Ben’s Profile Journey: Mind Over Cheddar Cheese
Hi, Ben here, and I’m embarking on a mission to not be fat when I turn 42. To do that I've partnered with Profile by Sanford and I want to take you with me on my journey.
Here we are, week two. My first thought in describing this week is: I HATE FOOD. What worse than that? I hate being obsessed with food. Ahhhhhhh! I know it seems counterintuitive that a thick gentleman like me would not like food. But, part of the reason that I got to the state I'm in is that haven’t cared much about what I put in my mouth.
I woke up yesterday obsessed. OBSESSED, with cheddar cheese. Greasy, melted cheddar cheese. Nothing triggered it, but I wanted it. The more frustrated I got the more I wanted it. I wanted to eat all the cheese and then start on the chips in the pantry for the kids’ lunches. Melt more cheese and mix with the chips in a big bowl.
I hate wanting to eat, which makes me want to eat!
On paper, I really shouldn't be a fat guy. I don't like pop. I worked fast food in high school and worked any love of soda out of me while I swam in free refills. I don't come from a family with food traditions that didn’t transition well into the modern world. We ate vegetables. My parents didn't cook way more that we needed or insist on huge heavy meals. In my current day-to-day life I usually don't like having to stop what I'm doing to eat. Most days all I would eat between getting up and mid-afternoon would be coffee. If I could eat like python that'd be great. You know, one huge meal every month, and then I'd never have to think about what's for dinner.
Of course, living like that always invited a crash, and then I'd want to eat 3000 calories of whatever I could find.
All this is leading me to uncover, and face, the core of my real problem. I have made food my go-to self-medication. I am an emotional eater and I live in a world where food is everywhere. Unlike a time in my life when I worried that I was drinking too much. I stopped bringing alcohol in my house and going places where drinking was the main event. But, I can't remove food from my field of vision.
Tracing it back, I think the root of this is in the time I first tried collage. I was 19 and just finishing my freshman year. The transition to being on my own was a lot harder than I expected. I never learned how to properly balance work and school and ended up dropping out of school, working part-time at a restaurant and a radio station, and I was broke.
Looking back now I can clearly see that this was a time when old friend anxiety-induced depression came for an extended stay. I was 19 and lost. I didn't know what to do, except that I wasn't moving home.
I learned that when I had the opportunity to eat, I ate as much as I could. That could be the last pizza I’d see before a week of cereal with water and PB&Js. Not being able to afford cheese on your hamburger did not help the depression, neither did realizing that I’m out in the world and didn't learn any money management skills.
At the time I didn't know what my deal was, I didn't have the medication I have now or the awareness and mental tools to manage the way my brain works. All I knew was that if frozen pizzas were on sale, you got as many as you cold and ate until you felt sick.
As I progressed in life, got better jobs, learned better money management, I didn't change my eating habits. If I was at a buffet or a family diner, I ate as much as I could. I still had that voice in my head saying "Fill er up! We don't know when we'll see food like this again!"
Except I did know, I see food like that whenever I wanted. I had enough money for cheese and maybe even a supersize now and then. However, my lack of self-awareness had allowed my brain to connect eating with feeling happy, or at least not horrible.
Unfortunately I didn't develop a foodie attitude. I developed a 'put all the cookies and doughnuts and pizzas and hamburgers in my mouth' attitude. And since I still clung to this mindset when I started working an office job and my body aged, when a huge depression smacked me to the concrete a few years ago, I coped by eating. Everything. All the time. This was the depression that spurred me, with the help of my wife Brenda, to seek treatment and to understand of how my brain is wired.
But, before I got to that place, I thought it was a good idea to eat everything from every dollar menu in every drive-thru I could find. I distinctly remember the time when clothes I'd bought just six months before stopped fitting. I tried to tell myself that they shrank in the wash.
I kept this self-deception up as the rest of my brain cleared. I started to try and clean up my eating, but the bulk of the bulk damage had been done. In the fall of 2015 I needed new jeans and finally had to settle on a 44 waste size. That was around the time my doctor voiced his concerns about my weight and suggested Profile by Sanford.
OK, great I am now better aware of my emotional connection to food. I now can actually feel the cravings creep in when I'm stressed. But they're still there. I've named my enemy, now to defeat it.
I've discovered that working with my Profile Coach is where I'm building the tools to fight. Talking to my coach, telling her about these cravings is helping me see clearly the difference between hunger and these cravings. I'm learning to talk to myself in a positive way, to remind myself that I'm not hungry. I'm eating on plan; I have everything my body needs. This is just stress.
Sometime it has been a knock down, drag out, yelling match in my head as that voice demands chicken wings. But, I am winning quicker every time.
I'm still working on finding replacement for the stress-eating. Treadmill and mediation (ew, hippy stuff, I know, but at this point I'm down for whatever) are the front runners to bleed the anxiety out of me. Little by little it's working, but oh my god! Who brought these cookies into the office?!?!