To dream....the impossible dream...
My name is Susanne and I am a carbohydrate addict, alcoholic, and compulsive overeater…and this is my story of how I achieved the impossible dream of losing weight and regaining my physical and mental health.
There were several terrible childhood events that I believe contributed to my developing a dysfunctional relationship with food. I won’t detail these here, but if you want to know more, PM me. Stuff happens…my overeating and alcoholism were the mechanisms I eventually developed to deal with these events and the physical and emotional pain that came with them.
Other contributing milestones in my early life included:
* An overweight mom. She started a new diet every Monday morning of my life since I could remember. She was never successful at keeping her weight off or even losing much for long. Dieting looked like hell to me and I swore I would never be overweight.
* Overeater by age 10 or 11. Food made me feel calm and made me not FEEL. I have struggled with depression all of my life, even when very young. I often ate at my depression…food stopped the bad/negative feelings.
* First cooking lessons – making cookies, almost every day if mom would let me. And, then eating as many as I could get away with. Nowadays, I see this activity as similar to teaching your kid to run a meth lab or a moonshiner’s still…jeez…
* Sneaking small cups of sugar from mom’s kitchen in the middle of the night.
* Saving pennies to buy candy on the way home from school. I always had a little food or treat stashed somewhere by the time I was ten and EVER AFTER that in my life.
I was a very thin child who could eat endless amounts of food of any kind and I stayed thin all through high school, just getting taller. That was not destined to last forever, though. My eating/use of food became more specifically deranged/ dysfunctional by the time I was in high school. During the years 1978-1981, I became a big hider/stasher of food. I progressed from stealing from the home kitchen (cookies, chocolate chips, drinking syrup, etc.) to doing things like buying boxes of snack crackers and bags of m&ms almost every day to hide in my closet and eat (loved those ‘dip in a chip’ kind). I kept bags of licorice in my locker to grab out of between classes – and carried it in my pockets to secretly eat bits of all day. In the spring of 1981, I began to date an overweight boy. Being with someone who obviously had an eating disorder somehow gave me permission to do the same. What I remember most about high school is the amount of emotional pain in my head from ‘old’ events and peer rejection and hurts in attempting to date…and I kept busy stuffing that down so I wouldn’t feel those hurts.
In May 1981, I graduated from high school, weighing 130. I was 5’10”, fairly big-breasted, but still very slender at that time. I promptly gained about 10 lbs that summer, eating many meals with my overweight boyfriend. By July that year, my mom insisted I go on a diet. She worked at a Diet Center, so that’s what I did. The food and the plan were awful, but I lost 10 lbs. My first ever diet. Ack.
In August 1981, I went to college. Once there, I discovered that there were no longer any ‘brakes’ on my eating since I lived in a dorm with one roommate and no one paid any attention to when or how much I ate. My high school boyfriend and I broke up within a week after I started college. My eating became out-of-control almost immediately, and I discovered a new way not to ‘feel’: drinking.
I found I loved booze…loved how it made me not feel the emotional pain in my head, how it made me feel pretty, sexy, and intelligent…and loved how it permitted me to let my inhibitions run wild. Overeating and drinking…a match made in heaven for someone who despised themselves and simply wanted to ‘escape’ from the crap in her head. I became pretty much a daily drinker from then on for the next 22 years.
I gained 15-20 pounds in first four months of college. At Christmas, 1981, I weighed about 150, but lost 15 over Christmas BREAK at my parents’ insistence. I gained it all back within a month or so back at college and was never under 150 after that time. It’s funny how absolutely fat I thought I was at 150…and now I feel incredibly slim at my goal weight of 180. Talk about screwy body perceptions…
From 1982-1985, I lived in the dorms, eating 3 cafeteria meals a day, snacks, late-nite pizza, and drinking. My weight crept up to 160-165. I never really seriously dieted during my undergrad years again, even though I sporadically tried my mom’s technique of starting a new diet every Monday (grapefruit diet, Hollywood diet, SlimFast, eating all chicken, cabbage soup diet, or just drinking booze and not eating at all…lol…the list goes on.)
At my parent’s insistence and/or my own occasional motivation, I also tried to do Diet Center (and the other aforementioned crazy diet plans) off and on but hated all of it and the insane feeling of hunger they generated in me. By 1985, my senior year, I was eating a big bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and a bag of rolos candy every single day (among other things) – and shaking like a drug addict while doing it, getting a fix. My weight slowly rose to 180. My hunger knew no bounds. I was methodically destroying my metabolism and my health in my quest to not ‘feel’. There was a huge painful hole in the middle of my life and my soul and I didn’t know how to fill it except with food and alcohol.
