One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

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Ask Roni: I Have No Willpower

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I’ve just came across your blog as I was seeking out something, anything to help me. I have been overweight most of my life. Growing up my family had no concept of healthy eating. Going to McDonalds and getting bags of chips were a treat. My grandmother, who was the world’s greatest cook, would cook up big meals when I was visiting. Fried potatoes and pork chops were her specialty. And I would eat, and eat, and then eat some more. The eating more has followed me like a black cloud. I can’t hide from it. I feel as if I’m never full. It doesn’t matter that I am literally about to bust. I just don’t ‘feel’ full. I’m not depressed and I have a pretty good life. Food is the one thing that has a hold on me that I just don’t know how to break. About four years ago I saw an old picture of myself and was like ‘oh my gosh I really look like that’. As I 5ft 4in woman being almost 300 pounds really stands out. I did make a change from that point and over a year and half time I got down to 155lbs. For the first time in my life I could really look at myself and be happy with what I saw. I could go to the store and buy the clothes I actually wanted to buy. It was a great time. Then I relocated and have been in a wonderful relationship for the past few years and with that came the weight gain. It’s not the relationship that caused the weight gain so much as my sheer lack of willpower when it comes to being able to say no to going out to eat, saying no to that second helping, saying no to the late night eating, saying no to the workout room that it literally feet from me. I went from tracking what I was eating every day and going to the gym to getting back to the place I was before that. The place where food is the only thing I see. This is a cycle that is taking its toll on me mentally. Every time I eat I either feel ashamed or embarrassed. Every time I eat I am wondering when/where I can more food. I’m in my mid 30’s and I know the extra weight is not doing me any favors. My knees hurt, my back hurts. I don’t move around as much as I use to. I have all of the tools at my disposal to make the change. I just don’t have the willpower or consistency to do it. It feels like the food is stronger than me. So I stumble every single day. I just want to be able to finally stand. I’m sorry for the mini book. It does feel good though to say this stuff out loud.

-Jennifer

Hi Jennifer,

I’m so sorry for the late response. I’ve been sitting on your email for months and have started to respond multiple times but I always got stuck.

Stuck because I’m not qualified to help.

Stuck because I don’t know how to help.

Stuck because I get it.

I 100 percent understand every word you wrote and felt the same. exact. way. for many years.

Every time you stated you “don’t have the willpower” I cringed. I had the same thoughts and said the same thing.

I know there are 2 sides to this coin. Many folks believe that weight loss comes down to exactly that, willpower. Others think there are other variables in play that have nothing to do with willpower. (The link above is from a weekly series I used to run called The Question of the Week — There’s quite a few insightful comments. Click here to check it out)

I fall somewhere in the middle because I don’t believe weight loss (or gain for that matter) is a one-size-fit-all problem. Plus, we all approach it all from completely different angles and have different priorities — health, aesthetics, fitness, happiness.

In my experience it did take willpower to make positive changes in my life. Honestly, sometimes it didn’t feel like much work. There were (and are) days, weeks, even months when making the healthier choices felt effortless, easy even. Other times, however, I feel almost possessed, like I’m on autopilot in a bad way. My logical brain wouldn’t want to eat something or order “that” but I’d do it anyway. Then I’d feel like an observer of my own behavior. I could see it happening but felt like I couldn’t stop.

All I can offer is assurance you are not alone and a few pieces of advice from someone who broke herself out of the cycle.

You can’t hate yourself thin. I know some people don’t get the “self-acceptance” thing, but once I figured out I had to live now and not after I lost weight, things really started to change. This concept is what I tried so hard to capture in this post.

Get to the bottom of your core hurt eating.  I found an article that was a game changer for me and blogged about it in this post — it’s called My Core Hurt Eating – A MUST Read for those that Overeat. Eye opening.

Do what you can when you can! I can see the eye rolls now but this isn’t just a pitch for our book! I swear! One of the things that really helped me get over the feelings of failure and shame was acknowledging and celebrating every little positive change I made. I set tiny goals and then patted myself on the back for reaching them. And when I say tiny I mean something as simple as eating breakfast or keeping my food journal for a day.

Think about it. If you constantly tell yourself you are a failure and you should be ashamed and feel guilty then you are continually dragging yourself down deeper and deeper. On the flip side, if you constantly celebrate small achievements and focus on positive changes then you start to pick yourself up. You start to build confidence. You start to feel motivated.

Jennifer, I wish I could help more. I really do. I’m glad you wrote and I hope my experience helps you in some way.

And keep saying this stuff out loud! The more we talk about these feelings and expose them, the easier they are to understand and manage.

-Roni



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Discussion

There are 9 comments so far.

    Sarah

    November 4, 2015

    Oh Jennifer! I felt like I was reading something I wrote just now!!! Your not alone! For the 6th time I am rejoining WW today. Thank you Roni for the articles and thank you for posting this, I needed to read it TODAY!

    Amy G.

