Rose’s Second Story: Experiment!

Hi, remember me? I’m Rose; lentils saved me eight years ago. As you may recall, I have always been a compulsive eater. Eating lentils in the afternoon made it possible for me to make it through my work day until dinner, which often consisted of a big bowl of popcorn. That wasn’t a binge; that was dinner.

My drive to eat was bigger to me than anything else in my life. Prior to eating lentils prophylactically, I never made it more than six days without a binge. After lentils, my work day got more manageable, but I was still binging, maybe twice a month. I had more control, but it was that white knuckling kind of control, not the kind of control that normal eaters have just because they don’t need to control anything.

I’m 5′4″ and I weighed 156 when I went to a weigh-in diet program. I liked the people and felt bonded to them through the emotional glue of shame. Through force of willpower, I got down to 115, but it was a constant battle, and I still binged sometimes. I exercised like a maniac, two hours every single day, getting up at 4 a.m. to fit everything into my day. Something didn’t add up. The Princess of Portion Control, I had my points and calories committed to memory. I can say with laser precise self-observation that all calories are not equal. Plus, much as I wanted the crackers and candy bars, I avoided the packaged items because they were triggering. How could that company not know about this. I ended up applying the point system compulsively to the healthier Suppers foods I was eating – although no oil of course – and relied on external measures to assess how I was doing, not my own internal radar.

I’m not one of those people who is touched by other people’s stories, though I would be flattered to think my story is useful to others. What worked for me was experiments. Having people send me home with jars of food to try let me see for myself how long the food kept me satisfied and in control. My breakfast habits improved, but I still loved starch. I made sure I got as much as I was allowed to have, plus binges, of course.

Then one day my husband decided to try Paleo (no starch) to see if he could get relief from arthritis pain in his hands. After two months of watching him lose pain and weight effortlessly, I tried it too. Since my identity is wrapped around starch, I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that my body required it. But it’s been two months now and I haven’t felt like bingeing. I don’t feel deprived, and I’ve even attended social events where I don’t want or feel obliged to eat my favorite desserts, even under social pressure. My portions don’t need controlling anymore.

Here’s the kicker. I stopped believing in emotional triggers. Remember, I’m a psychotherapist with an eating disorder. I’ve done enough Suppers to know that every person is different, and I don’t want to take people’s emotional triggers away from them. But I have lived in this body for 70 years and never experienced a starch-free two months nor two months without the desire to binge. Do the math. I’ve started craving salad, mostly as a vehicle for olive oil, which I’m no longer afraid of. The 127 that was so hard to maintain melted into an effortless 119, which feels like the right weight for me.

If I had the power to make you do one thing, I would say, “Experiment!”