The Plateau Mini-Break – & why I didn’t tell you about it

It may have been obvious to many of you, due to the lack of “weekly weigh in” posts, but I have been on a mini-break of sorts. I wrote about hitting my first plateau, and for the first few weeks, it really bugged me. I didn’t want to go to Weight Watchers because I knew the needle wouldn’t move. Then I had legit conflicts. Then I made a semi-conscious choice to get through this plateau with my sanity intact — I went on a “diet” mini-break. I didn’t stop eating healthy, and I didn’t stop weighing myself (at home)… but I stopped tracking religiously, I stopped going to Weight Watchers meetings, and I stopped being so hard on myself.

And it’s been really good for me. I’m “back on the wagon” as of one week ago (though I was never really off), and yes, I was all sneaky and didn’t write about any of this previously. On the one hand, who wants to say “hey guys, I”m not going to Weight Watchers!” but also it was a wee bit of an experiment. And while I was confident in myself and in my decision, I didn’t want to announce to the universe that a plateau mini break is Something To Do, have it not go well and then be seen as giving shit advice. Not everyone can take a “mini-break,” as it is the first step to quitting. It might have been for me in the past. But not this time.

Sometimes, especially when our progress slows down — or just when it’s the height of summer and there’s a lot going on — you need to take a break from being Super Awesome At Everything. Since weeks of being rigorous didn’t move the scale one iota and didn’t promise to do so for at least a few weeks, I decided to take a break from my food/number and focus on fitness for the month of July. My goal was to go to Slimmons three times a week, plus add in one other workout each week, and to get a good cardio burn each time. What’s a great plateau buster? Increasing your exercise. But I needed to get good at the exercise.

I didn’t track my food and had some consecutive days of crazy (Thai food truck, I love you), but I kept one half of my mind on what I was eating. The goal was to maintain and work on fitness — not backslide and gain weight (it’s not a plateau if you gain lol).

I also had to reevaluate Weight Watchers, and how it has been working for me. Finding the right day/time/meeting & transport to and from said meeting has been tricky. I live in Los Angeles without a car, which is a-ok most of the time, but when the ONLY meeting time I can get to with my work/bus schedule means getting up mega early on Saturday or Sunday — or choosing between a meeting and physical activity… Weight Watchers kept losing. Plus, the bus to get there is creepy. I’m generally pretty unflappable, but JEEZE, the 212 is a creepy ass bus on Saturday mornings. (and the bus driver is always so grumpy – and once drove right past me! Lame.)

I’d never seriously considered Weight Watchers online, because I didn’t think I could stay accountable, and I didn’t have a decent scale. I use my analog scale to give me a general idea of where my weight is, but it’s usually 2-3 pounds off from the Weight Watchers scale, and involves a lot of guess work. (plus, my cat uses it as a toy. Pretty sure that throws the calibration off) During my mini-break, I considered it — if I had a quality scale, one I decided couldn’t lie to me – and I couldn’t ignore – could doing all the Weight Watcher’s stuff I’m doing anyway work, with my weighing myself in at home each week?

I decided that it could. I’m not giving up on meetings, but I did get a good scale (more on that later), and I’m going to use it, going forward, to accurately and honestly track my weight, regardless of whether I go to a meeting. My mini-break is over, my weight stayed exactly the same (yay?) and now I’m ready to bust through this plateau.

And just as a disclaimer: this doesn’t work for everyone! But taking a “break” was right for me at the moment, as I was discovering a place of zen about my body and my “number.” Funnily enough, during this time, several people tried to call me out for not losing much weight. It didn’t phase me, because, deep down, I knew what I was doing was right.

Onward and downwards (on the scale)!

Don’t pull the trigger! Trigger foods & what to do with them

I’ve waxed ad nauseam that deprivation diets don’t work, and that we should ditch food guilt and stop lamenting a lack of sheer willpower, but this neglects what is still a vital part of working on food issues and making a lifestyle change. Because I did most of my work on this issue BEFORE I started blogging, I fear that my neglecting this very big and important facet of lifestyle change may give a false impression of what one needs to do to get to a good place with food. Down with food guilt and “bad” foods, BUT…

Know your trigger foods. And then LEARN TO CONTROL THEM.