    November 4, 2015

    I can really relate to what Jennifer is saying, but it also makes me cringe! I’m with Roni – there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to weight loss, and I’m not sure how I feel about the whole idea of having willpower. I am (was) a lifelong yo-yo dieter and this is the first time the things I am doing are sticking – of course I guess the jury is still out, but I’ve been at this for a year and a half now with no signs of stopping, even after a three month plateau! – and what really did it for me was looking at future and really thinking about what that reality would be like if I didn’t try again.

    At 44 years old, I decided that I wanted to be healthy, vibrant, and capable as I got older. I knew that being almost 400 pounds wasn’t going to allow for that. So it was really, ultimately, a life and death decision in many ways. Fortunately I didn’t have major health problems because of my weight, but it was on the brink. I was also starting to have trouble doing regular daily things that you usually don’t give a second thought to – tying shoes, cleaning house, personal hygiene, etc.

    That is not the life I wanted for myself AT ALL.

    So anyway… that is what is really keeping me going. It’s not willpower. Maybe it is fear. It is also desire. It’s a lot of things.

    You have to figure out what THE THINGS are that will sustain you and make you want to push through, and to create habits that will last a lifetime.

    Audrey

    November 5, 2015

    Jennifer – As Roni said, you are not alone. I only wish I had some advice to give that might be helpful to you. Sadly, I could have written the email you sent to Roni. Food issues since I was a child. Low self-esteem, binge eating, sneaking food have all been with me most of my life. Too many tales of woe later, at 57, I am at my highest weight ever. Fatigue, emphysema, asthma, non-weight friendly medications, a lack of drive and, yes, an absolute ‘love’ for food keeps the refrain “What’s the point?” on a constant loop in my brain. I sincerely hope that you find the tools you seek to help you reach your desired state of health.

    Rebecca

    November 5, 2015

    You can’t hate yourself thin…This, this and this!!!!! Beautifully said. I believe this summarizes everything! Thank you for my new motto!

    Roxanne

    November 9, 2015

    Jennifer, I would like to tell you that you are not alone. We are all struggling in losing weight, especially in maintaining the willpower or perseverance to continue. One thing I would like to suggest to you is don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept your weakness, accept your mistakes. If you keep on dwelling on your mistakes, mess up routines, it will just crush your willpower even further.Instead, treat everyday as another day. Another day to move on, another day to make things right. If you messed up today, make up for it tomorrow. That way you will keep your willpower burning and you’ll start making progress in weightloss.

    Carol Berry

    November 9, 2015

    I think that sometimes we still think of ourselves as hunter/gatherer, not knowing where our next meal is coming from. You are far from alone. My weak times are in the evening, when I’m settling down to relax and watch a bit of TV. Even after I have eaten my evening meal I will suddenly become hungry.
    What I try to do is distract myself.
    I will have a drink of water in case I am thirsty, as hunger and thirst have the same sensation.
    I give myself a manicure because you don’t want to smudge your nail varnish.
    Play with the cat.
    Or listen to my CD from Paul McKenna “I can make you thin”.
    I can recommend the book and CD because it makes you think about your relationship with food.
    There is no one solution. It is hard work but well worth it in the end. I hope you succeed in your goals.

    Rebecca Drennan

    November 11, 2015

    Roni I couldn’t agree more that this is not a one-size-fits-all problem. We are all individuals with different sets of circumstances, mentalities, and body composition.

    Jennifer, I could feel myself in your words. I too know the frustration, guilt and sadness when it comes to trying to lose weight. I think I was always overly focused on the end results that I wanted too see. I had to take a step back and start gradually. Yes, it’s hard to break old habits…and that’s just what they are–habits. I had to change my poor habits into healthy ones. Just start with one or two things at a time so you’re not overwhelmed. Start with the easiest things first and change gradually. Don’t try to change your whole diet or activity level in one day. Soon, you will want to adopt other healthier habits. This is what I did. I wish you the best.
    Rebecca D.
    Before: 5’2 300 lbs.
    Current: 166 lbs.

    DrRoss

    November 14, 2015

    It is hard to believe that it “isn’t my fault” that I am overweight. But it “usually” isn’t. We can blame it on our ancestors. Each of us were taught, by an adult, to eat the way we eat. There are some foods that “make us fat”, and if we eat them……

    If you eat just one hundred MORE calories than you burn daily, it takes 35 days to gain one pound. That is over 10 pounds per year…if you do that for 10 years…100 pounds overweight. Also, if you eat 100 calories LESS than you burn off daily, you can lose a pound in 35 days.
    How do you make sure you don’t eat more than you burn? It is difficult. We have found that the biggest barrier to losing weight is “frustration with the time it takes”. Normally, weight comes off slowly. But the best way to lose weight is the FAST way. Get on a program that takes off weight from the very first day, doesn’t require EXERCISE, and gives you enough food to keep you from being hungry. You will be “stoked” with your program, your energy health will improve. Weigh every day to see the weight melt off.

    Jennifer

    November 16, 2015

    Seriously, I felt like I wrote that -and my name is Jennifer too! This is what I needed today. Thank you.