Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Happiness and Well Being Isn't Found In Food

My Happiness and Well Being Isn't Found In Food

It took me all of four days to miss posting about a day.  I could write it and back date it, but no--I'll simply move forward.  The challenges I'm facing are crucial for me to process and fully appreciate.  And believe me, I'm processing and appreciating everything. I haven't gone off the deep end.  I'm staying in shallow water where it's relatively safe.  I'm also keeping in mind that it's possible to drown in shallow water if one isn't careful.  I'm being very careful.

My encounter with pizza on Friday really left me feeling horrible.  I'm okay.  It's over.  I'm moving forward.  There isn't an excuse to justify reaching for a slice.  Could an alcoholic say, "well, I was tired--exhausted really, and I didn't bring any water or tea, so I just didn't feel like resisting the vodka?"  No.

Janis nailed it in the comment section:

"I'm ready to say you need to ditch pizza for the foreseeable future, just to make things easier on yourself. If you don't currently feel up to making the judgment calls necessary to handle it wisely, then go easy on yourself and step away for a bit.  And don't rationalize it with "but I need to prove to myself that I'm in control" or any of that b*llsh*t, either. That's not you, that's the monkey on your back trying to talk you into a game of chicken that you'll lose. Coping with pizza in moderation worked for you for a while, but it's not working now so I'd recommend you just say "no" and put in on the shelf. Maybe after you get a handle on the sleep sitch you can, but clearly now is not that time."

I agree Janis, 100%

The rules have changed for me.

When I was over 500 pounds I received a bunch of advise about what I needed to do to lose weight.  Changing everything overnight was a popular suggestion.  I instinctively knew it would have been a temporary diversion from who I am--changing the outside actions, without changing the inner workings. I couldn't see myself waking up one morning and being something I'd never known. The inside stuff is most important and the route I chose was one that would "simplify the process--giving me time to work on the mental aspects--the inside stuff." 

The approach I found success with, was one of moderation, where "nothing was off limits" as long as it fit into my calorie bank.  I took great pride in declaring things like "I had ice cream and lasagna today and I'm losing weight!"  And the focus was clearly on the mental dynamics backed up with tremendous support online and all around me. I threw away the rule book and boldly proceeded and succeeded despite making choices with only one qualifier: Does it fit into my budget?

I found success.  And then I started hearing from a bunch of others who were having similar success with their own Calorie Bank and Trust.  Steel Curtain Zones started going up and there wasn't anything stopping us! 100 pounds lost, 200 pounds--it was thrilling...I was so happy for them.  Then, occasionally--I would receive emails from people who experienced tremendous success and then lost the control, and eventually regained the weight.  Some didn't gain it all back, others did and more.  I would be supportive, saying things like-- "You can do this--get back to the basics, set your budget--make it life or death, because it is...and don't give up, okay?  Never give up."  

It wasn't until I started struggling seven months ago that I fully realized and appreciated what was happening. After hitting goal, I started to maintain by simply being reasonable with my portions, continuing to exercise and staying as mentally strong as possible.  I no longer maintained a strict calorie budget, opting instead to eyeball with reason and experience.  As long as I kept myself surrounded with people and in a positive mindset, I was fine.  But then I started hitting walls emotionally...

The self-destruct mode, the one I thought was put to rest with my "steel curtain zone" and arsenal of new "mix tapes," came roaring back.  Soon, through my own actions, I found myself alone and depressed.  I was listening to all kinds of horrible things about myself...thoughts I created, were constantly playing. This wasn't how it was supposed to go!  If we become our predominant thoughts, and we do--I was in serious trouble.  I was. Suddenly, once again I was medicating my emotions with food.  Now, even more challenging--was constantly trying to pull myself out of the slide because, "I'm Sean Anderson, dang it, I can't do this!"  I would experience a few good days followed by several horrible days, then good---then bad again. Well, I am Sean Anderson.  And I'm human.  And I'm a food addict.  And yes I can slide.  I'm not immune from anything.  How incredibly ridiculous of me to consider otherwise.

For someone who truly isn't a food addict, the Calorie Bank and Trust really doesn't need any modification when combined with the natural desire to eat better, more wholesome foods along the way.  After all, it's simply portion control.  For someone like me, it does need modifications.