Everyone has some foods that they simply cannot eat. The problem with deprivation diets is they provide you with a laundry list of “forbidden” foods, the usual suspects that we lament for being “bad”… and beat ourselves up for eating. That way lies madness — you can’t realistically live and NEVER EAT POTATO CHIPS/COOKIES/ICE CREAM, etc. again. You may not even *have* a problem with ice cream, but a “diet” (and dieters) will tell you it’s a “bad” food and you “can’t have it.” Forget that.  Don’t drive yourself mad with forbidden foods — focus on YOUR food habits and relationship with certain foods.

Those with normative eating habits don’t have “forbidden foods,” because they don’t have to — they have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. They eat things in moderation. Potato chips aren’t “bad” because they can have just a few and move on. A little won’t kill you. But a lot very well might. And our problem is “a lot,” most of the time.

The solution for most of us is that we have to identify the foods that we simply cannot control ourselves around — the trigger foods that lead to binges, and/or set-off emotional reactions that lead to more bad choices.

Weight Watchers teaches this as Red light foods, Yellow light foods and Green light foods. Yes — like a traffic light! Namely:

  • Red light foods: you can’t control yourself — there is no such thing as a “serving.” It’s the whole bag. Or 2,000 calories of ice cream four times a week (hello Coldstone). It’s McDonald’s. Or spaghetti & meatballs — the foods that set you off and make you binge.
  • Yellow light foods: Foods that are a little tempting, but you don’t go overboard on. Maybe you don’t eat a serving, but you don’t pig out. This could be anything — pretzels, peanut butter, cheese. One kind of cheese could be red light (brie), another could be yellow (cheddar). But if you’re in an emotional place or situation (or just not paying attention), you might binge.
  • Green light foods: You can eat these foods like a “normal” person! One serving and you’re good! Or, they’re zero points/so good for you that it doesn’t matter — fruit & veg. Or, you can eat these foods until you feel satisfied, and stop.

It’s important to establish boundaries when it comes to red light foods, and work on your relationship with them. To a lesser degree, you should do the same with yellow. The general aim is to reprogram your red light foods into yellow & green light foods (and possibly your yellow into green).

I started working on red light foods when I was 15 — I went cold turkey on a bunch of food: mashed potatoes, french fries, peanut butter, chips, pasta, fast food. Then I gradually learned how to manage those foods in “normal” situations, gradually re-introducing them into my life. Some are relegated to “special occasion” foods — mashed potatoes & full fat chips, for example. They are yellow light foods for me though — if I don’t watch myself on these occasions, I will still binge. Generally, I NEVER BUY THESE FOODS. Sometimes I order them in restaurants, but initially I didn’t even do that — I went cold turkey on french fries until I could learn to control them. Sometimes, though, french fries are still red light.

But peanut butter, amazingly, became a green light food for me. I can have peanut butter in my cupboard and it will last a year, because I only eat it sometimes and one serving is enough for me. I used to eat it RIGHT OUT OF THE JAR. I confess I didn’t do anything special to change my relationship with it, other than stop eating it for a while until I stopped seeing it as a “snack” food or a “treat.” It’s just peanut butter now.

That said, most of us will ALWAYS have red light foods. I don’t think I can ever be trusted with a bag of Lays potato chips, or Chex Mix. Over the years, I have developed NEW trigger foods, including things that are considered “healthy” — I can’t be trusted with nuts.

I bring this all up because I don’t want to give the impression that you can eat anything and be “healthy” OR that you should give up all the things you love and lose weight by SHEER WILLPOWER. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing. You must strike a healthy balance and know yourself. Eliminate or limit your trigger foods without going crazy. Over time, you may reteach yourself how to enjoy those foods in moderation. (I can handle certain kinds of cookies, but not Oreos)

I’ve worked on my food for YEARS, with a lot of successes, but plenty of set-backs. THEN I started working on the food guilt and body acceptance. Now it’s clicking.

