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05 March, 2013

Coming out of the Pantry: My addiction to food

I have struggled with my weight and body image for as long as I can remember. I've always been more of the "athletic build". Even at my thinnest I would not be described as petitie.

I have been off and on diets, namely Weight Watchers since college when the "I don't take 10 hours of dance and 15 hours of marching band anymore" weight packed on.  I had returned from a vacation at my (then) heaviest - 17 lbs more than my high school standard.

While on Weight Watchers I logged every BLT (bite, lick, taste, for those not familiar with WW lingo). I worked out 60-75 minutes of high intensity aerobics 6 days a week.  After 4 months I had lost 27 pounds. I wore a size 6 for the first time in my life.  I looked awesome, but I was exhausted.  I was running on fumes and fat-free cheese.

I knew that life-style wasn't sustainable and over the next 10 years I gained 42 pounds, which is 15 more than my previous heaviest.  All while "dieting" and training for triathlons and half-marathons.

Two years ago I got pregnant and gained another 45 pounds.  I saw numbers on the scale that terrified me.  I had a lot of pregnancy complications due to my weight including hypertension, inflammation and water retention at the end of the pregnancy.  I was a stroke risk and I had to be induced immediately.

After I had Evie I had difficulty breastfeeding (due to a number of factors), had sever post-partum depression, and had absolutely no energy.  Thankfully, the promise that breastfeeding is the best diet held true even with pumping!  I lost 40 of the 45 pounds in 4 months.  I was almost back in my skinny jeans. Wahoo!

And then in happend. The pounds started packing on. Daily!  I gained 13 pounds in less than 4 weeks. I had angry fits to the point of throwing things. I would wake up twice a night from hunger pains and binge eat giant bowls of cereal. I found myself eating alone in my car so no one would judge the fat-girl eating again. I was scared of myself. I hated what I saw in the mirror.  I refused to be in pictures. I couldn't fit in any of my clothes other than yoga pants and t-shirts. I felt like an embarrassment to my super slim husband.

I had a check up with my primary care doctor to re-evaluate my post-partum depression (my midwife had moved away) in July of 2012. He said that I needed to get my butt in gear and get the weight off or my health would continue to decline. He said he would see me back in March for a follow up and expected good news.

Unfortunately, he didn't give me a plan.  But I knew I had a deep and serious problem. More than a few Weight Watchers meetings could cure.

A friend told me about Overeaters Anonymous. I was too embarrassed to go to a meeting, so I read every pamphlet and link on their website. I concluded that I had an addiction to comfort eating.  I promised that very day I was giving up comfort binge eating.  And I did!

I was moving into my busy / stressful time of the year so that was the only change to my eating habits I could really make.  If I was upset at work, instead of eating a donut. Or two. Or three. I took a walk. I removed all cookies and candy bars I was hoarding. I didn't let myself stop for ice cream or eat from a drive through.

It worked.  I maintained my weight for a few weeks then I lost one pound a month.  I was starting to feel better physically and emotionally.  And the anger bursts were slowing down and mood swings were not as intense.

But I knew it wasn't enough.

In October of 2012 I posted on Facebook that I always get a sinus infection the week of Halloween. Since, like, forever this has happened to me.  A friend mentioned that bacteria and yeast feed on sugar (which makes sense -- I've made homemade bread and brewed beer. That is exactly how you make them - feed the yeast with sugar).  I let that sink in a little.

And then a lot.

And then no less than a week later another friend told me the exact same thing.  She told me she cut out all grains and starchy vegetables. She said without doing any exercise she had lost 8 pounds in two months and all her stomach aliments were gone.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

That was it.  I replayed every Halloween with a sinus infection.  Every Thanksgiving with stomach cramps and diarrhea. Every Christmas throwing up.  Every beer hangover.  Every afternoon of feeling crabby.

I had to do it.  It was time.  It was time to give up sugar.

Realistically, I knew taking on a new lifestyle during the most stressful month of my year plus the holidays was only going to set myself up for failure.  But I went into the the holidays with a different mindset:  Lay off the cookies. Only have one slice of pie (not a day, but total!). Skip the ice cream. Go easy on the mac and cheese.

It worked!  I didn't have a sinus infection. I didn't spend Christmas Eve Mass running between the Narthex and hugging the toilet.  And I didn't ask WebMD if I was dying of a parasite because for the first time in 10 years I didn't have post-holiday diarrhea.

I told Eric that starting January 1st our life was changing.  Goodbye grains, goodbye sweets, and goodbye drive thru.

Since January 1 I have lost almost 11 pounds (in addition to the 3 previous that Fall), gone down a bra cup size, almost a bra band size, a dress size, a jeans size, and tshirt size.

Today I am 6.5 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. I eat 3 small meals a day, and an occasional snack. I have more energy than I have had in 15 years. I sleep a full 8-10 hours and wake up rested, before my alarm. I don't have brain fog. I can remember things again. I don't have menstrual cramps. I don't have migraines. I don't have to pee every 45 minutes.  My weight doesn't fluctuate 8 pounds in a day. There were things that I didn't even know were wrong with me until they have gone away!

