I was always a volume eater. More food was always better, even though it was never really enough to satisfy whatever hole I needed to fill. The thing is that I was usually careful not to eat a lot in front of people. At an early age I learned to be a sneak eater. I could open the bread drawer in the kitchen, remove and eat something and never tip off the family members sitting in the next room. At the table I might practice good portion control, but out of sight of others, there was little limit to what I would eat.
Obviously I didn’t have to worry about other people seeing me once I lived on my own. I remember times several years ago when I would go to a drive-through fast food restaurant and order two sodas so the people would think I was ordering for more than one person. While on the telephone with a pizza restaurant, I’d even pretend to be consulting someone else in my house on the order, saying away from the phone, “Hey, do you want (fill in the blank) too? Ok.” I remember well the shame I felt over these behaviors. I was positive that I was the only person in the entire world that resorted to them when obtaining the excessive amount of food I craved. When I think of those days and the long list of food that I could consume during a major binge, I’m appalled and amazed.
Shortly after joining OA in the early 90s, I read a book written by another compulsive overeater in recovery. She shared that she’d done the same things! I wasn’t terminally unique at all. That was a freeing moment and a great help to me while I struggled with all of the emotions and turmoil boiling up at the time. I was maintaining abstinence from the behavior of compulsive overeating. Without the food to anesthetize my emotions, they boiled up a lot. :-) Working toward freeing myself the shame, accepting that compulsive overeating and binge eating are disorders and that I wasn’t just a greedy pig with no self-control (Yes, that’s how I thought of myself.) really helped me deal with the negative feelings and lousy self-esteem.
Over time, I learned to resolve the self-abuse I inflicted in the names I called myself and foster greater self-respect. My emotional recovery progressed. I had some good long periods of abstinence from the actual food behaviors, too. Unfortunately, however, I never quite conquered them enough to successfully banish them from my realm. There have been many times when I had no emotional turmoil or crises or drama and stress and yet still binged.
Flash forward to recent years and where I am right now. For the last ten years I’ve had a great life with a job that I love and that I’m damn good at. My confidence in my abilities, my respect for myself as a person worthy of love and care is healthy and strong. Emotionally I’m in a great space. But I was still super obese and could not seem to put together a consistent effort long enough to lose weight. So, after considering all options I chose weight loss surgery.
Now, consuming great volumes of food is not possible. That behavior crutch was removed along with 70% of my stomach capacity. Quantity is out, quality is in. It’s a huge shift. I wondered if I would feel deprived and resentful over no longer being able to eat what I wanted, when and in whatever amount I craved. So far I don’t. I’m more focused on appreciating every bite of what I can consume.
For those of you who have not experienced weight loss surgery, I thought you might be interested in knowing what a typical day of food is like for me right now. Remember that I’m still on pureed and soft foods. This will change as time goes on and I’m able to gradually add in solids. Here are my menus for the last couple of days.
Yesterday: Breakfast – 1 1/2 servings of Solgar whey protein powder in 10 ounces of skim milk; Mid-morning snack: Reduced fat cheddar cheese stick; Lunch: 5.3 oz nonfat Greek yogurt with strawberry; Afternoon snack; two slices of thin sliced deli turkey; Dinner: 3/4 cup of Hearty Barley Vegetable soup; After Tai Chi snack: 1 1/2 TBLs soft brie cheese on low fat crackers. Sugar free popsicle.
With the exception of the popsicle, every thing on that food list was chosen for the protein count and the flavor. I savored the tang and sweet of the yogurt, the saltiness of the turkey, the rich flavor and colors in the soup, the creaminess of the brie.
Face it — that’s not a lot of food so what I do eat every day damn well better taste great to me. It still amazes me that I eat so little. I don’t experience much physical hunger, although sometimes my head still tries to trick me into thinking I want more or different than I should eat.
For the first time in my life, I don’t have a bottomless well that I’m trying unsuccessfully to fill. I have everything I need. I’ve traded a life obsessed with quantity for one where I can appreciate the quality and be completely satisfied.