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Breaking Free

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Let's face it. Losing weight and keeping it off can be hard work. Otherwise, most of us wouldn't be here and none of us would have become overweight in the first place. I've had my fair share of ups and downs over the course of my life, going on my first diet at the age of eight. From then until my early 30s my weight spiked and dipped like crazy and I was never at a stable weight for more than a few months' time. With that kind of history, it's only logical that I developed a lot of bad habits--habits that have taken me many years and a whole lot of effort to undo.

Foremost among those has been my relationship with food. On the one hand, it's something I love, savor, enjoy and take comfort in. On the other hand, the comfort factor is something I've often used in a negative way as a soothing mechanism when feeling stressed, anxious or sad. However, in my efforts to break away from that pattern, other negative ones have sometimes popped up along the way. Taking control of my eating habits, especially the ones that are connected to emotional eating, has required a lot of hard work and introspection. Looking at the reasons why I turn to food and trying to develop alternative coping strategies has, at times, been emotionally exhausting in and of itself. And developing new habits to try to ingrain my new ways of eating has also posed a number of challenges.

For me, part of that process has involved taking full control of and responsibility for my eating. Sounds like a positive thing, right? Not necessarily, in my experience. I naturally do best when I'm cooking, measuring and controlling every bite of food I put in my mouth. And eating out, socializing and generally being outside of my comfort zone have been saboteurs that, at times, I've felt are generally to be avoided. But, by denying myself opportunities to get out of my comfort zone, I think I've sometimes done myself a big disservice.

When I set out to lose weight--every time--a big part of my goal was an improved quality of life. I wanted to look better, feel better, be more confident and not be held back from doing anything by my weight. But if losing and maintaining my weight means cloistering myself at home where I only ever eat my perfectly-portioned, self-prepared foods (tasty as they are!), have I really achieved those goals? For me, the answer is no. I want to get out, live life and spend time with the people who matter most me. Being held hostage to my eating habits is not freedom, it's a prison, and that's most definitely NOT what I'm setting out to do. Learning to be secure in my habits and to be able to enjoy myself in social situations without panicking over food is an important part of this process. It's not easy when there's temptation all around and everyone else seems to be indulging, but I think we need to be able to function happily outside of our carefully controlled comfort zones.

I've worked hard to develop this balance as I lost and continued to maintain that loss for the past year and a half. No, I can't go out and eat and drink what I want at every meal, every day of the week. But I'm working more and more so I can indulge moderately about once a week in a way that doesn't sabotage all of my efforts. And what's more, with practice, I've learned that I can step out of my comfort zone and not be paralyzed by the fear that I'll always give into temptation and totally overdo it. I can be satisfied with one drink and good company and I can make better choices about what are worthy indulgences and what aren't. And like I said, it hasn't always been easy and I'm still far from perfect, but each time I'm able to navigate social situations in a way where I feel good about my choices the next day, I get closer and closer to really living the kind of life I've always dreamed of--one where I've successfully plotted my escape from my self-imposed food prison and where I can function happily no matter where I am.
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