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Saturday, December 10, 2005

The honeymoon is over

Originally published Dec. 10, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Nobody ever said this trip was going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t whine about it.

Complications? Nope, not a one. Regrets? Not at all.

So what is my problem? In a nutshell, it’s that I’ve started to face the same challenges I’ve had every time I’ve tried to lose weight. The issues I’ve had with dieting before have reared their ugly heads, and I’m not happy about it.

I’ve mentioned in recent columns the phenomenon of old habits creeping up. I am as honest in this column as I can be in a family newspaper. I stay honest because I want people to understand that losing weight isn’t easy regardless of the method used. I never thought this would be a quick fix, and I want to make sure readers understand that.I

compare what I’m going through to running into an old flame. You know where the person lives and where the person works and have done a decent job of avoiding him. But one day, you’re strolling down the produce aisle, and your carts collide. Face-to-face, the past hits you like a ton of bricks.The meeting is awkward, and later at home, you find yourself analyzing the relationship all over again. What went wrong? Are you really over him? The questions grow more frustrating, the answers more confusing.

Realizing food issues have re-emerged is no different. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done a variety of things. I’ve had nightmares about gaining all my weight back overnight. I’ve berated myself for dropping my guard. I’ve tallied up every “bad” choice I’ve made. And last but not least, I’ve hit the gym with a vengeance to counteract the effects of those choices.

I’ve haven’t fallen as far off the wagon as it may sound. It’s not like you’ll find me at Cold Stone Creamery ordering a large-size Creation. I haven’t had ice cream since I dumped on sugar-free Breyers three weeks after surgery. I’m not frequenting fast-food chains. In fact, I passed up the chance for Jack in the Box while writing this column (though the deep-fried tacos did sound good). My slip-ups are subtle. I might absentmindedly grab a caramel-filled Hershey’s Kiss from the candy dish on my way to the women’s restroom at work. While baking up a small batch of cookies for my husband, I’ll toss one into my mouth without thinking. Once I’ve swallowed, I’ll realize what I’ve done, but it’s too late.

I’m not an idiot. I see the trend in my behavior. I’ve been on autopilot for the last few weeks, and that’s always been my weakness. Sure, my eating isn’t anywhere close to what it was before surgery. It’s not like I’m eating half a pizza without realizing it. But even if I eat only a slice now, isn’t that just as bad? I’m still sabotaging myself.

Before I had surgery, I told my doctor I often overate on autopilot. She explained to me that it was a survival mechanism. At the time, she told me not to worry about what I ate or why I ate but to focus on how I felt when I caught myself zoning out. She said figuring out what prompted my survival instinct to kick in was the key to snapping myself out of it. She also said that it was something I would struggle with for the rest of my life because my brain was hardwired to react that way.

I hate that she was right.The honeymoon is over. I have lost 150 pounds, and I feel great but life is not perfect. I never thought it would be. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t enjoyed the half a year I spent not battling compulsive eating. I

t took me almost four months to experience hunger pangs and four more to even consider eating between meals. But I knew that was all temporary. Every class I’ve sat in and every post-op I’ve talked to has warned me about that.I credit that education and knowledge for arming me with the self-awareness that I share now. That information has also given me the keys to getting myself back in check. I need to take advantage of the awesome support system that surrounds me. I need to start eating on a schedule again, writing down everything that I put in my mouth and cleaning out all the junk food in the house that I thought I could avoid.In a sense, I’m lucky. For the first time ever, I’ve recognized my self-sabotaging instincts before regaining mass amounts of weight. I see what I’m doing while I still have the power to stop it. I chose this surgery because I knew it was the only way I could force myself to confront my eating demons. Now that it’s time to do that, I’m going to make good on my promise to myself.

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