Breakfast is essential (or, how I reprogrammed a lifelong bad habit)

This week’s Weight Watcher meeting topic was the importance of breakfast. Suddenly, it hit me: hot damn! I’ve been eating breakfast for almost three years now!*throws confetti*

I grew up stringently anti-breakfast. I was never hungry in the morning; I don’t favor “breakfast foods”; if I skipped breakfast I could eat more later in the day. Sound familiar to anyone?

Following this poor cycle of behavior, I unknowingly sabotaged my weight and eating habits for years. It’s crazy to think back on it, but I used to think it NORMAL when around 10 or 11 a.m. I would experience excruciating stomach pains/hunger pangs, and sometimes my vision would go fuzzy for a minute or two. I justified this by devouring my yummy lunch, distributing my precious daily points between my two favorite meals (lunch & dinner). In reality, I would binge eat for the rest of the day, because I started out STARVING. I can’t imagine returning to this behavior now.

It’s hokee and a cliche, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. It took three rounds at Weight Watchers before I “drank the Kool-Aid,” but now that I eat *some* form of breakfast daily, I am happier, healthier and I binge less. Breakfast will never be my favorite meal, but it is my most essential.

I remain un-hungry for 1-2 hours after getting up. I’m not mad about standard American “breakfast foods” (eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles). But I now make breakfast work for me. I grab things that are fast, easy and accommodate both my logistical schedule… and my stomach’s schedule. My stand-bys:

  • banana (perfect “take 10 seconds to grab from the kitchen before running to work” food)
  • granola bars (were my “gateway” breakfast — ate Kashi trail mix bars in order to start liking breakfast)
  • oatmeal (I like apple & cinnamon flavor a lot)
  • Greek yogurt (my newest addition to the repertoire – yummy!)
  • whole wheat toast w/ one Laughing Cow cheese wedge and/or margarine
  • cold pizza slice (won’t lie I EAT THIS SOMETIMES AND IT IS YUMMY)
  • bagel (my “once a week” breakfast b/c it’s high PointsPlus)

This is simply what works for *me*. (I really hate eggs, which are a Miracle Breakfast Food for a lot of Weight Watchers) The trick is to figure out WHY you’re not eating breakfast, and if it’s because you feel “boxed in” by breakfast definitions, well, you have to change them. It wasn’t until I stopped thinking of a granola bar as a snack food and started thinking of it as a great thing to eat at 10 a.m. to get me to lunch at 12 that I changed my thinking. Dabnabbit, sometimes I want to eat a slice of pizza for breakfast. My all-time-favorite that is tricky to make work in the U.S. is the typical German breakfast — open faced sandwiches w/ cheese and cold cuts. Fresh bread roll + Muenster cheese slice + salami = BREAKFAST BLISS. (Brötchen, I miss you)

I used to think breakfast wasn’t that important. Now I know that eating something small, yummy and satisfying is a way to start my day in control, on-plan and confident. I have more successful WW days when I have a solid breakfast. I don’t use a lot of points — I generally eat something in the 2-4 PointsPlus range  — so I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself of good lunches or dinners. For others, a 7-8 point breakfast is a better choice, especially if they get up earlier than I do (LOL).

Anyone have any breakfast tips/recipes? Sharing is always helpful :)

In the News: Consumer Reports goes for flawed weight loss program study; declares Jenny Craig a winner

As you all know, I’m a rabid Weight Watcher. I believe, hands down, it is the BEST diet/weight loss/lifestyle change program available to Normal People (ie: not rich who can’t hire a lifestyle coach/personal trainer).

The New York Times has published a piece analyzing Consumer Report’s recent declaration that Jenny Craig is the best diet program out there — based on a two year study where the Jenny Craig participants followed didn’t pay for the program (a savings over regular JC customers of approximately $6,600!). 92% of these participants stuck with the program for the two years of the study and lost an average of 16 pounds, and thus Jenny Craig was declared the winner.

