes. I am no longer consider obese, but now am just "overweight." I feel and look better than I have in 20 years. People who haven't seen me in the past few years don't recognize me.

I was so proud of myself. I'd conquered the Food Beast at last! Yay! Give that girl a gold star. (Better yet, give her a Dove chocolate!) Ha! What a joke!

Early in the summer, I caved and had a Burgerville strawberry milkshake. It tasted so good! Giving in to that temptation opened the floodgates.

The Food Beast began collaring me and whispering in my ear like an evil crack dealer: "Come on! It's only one Frappuccino! It's a really hot day. You've been working so hard. You deserve this. What harm is there in having one? Ask them to make it with skim milk."

As the summer progressed, my food decisions regressed. I've had French fries, Dairy Queen blizzards, even a fast-food burger. I caved to carrot cake, strawberry pie, hot fudge sauce, homemade huckleberry ice cream, brownies, cookies and a s'more made with a Reese's peanut butter cup.

As my annual trip to my doctor drew near, I dug my scale from the closet and stepped onto it.
The good news is that, despite my summer food orgy, I've gained only seven pounds. My saving grace is that I've continued to be physically active.

The bad news is that I've regressed to my old habit of medicating myself with food. Rewarding myself with chocolate or some other craving instead of considering why I want to eat. I've been stress eating like the old me. That scared me. Hadn't I already fought this battle--and won it?

I've realized that my food cravings have not stopped. They likely never will. Accepting that and figuring out how to cope with my food cravings will be a lifelong journey. I am up for that challenge.