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Psychological Fatness Warfare

In this 10,000th post about my food issues, I hope to bring you some hope, some revelations. Alright, maybe not.  What about some pictures of cupcakes?  
Yesterday, I had a great morning run to start.  I did some running drills.  I started off zen. I dreamed about New Orleans. I planned my meals.

But by the evening, the culmination of food destruction was incredible.  I didn’t realize how much I ate from about 5:30 to 9:30 last night, until I woke up this morning and felt the collateral damage. Gross.  

I woke up hating myself for spiraling out of control again.

(Peace, Momma.  Stop fretting.)
After reading my post last night, Carrie (our resident life coach), sent me an awesome email which got me thinking about why I eat like a vacuum cleaner sometimes.

A simple explanation is that the endorphins makes me feel better for a moment.  That’s a given. But the deeper issue?  The real why?  Why do I sabotage my training, my health and my day-to-day life for the sake of peanut butter? 

Pure and simple: rebellion.  
Instead of incorporating Ilana’s wisdom about food being the only thing I actually can control… I often choose to rebel in my passive-aggressive way.  I eat.  I think:  I’ll show you.  You can’t control what I eat.  Mmmmm, pizza and ice cream.  I’ll show you. 

But I’m only “showing” myself some extra pounds. 
And this next story may sound like a “blame your parents” moment, but it’s not meant to be.  It’s more of a realization I had this morning after receiving Carrie’s email.
I was a chunky kid anyway, so I’m certain I was born with a zillion more fat cells than the normal kid (also my story, and I’m sticking to it).

I was 8 years old.  On some Fridays after school, my mom would take me to get a small ice cream cone or those awesome little cookies from McDonald’s.  On a particular Friday, I had a daily quiz paper in my backpack.  I knew that the paper was going to be an issue.  Because it had a “C” marked on it.  As we were pulling up to McDonald’s window and I showed that paper to my mom (my timing was off, clearly).   Suffice it to say, no ice cream for me that day.

Growing up, two things were disallowed in my house: 
recreational drugs and any grade below a “B” 
I’m sure my mom’s actual response to the quiz grade and subsequent drive-off was: “You got a C.  You can do better.  We aren’t going to have ice cream today.

But in my memory, I recall wheels screeching as we blew out of the McDonald’s parking lot, there was fire shooting from my mom’s eyes, and a dark rain cloud with lightning stormed down from the heavens and struck our Buick wagon repeatedly until I cried out for mercy. [I’m not sarcastic at all.]

That was last “C” I received until Evidence class. In law school. Seventeen years later. 
What’s my point?  Irrespective of the fact that food-reward is probably not a good idea for me… the rationale behind my eating made perfect sense this morning. My stress eating is connected to my struggles with perfection and rebellion and control.

Of course, this is not brilliant news.  People studying eating disorders are pulling their hair out and saying, “duh, what a genius” about now.  Okay, fine.  But this is my revelation, so stick it.

As I think back to the minor ice cream incident, it makes sense to me.  Again, I am not blaming my mother for the ice cream-a-palooza.  But here’s what I figured out:  when I earned the “C” on my quiz (imperfection), the food (reward) was taken away.  In that situation, the denial of food was completely out of my control. I wanted the ice cream, but it was denied denied denied. Someone telling me that I couldn’t eat.

I was told what to do, what was expected of me, and how to act in every part of my life. Things needed to be on target, always.  But food? That remained mine. I could eat, I could sneak food, I could steal other kids’ Fruit Roll-ups, and every last bit was my choice.

Being a chunky kid, everyone wanted to cut my food intake down. But what I put in my gullet? It was mine. Mine! You can’t decide! You can’t that away! Even when I didn’t deserve/need the food, I would eat because I was a badass “showing you” who’s boss.  Me.  I’m the boss.  I eat what I want, when I want, and how much I want.  

“I say who, I say when…I say who.”
Ilana is absolutely correct – food is all about control. But instead of taking control of the eating, I chose the other end of the spectrum – eating everything in sight.  
Now, twenty-four years later, I am still playing these same games. I am supposed to be a good mother, wife, daughter, employee. Society. Triathlon. Myself.  All these things are connected, and tell me to stop overeating.  
But I keep doing it.  It’s my rebellion. Even against myself.  I am rebelling against myself.  Figure THAT one out, Oprah.
After I rebel eat, then I punish myself with negative self-talk.  [That’s the dessert in case you were wondering.]
My overeating is about some backwards, self-destructive form of rebellious control.  Exactly.  Backwards control. I have it all wrong. When my life seems to be spiraling out of control, Ilana says that’s exactly the time to grab the bull by the horns, and take control of the food. Make a portion-controlled, systematic world where there is complete control … and in turn, my outside world will feel in control.  
I hear those words, but my inner rebel appears to be ignoring them.  What a holy hot mess. 