Wow, Consumer Reports — can you say Logic Fail?

Despite my bias, I am not anti-Jenny Craig. I have a good friend on it and it’s working super well for her. It fits her life and she loves the one-on-one attention. She’s also willing to spend way more money on a program than I am — Jenny Craig is EXPENSIVE, because you have to buy their food (approx. $100 a week). Personally, I hate the idea of restriction — eat this, not that, and I hate frozen, processed food. So a plan where you spend the first 2/3rds of the program eating pre-packaged frozen foods isn’t for me.

But more importantly — what a flawed study! If I weren’t paying for Jenny Craig and could get over the food plan thing, I’d probably stay on the program for free for two years, too! JC has elements that are damn cool — my friend has a Body Bug (part of the program!) that is essential for tracking her progress, and having a consultant who is personally invested in you would be a huge boost.

At the end of the day, a study like this — and Consumer Reports drawing conclusions based upon it — is flawed. Real consumers have to pay real money to join diet/weight loss programs such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, and that relative cost DOES effect who sticks with a plan and can effect how successful a person is. In general, measuring weight loss programs and their relative success is incredibly difficult. Weight loss and lifestyle change is so personal, and every program won’t work for every one.

I recommend reading the NYT analysis — it has some good nuggets of info. And all my love to Jenny Craig, but I will always be a Weight Watchers girl! :)

Double standard: overweight men vs. overweight women

Last week, Salon published and then Jezebel did a discussion post on how society goes relatively easy on overweight men, compared to women. I aptly followed the Jez discussion threads and have been noodling on it ever since. Salon’s main contention was an interesting one:

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 70 percent of men are overweight, compared with 52 percent of women. Yet, somehow, 90 percent of the commercial weight-loss industry’s clients are female, and somehow, this industry hasn’t seen males as a viable business. How can that be?

Two sentiments emerged in the comments on Jezebel:

  • YES, we should be harder on overweight men. They see big buffoons married to thin, hot women, whereas overweight women are deemed sexless and loveless.
  • NO, we shouldn’t demonize ANYONE for their size, period.

I see value in both arguments.

The fact of the matter is that, yes, there is a double standard. Just as men enjoy a place of privilege on a general level, they also enjoy an extension of it when it comes to media representations of their bodies, and the expectations placed upon them. Yes, fat hate is pervasive across society, but a giant helping of it is heaped upon women in particular. Why? Because women are meant to be objects to be observed and enjoyed by men. Most advertising and media is designed (oft subconsciously) around this concept, so women bear the brunt of fat shaming because HOW DARE YOU BE UNPLEASING TO THE EYE?!?!

I, too, have observed the overweight buffoon/hot, thin wife/girlfriend trope in media and it has bugged me. (This ties into a whole other subject I’ve been meaning to discuss — women ‘downgrading’ physically while mean are expected to ‘upgrade,’ and not the other way around) That said, perhaps I have merely been conditioned so, or I’m open-minded, but I don’t mind a tubby, huggy bear kind of guy. I use a Kevin James/King of Queens picture with this post to demonstrate the phenomenon… but I actually find Kevin James & his schtick totally adorable.

It’s not that you’d never see the dichotomy in real life of a big guy/thin and/or hot woman. It’s that you never see the opposite in media — fat/overweight/obese woman with a thin, gorgeous husband.

So there is a sense of annoyance, and even occasionally rage, that a man can be 50, 100 lbs overweight and be lauded, but a woman cannot be the same and get the same positive treatment. HOWEVER, to go after men and fat shame them the way we are fat shamed? Doesn’t really solve the problem or help anyone. At the end of the day, the media/people shouldn’t fat shame *anyone*.

That said, the original point of the Salon piece was with regard to Weight Watchers now marketing to men, and wondering why it took so long. I have to say, a marketing campaign directed at men about making lifestyle changes, if it strays away from a fat shaming tactic, is a-ok with me.

What do you think? Is it a unique experience to be a fat woman, verses what men experience? At the end of the day, is it the same?