I attended graduate school from 1986-1988. I was still eating/drinking a lot. I became a vegetarian during this time because of economics (I was poor!) and because all the vegetarian girls I knew were thin – I thought maybe that would happen to me! I stayed mostly veg for 8 years because I thought it was good for my health, but I didn’t lose weight because of it. I also attempted to attend OA during this time and even attended a few AA meetings with a friend who was in the Program. I was bored by both and by all the talk about God. I thought OA was absolutely STUPID. How could God help one quit eating? And why would anyone NOT want to drink?
I finished my Master’s degree in May 1988, and married that same month, moving to Seattle to be with him. My weight was still approximately 180, but I had headaches all the time – probably due to the amount of salt, msg, and nutrasweet I ingested daily. I had always had problems with acne, but now it became that terrible cystic acne that makes one’s face look like it had been pounded by a meat hammer. By September 1988, I knew my marriage was in trouble. I had gained to 198, eating at my unhappiness over married life. In November, 1988, I decided to diet, hoping that losing weight might help the marriage. I did Nutrisystem for 5 months and got down to 158. I was absolutely crazy with hunger the entire time. From April 1989 to Spring 1990, I gained back up to 190-200; weight loss had not helped my marriage.
I remember the day I quit dieting that spring. I went to a restaurant and ordered two huge plates of fried shrimp and french fries with a vat of tartar sauce. I ate every bite, shaking and crying. I felt like I was a heroin addict getting my next fix. I loathed my self absolutely, but couldn’t quit shoving that food in my mouth. I was shamed by the way I ate, like I hadn’t had a meal in weeks; so undignified and humiliating to not be able to stop shoving the food, any food, in my mouth.
By July 1990, I was at 205. My next weightloss program was Jenny Craig. I lost maybe 20 lbs. but again was crazy with hunger and cravings. I promptly gained right back up and beyond to about 210. In late 1990, I was at 220. At this time, I left my husband. I spent the next year drunk and eating in grief. Some time in 1991, I reached 230. I next signed up for Weight Watchers. I might have lost 10 pounds over a 2-3 month period. I hated it and finally realized these sorts of programs were grueling because I was hungry, the food was gross, and I was tired of starving and feeling crazy. I vowed never to diet again because every time I did, I was even more insane with hunger and then promptly gained all I lost back plus some more. What was the point? I was just going to be a fat girl the rest of my life. Being slim was a dream I had to let go of.
In August 1992, my divorce was final and I moved back to Wyoming. I weighed about 235-245. By August 1993, I was at 250. At this time I became pregnant and lost 30 pounds through morning sickness, only gaining about 15 back. My daughter was born in April, 1994. Through nursing, I actually lost down to 205. As soon as nursing stopped, I slowly gained up to about 245 by the summer of 1995. The next few years were a blur of work, child care, overeating, and drunkenness. By March, 1996, I was at least 250 again, when I bothered to weigh myself, which was rarely. At this time, I started taking medication for my screaming-high blood pressure. I always had headaches and bodyaches, shortness of breath, chest pain, numb arms and upper body, especially while sleeping. I tried to walk daily, but was always winded and tired and soon gave up.
By September 1997, I was at 265 and tired of being so heavy and exhausted. After hearing about it from a friend, I tried Atkins. This lasted barely a week - until I told my doctor about it and she threatened to stop treating me for high BP and allergies unless I quit. I had lost 8 lbs in a week and was very excited about it, but I quit at her insistence. In the following years, I continued to overeat and I was still a daily drinker.
In 2003, I weighed at least 270. During this year, I watched my mom and two youngest sisters lose weight on Atkins. I became very weary of listening to them talk about how many carbs were in each bite of food they put in their mouths, but I was intrigued by how well they lost weight – and in my mom’s case, SHE DIDN’T GAIN IT BACK.
In December, 2003, I quit drinking. I was shown by various people and family members that I had a serious problem. I finally accepted that I was an alcoholic and I joined AA to learn about my disease. As I learned about the nature of alcoholism and addiction, and struggled to face and release the early events that had contributed to my developing dysfunctional eating and drinking behaviors, I also came to realize more clearly than ever before that food was an addiction even worse than booze for me AND I came to know that I’d have to do something about it eventually.
On April 17, 2005, I caught a glimpse of myself naked in the mirror after a shower. I was absolutely horrified by what I saw as I looked at my naked rear in the mirror. I hadn’t hardly looked at my body below the neck in years, so it was a scary and revealing moment. I then knew that ‘eventually’ had arrived. I got dressed and made a shopping list and went to the store. I spent that evening reviewing my Atkins book that I had bought in 1997. I asked God to remove my obsession with food (it’s an AA thing to do this sort of activity…) God graciously did so within a short time thereafter.
