I was sitting in the sushi bar with my Suppers friend Celia, who had set a goal to slow down her eating. In her mind, racing through meals was tied to her compulsiveness – something she hated about herself. She had never succeeded in slowing down alone and decided to try a Suppers experiment with a friend to see if the social component made it easier.
I’m not sure how I thought I was going to fix myself, but I always held this belief that “some day” would come some day and voilà, there would be a new me. I had a very clear picture of how I wanted to be and no idea at all about how I was going to get there. The word “magic” comes to mind.
Things didn’t start to change until I sat down with a friend at Suppers and learned that setting and meeting goals is a skill that you have to practice every day. If I wanted strength, I had to build that muscle.
I have been to at least six dieticians and tried every diet known to mankind: calorie restriction, packaged food, portion control, low fat, meat, no meat – and I only got fatter. I was in a high-stress job, going to college at night, and trying to keep up with the demands of being a single parent. With each weight-loss attempt, I steadily gained three or four pounds a year. My blood cholesterol and blood sugar steadily increased. Helpless, I felt I would never be able to conquer my issues.
The first thing that flashed on my screen when I was checking out Suppers was the quote “The diagnosis or name of the disease is inconsequential compared to identification of the biochemical and environmental causes.” This was followed by a list of all the problems you can have due to poor blood sugar and mood chemistry regulation. Several of the medical conditions mentioned pose a threat to me, and all – every single one – of them occur in my family.
I know exactly what it takes to keep me at a weight that preserves my good opinion of myself and allows me to move through life in comfort. It only took me one bad diagnosis and a few decades of not doing what I needed to do to finally figure out that I would have to make permanent healthy changes to stay in my comfort weight zone. At our Suppers meeting we were considering how so many of us have different diagnoses, but we share a mutual need for support to sustain healthy change.
“Yikes!” said a Suppers friend when I told her I was stopping caffeine cold turkey. Having done it herself, she knew what was in store for me. My motivation came from hearing that if I gave up caffeine, it might help my depression, and the only way to find out if coffee was part of the problem was to get off it. I was going to have to psych myself up to pull this off.
Planning a delicious menu of gluten-free and dairy-free foods was not enough. As you may recall, my friend and I, with all our good intentions, were sandbagged by the uninvited cheesecake that came to our dinner party.
Neither of us wanted to be called control freaks, so we had to find a different kind of strategy next time we planned a dinner party. We had to do emotional planning too. We had to plan our attitude, not just the menu, and decide to have a good time even if our unintentional saboteur brought something delicious that we couldn’t eat.
I recently had one of those experiences that drives home the message that I have to make good matches between my problems and their solutions. In the past I have learned other lessons about the importance of matching problems and solutions, like accepting that my cravings are triggered by eating wheat and that jumping through a dozen other hoops to avoid this unwanted truth just sets me up for more unwanted eating. Or how about the time I decided to start every day with a fruit smoothie until I ended up ravenous and gained three pounds?
There’s a phrase we use at Suppers that described my situation perfectly: “sane person, crazy body.” Not that I advocate splitting mind and body, but if my rational mind was able to observe my crazy behavior, how crazy could I have been? My body insanity always happened like this:
“The mess that I created is so enormous I have no idea where to begin cleaning it up.” That’s how I introduced myself at my first Suppers meeting. Not only am I a junk food junkie, I have brought three children into the world who eat garbage too. My husband and I are always at each other’s throats. There is rarely a time when we’re all in a good mood at the same time except maybe in the middle of the night if we’re all asleep.