Weekly Weigh-In: Week 14

My weigh-in was successful today — I lost 1 lbs, which brings my total to 11 (down about 4 lbs since I put the screws to myself a month ago!), and puts me just 1 lbs away from my 5%. YAY.

In an interesting follow-up to my “week without snacks,” this past week I had a bag of baked cheese curls from Fresh & Easy, whereas the previous week I had NO snack food at all all week. That week I lost .2. This week I lost 1. Conclusion: a week without snacks was fine, but a week with them can work just as well, if not better, as long as I measure portions and control myself. I no longer eat bags in one sitting, which is a HUGE step forward for me. Still gotta work on mindless eating though.

I feel good going into a vacation week — I fly to Atlanta Wednesday night to spend five days at home. There are a LOT of potential food traps there, mostly nostalgic restaurants/cuisine types that I only eat when I’m in the area, or I miss. On the positive side, my mom is a healthy eater who won’t have junk in the house, and my two closest friends there are also on Weight Watchers. But I may not be able to resist talking these people into going to my favorite places. I think the key is to narrow it down to one or two places TOPS that I MUST go to, and make smart choices while there.

So, yeah, nothing fancy this week. I weighed in, lost, and I feel good.

Weekly Weigh-in: Week 13

This has been a weird week for me. So *technically* I weighed in on Saturday, because I wasn’t able to go on Sunday, and just in case I couldn’t go on Tuesday. I was told that because it had been six days since my last weigh-in, my loss couldn’t be officially recorded in my WW book. I was super bummed — I only lost .2 lbs BUT that .2 put me at 10 lbs total loss! YAY!!!!

But I have to admit that it not being official frustrated me a lot. I left my meeting with a bit of a “FU!” attitude because I *really* wanted that loss recorded, and went out and had the lunch I wanted to have, fully aware and a little scared that I might weigh in Tuesday (my regular day) and see that .2 loss go away. I had a Rueben and fries, which honestly weren’t that great or satisfying. Annoyed at myself, I bought a bag of pretzels at Target (not so bad, all things considered) and totally pigged out on them (with extra sharp cheddar cheese — SO YUMMY). I went to Fresh & Easy Sunday and bought wine and cookies. I only had one glass and two shortbread pecan cookies but *still*. I felt super naughty.

Monday night, I went to the gym. Now, before you feel impressed, this was the first time I’ve been to the gym since Valentine’s Day. That’s a whole other story. My pacing was a bit off — I ran two miles but ran way too fast on some of my intervals and was super wiped. Come Tuesday morning, and WTF. My home scale says I’ve lost 2 more pounds!!!! It goes goes to show: sometimes your body needs a calorie boost (in the form of Rueben and fries?) in order to shock it into burning more. But to be rewarded for “bad behavior”? Weird.

Next hurdle of mental anguish: my Tuesday WW buddy was sick, so I couldn’t go. I was SUPER SAD. Not only did my Saturday .2 lbs loss not count, I couldn’t go on my normal day to hopefully have a 2.2 lbs loss recorded, which would be my 5%. Now I have to hold on until this weekend, and stay mean, clean and lean… and hope I don’t put on those pounds before then. I know I shouldn’t be scared because I’m doing everything right (gym again tonight!), but I can’t help it — I AM.

These are the ups and downs of weight loss. Fighting for every pound, feeling an unnatural, heightened sense of frustration and loss when things don’t go to plan (especially weigh-ins) and having uncontrollable binges as a response. The good news is, my “binges” aren’t all that bad — pretzels, hummus, cheese and one glass of wine? I”ll live :) But it was the WAY I was eating those things — OM NOM NOM NOM, Cookie Monster style.

So it may not be official, but we’re going to call this week a .2 loss for my 10 pounds! Here’s hoping week 14 brings me to my 5%.

Weekly Weigh-in: Week 12

After my last weigh-in on Tuesday, I took the bull by the horns, and decided I would NOT have another lack-lustre weigh-in. A .6 weight loss is well and good, but not when I’ve yet to hit the 10lbs weight loss mark… and I know I could be doing better.

