My own scale didn’t recognize me this morning. That is how much weight I’ve gained in the last couple months.
I have an “Aria” scale by Fitbit, she is programmable for up to 8 people stored in her memory chip, and while she knew me a few months ago, this morning when I stepped on her to record my “start weight” she treated me as a “guest”. I’ve had her for years, so this callous greeting (unintentional on her part I know, she could hardly be expected to understand how someone can gain 35 pounds in 3 months) was a stinging reality check.
It is January, and last July I topped out at 258.6. I “began in earnest” (it’s always in earnest, never is it NOT in earnest) my structured eating program, and steadily dropped 36 pounds in 11 weeks to 222.5, but the something happened (something always does) to throw me off track and I began to climb again. Since when I’m on my way UP I always seem to avoid the scale, she couldn’t compare the smallish daily gains and identify them with me on my way up.
Two and a half years ago I was at my healthy weight of 122.5. I felt like I was “On Top of the World (insert Imagine Dragons lyrics for the song here). I had lost 150 pounds in my most recent effort, and had been maintaining a healthy weight (BMI) range for three years. The only way I can describe the feeling of being healthy is “floating on air” and LOVING it, loving ME. My occupation is within the health and fitness field, and it was effortless and fulfilling to help other people achieve their health goals when I myself was modeling it. I felt authentic, congruent, and bullet-proof.
Turns out I wasn’t as bullet-proof as I thought.
So, what happened? I mean what REALLY HAPPENED between my ears and within my physical body to bring about the weight gain cycle? What happened? How did I “lose” my edge? Did I wake up one morning and suddenly “forget” to practice my healthy habits of structured maintenance eating and healthy motion? I mean really, how does someone throw away their health? WHY does someone throw away their health like that? These are the questions I want to explore in this blog. I want to delve in to the theories and the practical actions as much as I can, to UNDERSTAND.
I don’t believe in regret. It isn’t a very useful emotion. (Ok upon further reflection I think I told a fib just there. I DO regret my actions. I don’t think I’d be human if I didn’t. I WISH I would have continued practicing my healthy habits, my structured eating, and my healthy exercise. I really do. It IS useful inasmuch as I can harness that while refraining from self-loathing thoughts taking over AS I regret.) But I do seek to ask myself three questions as I examine my recent gain.
- What happened?
- What was missing?
- What is next?
Gaining weight quickly is somewhat an out-of-body experience. It’s like I was WATCHING myself from outside of myself, and I do distinctly remember some very concentrated periods of incessant eating for days at a time with a “Honey Badger Don’t Care” type of an attitude. It was like during those compulsive overeating days or weeks I threw caution to the wind and the consuming of the food was all I could do, all I could see, all I could focus on. I did KNOW exactly what I was doing, but during those times there is a kind of a hopeless “what does it matter anyway?” narrative running through my mind. I know, factually, that I will gain weight while I’m engaging in that activity, but I do feel almost powerless to stop it, to make a new decision to walk away from the cheese, crackers and wine. I stop taking care of myself during those periods. It’s a scary place to be.
I would not say I’m a binge-eater, but after studying eating disorders at the Masters level in the graduate program I am enrolled in, I have come to understand that my patterns are more in line with “compulsive overeating” which also contains elements of “Night Eating Syndrome”.
It has been helpful to put a label on it to a degree, although I don’t define myself by labels it doesn’t change the fact that when in periods of weight gain I am in fact behaving in a way which clinically could diagnose me with these things in combination. Sort of an EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).
Weight gain is a physiological process when the body is receiving more calories than it is expending throughout the day, day after day. It is inevitable. Genetics has a large part to play on how our bodies process and store fuel (food), so if you combine the genetic propensity to gain weight and consistently giving your body more calories than it needs it is no mystery that weight will come on. Lots of weight.
So what does compulsive overeating and night eating syndrome look like, when in combination?
Well, some days it was simply compulsive overeating, which means I was constantly “grazing” on small amounts of food throughout the day. While different from a “binge” where you consume large quantities of food, compulsive overeating is characterized by mindlessly reaching for food many times a day and rarely experiencing hunger.
Binge eating is more of having a voracious appetite (in the mind) and trying to satisfy it all at once. Compulsive overeating is having to be constantly eating for the sake of constantly eating, but rarely feeling “overstuffed” like binge eaters do. It is a different feeling, psychologically and physically. Binge eaters typically feel somewhat “trance-like” while they are engaged in a binge, and often don’t remember the particulars of what they are eating especially WHILE they are eating it. Compulsive overeaters dream about food, spend their day planning what they will eat next, and get excited at the prospect of nibbling on things all day long. Either behavior will result in a vast excess of calories consumed as compared to what the body actually needs, so both behaviors will result in weight gain.
So how about the night eating component? Well, while I was gaining weight there would also be days where I was adhering to my structured eating program throughout the day, and therefore by about 5pm I would only have consumed 300-600 calories. At some point in the evening, not after I had gone to bed, but usually around 6 or 7 pm, I would “break” with my structured eating program with a glass of wine, thinking “I deserve this, I’ve had a hard day” and then I’d reach for the cheese and crackers, or cinnamon toast, or avocado toast, or bruschetta, or whatever we had handy in the refrigerator. It was usually not sweet, as I don’t have a sweet tooth, but it WAS extra calories. Since my body had been in a “fasted state” most of the day, the result of me introducing so many calories at the end of my day simply resulted in weight gain also.
This went on for 2.5 years, which is where I find myself right now, having gained a whole other ME in weight.
This is what happened physically. This is what I DID to myself physically. It didn’t “happen to me”. I DID this. I take responsibility for it, I own it, I want to play “above the line” in my assessment of what happened.
So, now what? What was missing?
Until next time!