On April 18, 2005, at 270 pounds, I started ANDR. I never looked back after this date. I never fell off the plan and never deliberately cheated, though I regularly overate LC foods.
Timeline of my newfound LC way of eating:
April 21, 2005. I bought a new scale and it weighed me 10 lbs heavier than the old one, so I had to face that I had started LC at 280 rather than 270 – so reset my start weight.
April 23, 2005. I threw out all food in my fridge, pantry and freezer that I was sure my daughter wouldn’t eat soon that wasn’t LC. Filled the dang dumpster FULL of that crap.
April 24, 2005. Found Active Low Carber site and joined.
May, 1 2005. I stopped taking BP meds because my blood pressure had fallen so much I was near fainting. BP has been normal ever since (110/80). At this time, I realized most, if not all, of my body pains and aches were gone. And my acne disappeared…for the first time since my teens, my face was smooth and perfectly clear!
June 17, 2005. I went on vacation for 10 days to Canada and managed to be LC the entire time and even lost 4 lbs by the time I got home!!!
August 9, 2005 I started my first LC journal and started tracking my weight, measurements, and (occasionally) food in MyPlan.
August 12, 2005. I started exercising on my recumbent stationary bike. I was concerned that I would end up a big ‘bag’ of skin after I lost the weight and decided to get busy and work at ‘tightening’ things up.
September – December, 2005. I had a four month plateau…where I didn’t really lose and zoomed up and down the same couple pounds around 230-235. It was frustrating, but I stayed LC.
January, 2006. I began to lose again steadily.
May-July, 2006. My weightloss appeared to be stalled again. Finally discovered that an artificial sweetener I was using had WAY more carbs than I had led to believe. I discontinued use of it and began to lose steadily again.
May, 2006. I started tracking food pretty much daily, as well as exercising daily.
June, 2006. Recumbent bike dies. I began walking outside and doing Callanetics.
June, 2006. My mom has a full hysterectomy for cancer – thank God she’s normally-weighted (and has been since 2004) when this happens. The doctor tells her the ONLY risk factor she had for cancer was obesity/overeating all her life. I read an article about what cancer needs to take hold and grow: SUGAR.
August, 2006. My parents give me their very nice treadmill. I strive to walk every day after this.
October 2006. I started doing calorie-restricted low carbing to help me get to goal – I’m still an overeater, evidently…I was just doing it in a low carb way.
November 24, 2006. I’ve reached my goal of 180!!!
I am a size 8/10, after starting at 26/28.
Bust: 50 inches down to 35 inches
Waist: 48 inches down to 30 inches
Hips: 54 inches down to 37 inches
What can I say? Low carbing works…it really works. As long as I stay out of most carb-containing foods (and especially out of very specific carbs, like sugar, excess wheat, or any starchy vegetables or grains), I am rarely hungry and in fact feel powerful over food. These foods activate my carb addiction/overeating, so I don’t use them. As with quitting drinking, I had found a way of abstinence from my food addiction: low carb eating.
My health is the best it’s been since I was 18 years old. I no longer get winded folding laundry or doing simple tasks. This past summer, I hiked all over the hills around my home town with a friend who likes to fossil-hunt, and I never got tired and my body and back didn’t hurt at all. I have incredible endurance for physical work and my mental acuity and focus has improved dramatically as well. And I rarely feel depressed any more…a miracle indeed.
I must say, though…having a spiritual program of action has helped me a lot in changing to and committing to a new, low carb lifestyle. I don’t know how others diet/change their eating and living patterns for the long-term without a Higher Power or God to help them, but it was essential for me. God’s grace has helped me tremendously.
As someone wrote in their journal recently:
You have created a brand new person out of yourself. That person that looked through your eyes a year ago only exists now in your psyche. What I do is hold that person in my thoughts with love and compassion, and with extreme gratitude for sacrificing herself and bowing out of the picture, allowing me to pull into existence a new version of myself. A life-affirming version that can carry me now for my remaining years in this life.
I am very grateful to the person I used to be…that she had the courage to try a new way of eating and to subsequently step back so that the new, real, healthier, slimmer me could finally emerge into the sunlight of the spirit, to engage fully in life instead of hiding in food, booze, self-loathing, and fatness. I do cherish her.
I promise you, fellow journeyers…if you truly commit to this way of eating, you WILL get the results I have. There is nothing in the world that tastes as good as the way I feel and look…and how much I’ve come to love myself in the last 19 months. I have never loved myself before…because of my past, I hated and abused myself with food and alcohol and allowed others to treat me poorly too.
I now know there is a different way…
I have become a whole person, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spirtually…and have learned much humility and gratitude in the process.
God’s peace be with you.