I used to think it was NORMAL to put on 5-10 pounds during the holidays. I told myself it was no big deal, everyone does it, I’ll drop the weight later.
Sometimes I did. More often I gave up. I grew heavier as years passed.
Two years after I got sober I was using food like a drug and weighed over 220 pounds. I would eat like I could NEVER get full, even when I was full, then restrict my calories ridiculously, and try to lose the weight as fast as possible.
I beat myself up for the extra weight I was carrying, scolding myself, causing increased stress, which caused me to eat more and gain weight, for which I scolded myself. I felt ashamed for being so WEAK that I turned to food for comfort. That caused MORE stress and MORE eating to numb those feelings.
That was my pattern for over a decade.
My chiropractor told me that my debilitating pain was caused by inflammation in my lumbar spine, and that inflammation was caused by inflammatory foods. He did not say what foods were inflammatory, but I cleaned up my act and stopped eating so much sugar, at least for a little while. As soon as my back felt better, I went back to eating whatever I like. Then I woke up one morning with half my face paralyzed. The medical doctors had a name: Bell’s palsy, but no idea what caused it or what to do for it. They told me the symptoms could last for as little as three weeks, or be permanent. They had no way to know.
The palsy symptoms have slowly improved over time, but have never gone away completely. Several months after the onset, I read a book that suggested that palsy symptoms might be due to inflammation. That got me to thinking about inflammatory foods again.
I knew that some of the foods I was eating were damaging my health, and that the medical community was of no help. I decided to start looking for a naturopath hoping that she might be able to help me.
I searched for a naturopath for months before finding one completely by accident. In early October, I was driving home from the beach and pulled over to stretch my legs. When I got out and walked around the sidewalk there was her sign. I should have made an appointment right then, but I took a picture of her sign with her contact information and filed it away.
I really wanted to talk to someone about those lingering palsy symptoms, but I knew without a doubt from the center of my being that she was going to tell me to change the way that I was eating.
I made a conscious decision that I was not willing to give up sugar and treats until after the holidays, so that I could eat whatever I liked and enjoy myself without feeling restricted or left out.
I put it on my agenda to make an appointment with the naturopath early in the new year.
That holiday season I ate like a fiend. Everyone knows if you’ve got a diet coming up you double down on calories, right?
Between Halloween and Christmas that year, I gained 20 lb. When January came I was miserable. My energy was depressed. I wasn’t working out. I had night sweats that soaked my sheets. I was ashamed of the way I looked. I didn’t like the way I felt. I was nauseous most mornings. I was hungry all the time, and I was heavy with shame.
Of course I forgot about calling the naturopath right away, and in early February, I awoke one morning with pain in my intestines that I was certain would kill me. I was really sick. And I was scared. I had a panic attack, and my blood pressure rose off the charts.
I went to the hospital, and got no answers, and no warm fuzzy feeling the answers were coming. Then I remembered that I was going to call that naturopath. So I did.
At our first appointment she told me that she suspected food allergies. She did a blood test, and put me on an Elimination Diet that excluded all the foods known to be troublemakers for two weeks while we waited for the results. I had no problems whatsoever sticking to the eating plan because the pain was an all-too-real indication that there was something seriously wrong with me and I needed to make some changes. Digesting HURT, and I didn’t’t eat anything but produce for nearly two weeks.
When the food allergy test came back, it told me something I had long suspected. Dairy is not my friend. In fact, the food allergy test showed that I am allergic to dairy, sugar, and wheat.
I thought my life was over.
The idea of living without dairy and wheat seemed impossible, restrictive, and heinous. As far as I was concerned the perfect diet was bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch and pizza for dinner. Everyone knows the perfect hiking food is a big hero sandwich loaded with cold cuts and cheese. This is the reason I hadn’t gone to see her in October!
But, I knew that my health was in serious trouble. My body was giving me very clear messages about that. It needed to make changes in what I was eating.
So I stopped eating dairy, wheat and sugar.
And guess what? Not only did I feel better right away, and start to see improvements in the symptoms I had been experiencing within a week, I started to see improvements in things I had not related to food. My skin cleared up. The Eczema on my ankles and elbows went away. The night sweats vanished. My energy level increased tremendously. I started sleeping better, and my libido returned.
By the time my birthday arrived in June, I had dropped 50 lb without doing a single workout. The only change I made was to lose the dairy, wheat, and sugar. It was like a miracle. I had been trying to drop excess weight my entire life.
Sugar In The Wound
Despite my triumph, when stress began to increase, or I was pressed for time, I headed back down that well worn path to the comfort of food, and the ease of wheat and dairy foods.
I mean salads, REALLY, who has time for all that chopping?!
Am I right?
Just two weeks before my first vacation to Europe, I was SICK again.