I've often talked about and written about how we have to learn about ourselves along the way.  As I lost weight I experienced new tastes emerging and desires of old fading.  Suddenly certain fast food smells were enough to make me sick.  Suddenly I started eating veggies I once wouldn't give a chance.  But I needed to study a little closer.

Certain foods must be off limits for me.  I didn't learn this while losing and maintaining, I learned this in my struggles. When I stripped the boundaries of reason and good choices away I discovered things about me and certain foods, I hadn't considered.

So now I know.  Good. 

I can still utilize my Calorie Bank and Trust, just not the "nothing is off limits" version.  I know what's off limits for me.  It's different for each of us, I'm sure.  Similar, but different.  How will this affect my life?

Isn't that the root of anxiety when it comes to saying something is off limits?  Like we're not complete without certain things.  Like we'll be living a deprived life? Baloney.  Truth is, my life will be full and joyous even if I never again eat pizza from a box or deep fried Chinese chicken. 

My happiness and well being isn't found in food.  It's found in living a life more in tune spiritually, emotionally and physically.  And those three things are all inside me, waiting to be fully explored and experienced.  That is my mission. To practice these things.  To understand more.  To be okay.  To encourage others by sharing the experience.   

Because there's hope for us. Never give up.  I'm not.

Thank you for reading, goodnight and...

Good Choices,


  1. popcorn. nuff said. Food addicts are food addicts. I am one..I can talk myself into usually goes something like...oh it's just for tonight..I'll start again tomorrow...insert the word heroin in for fries...and it suddenly looks a whole lot different. Great post sean.

  2. Hi Sean, I lost 50 lb. 3-4 years ago with eatig better and exercising, no fads. I used an online calorie counter (I had never done that, or dieted in any way before) and slowly but surely, lost a good amount of weight (I needed to lose another 30 after that). Then I took a new job, one I hated and stressed me out to no end, and slowly, but surely, forgot all my good habits, stopped working out and over two years, gained it all back plus 10.

    I'm also an alcoholic and this July I'll have 7 years sober. Am I a food addict? I don't know the answer to that, but I certainly cope with food often enough.

    I haven't been wracking my brain trying to figure out why I gained the weight back. I didn't do much work at all on my insides when I lost weight the first time. I should probably work on that this time. :)

    Everyone's reasons are different for losing and/or gaining weight, you didn't gain it all back, that's major progress. Maybe next time you won't gain any back. Thanks for the blog, and the honesty!

  3. I feel like I'm missing something here, and I have to disagree with Janis. She said, "If you don't currently feel up to making the judgment calls necessary to handle it wisely..." as if you at two whole pizzas or something. That was not the case.

    I do understand food addiction. I struggle with it myself. But I didn't see evidence of food addiction in the way you described your Friday.

    I see a guy who (through no fault of his own) did not get enough sleep. I see a guy who didn't realize he had an afternoon remote to work. I see a guy who, by afternoon, was hungry, and chose to eat something that was a reasonable choice-- something that was there on hand, something you didn't have to go and buy, and while it might not have been the optimum in healthiness or even satisfaction, you did the best you could under the circumstances (even to the point of peeling off the pepperoni), and it was a reasonable and totally understandable choice.

    Why are you beating yourself up? If your desire is to be "normal" in your eating, then can't you see that eating a couple slices of free pizza when you're hungry and haven't brought lunch is a choice that any "normal" eater would make (although they likely wouldn't peel off the pepperoni)?

    I believe that when you start fencing off food like Janis is suggesting you do, you end up giving the food even more power, whereas if you just said, "Yeah, I understand why I ate the pizza. I was tired and hungry, and didn't realize I'd be working into the afternoon, and I wish the day had gone differently and I'd eaten something more satisfying, but under the circumstances, I give myself a pat on the back for staying within my calorie goal on a particularly challenging day." And in acknowledging that the pizza wasn't even satisfying, it begins to lose some of its power, and you, instead of beating yourself up, can just say, "Wow, that was a surprising lesson to learn... the thing I thought of as such a temptation wasn't even that satisfying."