And I don't workout anymore than usual, which is basically 1-2 walks a week or 10 minutes on the rowing machine 1-2 a week. (This is the best part. I hate being sweaty)

I went shopping on Saturday.  For the first time since having Evie I went shopping and didn't have to leave in tears.  I am still not jazzed about the size I had to buy, but I know I am a work in progress. And it's working.

Sure, it's been hard saying good-bye to homemade cookies, dishes of ice cream, my Dad's pizza, and my beloved cereal.  They were my security blanket for 15 years.  As I've been slowly removing the boxes of these indulgences from my pantry, I feel like I'm mourning the loss of a friend. It's hard to say good-bye forever.  I know that sounds weird but it's true.

I told my parents last night that I had an addiction and borderline eating disorder caused by sugar.  It was hard to say it out loud for the first time. But admitting it to my parents was the last step I needed.

For years I lied to myself that I wasn't a slave to food, but I was...and in a way, still am.  I am healing. It's hard. There are days when I stare at the freezer because I know at the bottom are a few more cookies and I want them....because for a moment they take all the hardships of the day away.   But I am learning to undo these comfort food-associations.  Crappy food doesn't make me happy or the day any easier! I think it does, but it only makes me angry, mean, and irrational. Good, real, unprocessed food makes me happy. It makes me the REAL me.  You are what you eat. Garbage in = garbage out.

I am three weeks away from my check up with my doctor. And for the first time in recent history I am actually excited about the results.   I can't wait to tell him that I am ready to cut back on my anti-depressants and allergy medicine.  They're both nearly gone!

So now what?  How do I go about eating out or going to friends houses for dinner?  Well, I haven't gone 100% grain-free yet.  And I am learning about what sugars are good/okay to use.  The rule of thumb is to eat well 80% of the time.  I control what I can, when I can and save my 20% for a beer and dinner out.  My goal for January and February was to allow only one serving of grains a day as part of a stair step down approach (other methods have a 30 day total detox).  Now I am working on that being more only like 3-4 a week.  And I will continue.  I don't ever want to be a burdon on friends, or to have people not include us because they don't know what to cook.  I'll figure it out, I promise!

I also don't ever want my friends (or family) to feel like I am judging their pile of cookies (trust me, I'm more likely jealous!). I know what it's like to feel judged while eating; real or self-imposed.  But I also want everyone to be healthy and working at their peak.  Life is short!  This is a process, way more so than I can write here today.

There is a little more to my/the story than just cutting out grains, like no processed food, highest quality pasture raised meats, whole raw dairy, organic veggies, etc.  This has been a process for me (and Eric) that has taken at least three years with sugars and grains being last.

I'd love to talk more! Call me! Email me! Let's meet for coffee (the small farm, organic kind!)!

Or check out these resources:


  1. I had a whole comment and it disappeared. The more I read about cutting out grains and sugar the more I think it makes sense. I just need to get my husband on board. I was doing good before the holidays and then caved to what was easy and more cereal and packaged things. Where do you get your meat, produce and raw milk?

  2. You are always so brave and open! And I can definitely relate to your experience on some level. One book that really helped me a lot is called "The Rules of Normal Eating." It uses a cognitive behavioral approach, yet is so simple. If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend it. Good luck with your new lifestyle and congratulations on the progress you've made this far!

  3. Look up Carlton Farms on Facebook, I think their website is under construction They deliver around the metro area but I'm not sure if they go as far south as you (i've never looked). We also buy at Whole Foods, Publix and occasionally Trader Joe's...and Target actually has a decent selection now (at least in North Fulton county). My favorite brand of cheese/hotdogs/bacon is Applegate. Our other mainstay is the Roswell Farmers Market. We've made friends with a chicken farmer and buy our eggs & chicken exclusively from him during the market's season

  4. Thanks, Crystal. I'll have to check it out! I am hoping my story can encourage just one person! It took just one person to help me :)

  5. Thank you for sharing your story - I have no doubt it will help others!

  6. I just stumbled here from a BlogHer sidebar and thought I'd give you a virtual high-five! My husband and I eat a very similar diet (Paleo/CaveMan) and have light, occasionally treats on the weekends. I've noticed things about my body I never knew before and how grains and sugar affect me. Amazing! No more after-lunch coma and better sleeping. Whew! I find the longer we eat this way, the less I'm tempted by the old way of eating. And sometimes when I allow myself a nibble of something, I realize I no longer like it. Fascinating. Congratulations to you on your weight loss.

  7. Kudos to you for bravely sharing your story. As a new mom I can completely understand and relate to how easy it is to fall into the sugar/processed food habit. I am working to cut back on both myself - it's not easy but I know I'll feel better if I do. I'll be praying for your continued success on your journey!

  8. Thank you for this post. It really hit home in lots of ways. Vulnerability can be difficult (especially on the public internet!), but it certainly bears fruit in the lives of readers....

  9. Thanks Monica! I hope you guys are doing well and enjoying your little one :)

  10. Thanks, Sarah! I don't I quite realized what I was doing when I wrote it! Haha -- but it has already born much fruit.


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