I put myself on the elimination diet and called my naturopath. This time I got a diagnosis of SIBO. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is no joke. I was sick at least part of nearly every day of my European vacation. I lost 10 pounds the first 5 days we were there. Horrible, miserable intestinal symptoms. We still had a fabulous time, we simply had a lot of challenges along with the fun.
It was after that trip that I realized that dairy and sugar had become my new booze. At the time, I actually had many thoughts about being powerless over sugar. I told myself things like: “I can’t pass up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I can’t resist free candy, Halloween is my favorite holiday, I can’t leave any cookies for later, If it’s in the house I have to eat it.” And I knew with every cell in my body I didn’t have the power to pass up cheese on a buffet table.
That kind of conviction will override healthy intentions every time!
I had these mantras in my head that blocked my success despite my overwhelming desire to regain my health. I felt like I must be crazy!
Even though I lived through evidence in my own life that proved this eating pattern makes me sick, miserable, and unable to enjoy my life, I returned to it again and again when I was feeling stressed or lonely!
Even though I suspected long before my naturopath told me that I was allergic to cheese because of the way I craved it – just like alcohol – I returned to it whenever I was upset, AND whenever I felt like celebrating. It was truly a deadly double edged sword.
Even though I had experienced hangovers from overeating just like I did from over drinking, if I was stressed or upset when I walked into an event with free food, I was almost guaranteed to overeat even when I told myself I wasn’t going to do it.
But after Europe, I was finally ready to admit that I needed to make changes. I wanted to feel energized and healthy.
I knew I had to make changes, but in my experience, I could not eat a little or I would end up eating a lot. I had learned that with my addictive foods, it was ALL of it, or none of it, so I restricted myself completely. That year at Christmas, I ate ZERO goodies. I avoided parties and gatherings as much as possible so I wouldn’t screw up. I didn’t make my usual holiday candies or cheeseballs. The entire family complained. I didn’t buy candy to put into stockings. I shot resentful looks at people enjoying holiday goodies. I was miserable, resentful and I felt left out, but by golly, I had my food addiction under control.
How many of you think that lasted?
By Halloween that year, I was sick again.
Turned out that being aware that I needed to change was a great start, but I still didn’t have the whole picture. I was trying to resist the food cravings with willpower alone, and my willpower eventually ran out.
I was so tired of the weight roller coaster, the night sweats, the inflammation, the achey joints, that powerless feeling I got around chocolate. I was sick of it all.
Worse than that, I was tired of letting myself down! I felt trapped in an vicious cycle of wanting healthy change, planning to make those changes, and then not following through. It left me full of self-doubt and lacking self-confidence!
I felt like I was spinning out of control, like I was powerless over food, like I would never figure it out. And right in the middle of my turmoil, my normally helpful and supportive partner brought home a couple of bricks of cheese from the grocery store.
Why would he do this? He knows I can’t eat dairy! He knows I am sick! He obviously knows I can’t resist it. He knows this will end up on my burger and he doesn’t care! I wanted to eat ALL of it because – who cares?
I clearly heard the voice in my head say, “I care.” Who cares what he brings home? He’s not forcing me to eat it.
And like a ton of bricks it hit me.
Esther Hicks and Abraham tell a wonderful story about getting tabasco in your pie. Just because the tabasco is in the kitchen does NOT mean it will get in your pie. The only way the tabasco gets in your pie is if YOU put it in your pie.
SAME with the cheese, Cyndi! The only way the cheese gets in your pie hole is if you put the cheese in your pie hole!
I had NOT been taking responsibility for what I was eating.
I had been refusing to take responsibility for what I was eating by pretending to be powerless over certain foods. I was giving away my power by clinging to the belief that if certain foods were available, I HAD to eat them. I was pretending that I could not control myself around sugar and dairy, when in fact, I am the ONLY one who can choose my actions. I was simply choosing to give in to temptation and pretend it wasn’t my fault, that it wasn’t my choice, that in fact – I was powerless to change the foods I was eating.
EVERYTHING changed for me with that simple realization.
I took the steps I needed to take to STOP overeating, and stop eating foods I am allergic to, foods that cause harm, inflammation, and all kinds of health problems.
I’ve learned to navigate the holidays without spiraling into stress and overeating, and I’ve developed a process to help clients do the same!
Is your body ready for some healthy changes?
Join me for my first masterclass to explore these key questions:
● Why do I overindulge even when I tell myself I won’t?
● What’s kept me from achieving my health goals in the past?
● Why do I backslide into old behaviors when I’m stressed?
● How can I reduce holiday stress that leads to stress eating?
● Is it possible for me to avoid weight gain during the holidays?
● How can I stay motivated during the holidays?
● BONUS – How can I indulge a little bit without overindulging?