  4. I understand you completely. There are some foods I simply cannot eat responsibly. I have cut them out of my life. We're dealing with very real addictions here. Awesome post. I'm always impressed by your ability to cut through the BS and make some very tough observations about yourself.

  5. Yes. Yes. YES.
    People don't like when I explain that 'anything in moderation' had me lose 84lbs... and then put on 86lbs.
    This time around I've changed my thinking. Some trigger foods are toxic to me. Not physically maybe, but mentally, emotionally, they are Just No Good. I am more complete now, than I ever was with those foods in my life.
    Love to you Sean.

  6. Sean,
    You are being way to hard on yourself and I don't think you are seeing reality. I fear you are allowing your personal feelings of shame regarding the last 7 months to influence the way you view your your good choices now. You NEVER would have been so hard on yourself about Friday during your weight loss stage. You would have BRAGGED on how well you handled Friday considering the circumstances. In fact, THE difference in how you treat yourself now verses then--and not the food-is the difference between now and 2 years ago.

    You made a GREAT choice on Friday considering what you were up against! 250 calories worth of pizza on a completely hectic and sleep deprived day. Are you kidding me?!? That's not just a good choice...that's a "have a 1 man parade in honor of Sean's great choices good choice!" The only thing "WRONG" with that choice is that you are still sitting here thinking about it 3 days later. Sean, you did GREAT on Friday. Some days go crazy and you have to do the best with what you got...but don't let the fact that you have used too much pizza to self-medicate in the past to effect how you view what happened on Friday. You did awesome on Friday. You made a great choice in an imperfect situation.

    And for the love of all that is good and holy, do not cut pizza out of your diet. You don't need to. You can handle pizza just fine if you go back to "ground rules" you had before. Your inclination to "tighten up", be perfect, and use "all or nothing" thinking is the exact thing that CAUSED you to fail on previous weight loss attempts. In fact, what made you successful is precisely because you ate pizza and "never touched a salad" (or however that article put it.) If you don't believe me, ask anyone. As you! You've written about it 100's of times over the years. Friday actually proves to me that you do NOT need to cut out pizza. You can handle pizza just fine...but you do need get back to being as proud of you as the rest of us are.

  7. I don't think giving up pizza could ever be a bad idea (let's face it, nobody needs it), on the other hand don't look too hard for things to feel bad about. It can be part of that downward-spiral behavior.

  8. I'll put my vote in with the moderation crowd. I grew up with a very serious serial dieter for a mother and let me say that it's the all or nothing thinking that gets you every time! Trust yourself, you got it right the first time. You don't need black and white thinking. You really don't!

  9. And it's not that "everything in moderation" was WRONG for the long period of time in which you did it. It worked great for a while, and then like an antibiotic that was around too long it just ... stopped working. Moderation works for some people, and not for others. And maybe the same person can use it or not depending on where they are in life at any given time.

    Me, I'd say that if the mental recriminations are that tiring for you, and if you are backsliding, then yes. Just cut the damned stuff out and don't waste the energy going back and forth on it every time you SMELL a slice of the stuff. You are obviously not up for that at the moment for whatever reason. There is no pizza inside the Steel Curtain Zone.

    Every single other person I've EVER ENCOUNTERED online, and I mean every one, who has lost huge amounts of weight and kept it off successfully for many years as admitted to themselves that there are certain foods that they just can't get near. They can eat anything else in moderation without the chattering in their brains starting, but there may be certain things that they CANNOT handle wisely.

    And they cut them out. This is often only three or four types of food on the entire planet. Out of the zillions of edible things on the entire face of the globe, there may be three or four things these people shut the door on. That's it. Out of an entire planet worth of edible objects, the universe will not crack in half if you say "no way" to ONE of them.

    Envision a guy who finally climbed out from under massive credit card debt and who has lived almost all of his life starting from childhood under a massive pile of unneeded junk that he pretty much near bartered away his life for. Now envision that guy finally getting the debt out of the way for the first time in his life, and not for an overwhelmingly long time either ... telling you that he just bought one of those drink-serving robots that looks like R2D2 from the Skymall catalog. Wouldn't you look at him a little fish-eyed?


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