Then, I found out my WW buddy couldn’t go to the Tuesday meeting, which meant my ride was gone. In the past, I’ve just written off weeks such as these, and gone two weeks without weigh-in. This week, I took charge, and went to a Sunday meeting (via the bus). And I lost 1.4 pounds! It puts me .2 lbs from 10, and 2.2 lbs from my 5% goal. My daily PointsPlus target also went down by one.

So I’m feeling reenergized, and ready to bust through the 10lbs mark next week. The weight loss is still going more slowly than I’d like, but it’s still going…

What did I do this week that worked? I still wasn’t perfect, but I:

  • Didn’t go to the grocery to buy more snack food when I ran out
  • Was disciplined about eating a light dinner on the days I had a heavy lunch
  • Made my balsamic & olive oil green beans for the first time in a month
  • Didn’t beat myself up when I went to the food trucks & went to The Counter, twice in one week (more than I’d like). I made the best choices I could (no cheese on my burger, for example), and then was smart about my dinners both days.

My personal lesson for the week: get back to your veggies, and watch your Points closely. You can be “totally sticking to the plan,” but if you’re honest, you may not be as disciplined as you should be.

Weekly Weigh-in: Week 11

Another week, another weigh-in and, dagnabbit, this whole losing slowly thing is FRUSTRATING. I’m down .6lbs, which would be fine were it not for the fact that I skipped a week. While I’m a proponent of slow and steady weight loss, in previous attempts taking off weight has just been easier. Since I started in January, the weight has come off in small increments — .4, .6, .8, 1, 1.4. My biggest week was 3.2. My total weight loss so far is 8.4, which I am celebrating… but I can’t help but remember how, the first time I joined WW (when I was 14), I lost 6lbs in a single week. As you get older, your metabolism slows down, etc. etc. and it really BLOWS.

Of course, I could be doing more. I’ve been following the program pretty exactly, but have gone a bit easy on myself in a few places (ie: exercising, snacks), just to ease the transition from OM NOM NOM to lean, mean and clean. It’s time to kick it into high gear, though, breeze past 10lbs and onwards to 15, 20 so I can get into summer down closer to where I was a year and a half ago. Let’s celebrate the good:

Things I’ve done awesomely

  • knocked down soda intake to once a week (one drink at one meal)
  • eating out only 1-2 a week (including one lunch @ food trucks)
  • eating fruit every day (usually apples, banana or strawberries)
  • only buy/consume a bottle of wine every other week
  • have either gone hiking and/or running at least twice a month (up from zero lol)
  • no eating after 8 p.m.
  • resisted and/or exercised extreme restraint with “free” food in the breakroom

And confront the bad:

Things I can improve on

  • rigorously measuring portions
  • snacking (esp. Fresh & Easy baked snacks)
  • running/exercising at least once a week, no exceptions
  • actually using my gym membership
  • making poor choices (mostly for lunch) – no greasy, fried food that will make me feel gross

Would love to hear from others who have struggled with slowwwwww, steady weight loss. Anything in particular you did to kick things into high gear?

Some things taste better than skinny feels: food guilt, control issues & fat kid honesty

Ah, that famous Kate Moss quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”


A LOT of things taste as good as thin feels, and better. (hellooooo bacon) This is how I know my new Weight Watchers leader is the one for me – she feels the same way. She even threw in the same “bullshit.” SOULMATES.

The thing is, when you have food issues, mantras like Ms. Moss’s ode to anorexic chain smokers do nothing but make us feel out of control, guilty and fatter than ever. The gorgeous supermodel is telling me I shouldn’t be enjoying this slice of cheesecake more than being a size six (or four, or two). WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?! Nothing – you enjoy food. How else do you think you ended up overweight, and Moss ended up an underweight poster child of the size zero revolution?

Yet we see this phrase pop up in different iterations, over and over again. Celebrity loses 80 pounds. NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS BEING IN SHAPE FEELS! You’re feeling discouraged after binge-eating Indian curry and naan/ice cream/burger & fries, etc., and someone “helpfully” intones: NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS THIN FEELS (this one makes you want to gorge your eyes out with a spork from guilt). Fitness guru tries to inspire you to work harder (whether in real life on on reality TV *coughbiggestloser*). NO FOOD IS WORTH WHAT IT FEELS TO BE THIN.

The people saying this can’t possibly have ever been an overweight food obsessive. We fat people (and formerly fat people!) know. We commiserate with each other over how FREAKING GOOD some things taste. They tempt us. Lure us in. Make us lose control. Leave us with equal parts intense guilt and glib satisfaction after the fact. The “Others” think that fat people are lazy and weak, ugly labels that makes us even less apt to admit that we are out of control when it comes to food. We embrace guilt-making mantras like Moss’ and in turn feel really bad about ourselves when we, inevitably, give in.

Food guilt just makes it worse

I say, let’s embrace our dark side and shout, loudly: SOME THINGS TASTE WAY BETTER THAN SKINNY FEELS. Let’s put it out there, and let people know what they’re missing! Is it totally embarrassing that we let food control us? Yes. But the longer you stay in denial about the power — and allure — food holds over you, the longer you’ll stay fat and/or on a perpetual diet and/or end up THIN but completely miserable.

This is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of weight loss transformation for many of us — admitting that you are out of control of your situation, and that the sheer will power everyone expects you to have over yourself and food because — look! they do! — doesn’t exist. We like to pretend it does, and can often manage it for long periods of time, or in certain challenging situations. But the second there’s a set-back — a midnight cupcake binge, a Superbowl chicken wing extravaganza, skipping the gym for weeks or months at a time — we chastise ourselves, bemoan our lack of SHEER WILL POWER! and feel like failures. Then we emotionally eat our unhappiness, most often with NON-TASTY but convenient food, which makes us feel even worse. The dark cycle of fat begins a new, diet abandoned.

One of the biggest challenges — and breakthroughs — for me was to STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT EATING. Yes, I have will power to a certain extent, but the moments where it fails me doesn’t make me a failure. A certain self-awareness about eating is necessary – you can’t let yourself off the hook indulging all the time. But in the “everything in moderation” moments where you indulge and — God forbid! —  actually enjoy the taste of something MORE THAN YOU WANT TO BE THIN — if you guilt trip yourself? It becomes a negative-feedback loop of doom. Trying to police yourself on eating culminates in your eating more than you ever would if you had a healthier, less-guilty attitude towards food. It’s difficult to accept. It seems so wrong. Counter-intuitive. What do you mean, I shouldn’t feel guilty about eating ice cream? Ice cream is… bad.

Reprogram yourself. Eating ice cream is not bad. Eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting? Yeah, that’s probably bad (but even that you should be able to let go of, in time). But if you let go of the guilt of eating a normal serving, heck – maybe even TWO, of your favorite, super delicious “better than thin feels” ice cream and then actually eat that – normal serving size – on a regular basis, you may find your overwhelming, emotional need to devour an entire carton diminishes.

Then again, you also have to know yourself, and realize we don’t have an automatic reset button. You’re not going to go from being a Ben & Jerry’s pint-devouring monster to daintily eating four spoonfuls overnight. Sometimes you need to completely go cold turkey on a “red light” item/trigger food whilst you reprogram your guilt feelings away from the food. It works differently for everyone, but the fact remains: guilt over eating usually leads to MORE EATING.

Most importantly, once you admit to yourself that, dammit, some food IS worth it, it becomes easier to define how much food is NOT worth it. All food is not created equal, and the guilt complex that is foisted upon the unhappy fats for eating leads to this reverse landslide where you consume any and all food, desperately, because you’re bad anyway, so who cares what it tastes like? Though it may feel counter-intuitive, trust me on this: admit that you like eating some things more than the illustrious idea of being thin, deal with it, and then begin the long and arduous journey to dropping your food guilt. We may never approach food “normally,” but we sure as hell can approach it with less guilt.