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  • Anonymous

    December 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    You are so not alone on this! I've just found your blog – I'm also a mom of 2, full time lawyer, wife, triathlete (did my first 1/2 iron last spring) and am constantly trying to lose about 15 pounds. And I also reward (punish?) myself with food. And then I tell myself how weak I am. Aaaarrrggg. if you find a solution please post it!

  • Karen

    December 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I was reading a blog post yesterday about someone who had recently tried Paleo for 30 days. I forget the context in which it was posted but he said something about how sugar is an addiction. That really struck me because although I had never really thought of it that way, for me anyhow, it truly is an addiction.

    I can be completely stuffed from dinner yet crave dessert or get up in the morning and eat cookies on the way to my swim workout. Just like people might crave a cigarette after dinner or at certain times of the day, it really is no different. So ridiculous. I feel like Elf – I try to stick to the four main food groups – candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. ugh.

    It really is a struggle. I am thinking about becoming one of those people who don't even bring sweets into the house.

  • Today's Budget

    December 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I resonate with this! I remember screaming at my Mother as an adult when she tried to give one of my kids a cookie after falling down by saying "Eat this. It will make you FEEL better".

    I went nuts. Crazy nuts. Certifiable screaming out loud that you should not do to your parents nuts.

    "NEVER EVER TELL HER THAT FOOD WILL MAKE HER FEEL BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!" She gets hugs, a pick-up. Not a flipping cookie.

    I agree it is a control issue – and a rebellion! And sometimes for me it's a simple pity party.

    Oh, how I resonate with you on this.

    I'm off to a good start this morning. Let's see how the day goes!

  • Anonymous

    December 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    This post reads like one of my journal entries.

    I read a book a few years ago where the author said something to the effect of "food is the 'good girl's drug' – I may not go to work drunk or high, but I can sure show up full".

    I think in some way, you may be less rebelling against yourself, as trying to take care of yourself. You demand so much of yourself – perfect wife, mother, triathlete, attorney – that at the end of the day, you reward yourself for all of this with food. Sometimes the only way we know to be nice to ourselves is with food, because we know it soothes us, calms us, fills us – even if it is not what we actually are seeking (love, acceptance, approval, rest, help…) – it is easy, accessible and we can feed ourselves independently, without having to wait for others to respond or to notice what we need.

    Anyways – great post. I started following your blog after you were featured on Another Mother Runner and I love your honesty.

  • Swim Bike Mom

    December 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Thank you all… That last comment is interesting to me… "we know to be nice to ourselves is with food, because we know it soothes us, calms us, fills us – even if it is not what we actually are seeking (love, acceptance, approval, rest, help…) – it is easy, accessible and we can feed ourselves independently, without having to wait for others to respond or to notice what we need."

    You may be so right… 🙂

  • oanabacanu

    December 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

    First of all let me thank you for your blog – it is both fun and inspiring and I've been reading it a while now 🙂

    Second of all, being overweight was my problem also since early childhood. I was so chubby my mother put me on a diet :))) I tried all possible diets and they didn't work – what a surprise 🙂

    At some point I started jogging and, as one of your readers commented, I wasn't fast but I was still faster than people sitting on a couch 🙂

    So one day I told myself: OK, you're fat and you like eating. Now stop thinking about it, there are other smarter things to do in life than constantly feeling sorry you're not Miss Universe!

    And I kept running and swimming and walking because they were fun things to do not as ways to burn calories – that came as a side effect 🙂 Now I'm a big fan of triathlons and all charts say my weight is normal (I wouldn't mind being a bit skinnier, just to be faster when riding my bike uphill – but I know that will come if I keep riding my bike uphill 🙂

    So what I'm saying is: I'm sure you will find YOUR way to deal with this issue and I'm sure triathlon will help 🙂 And I can't wait to read about it on SBM 😀

    Greetings from Zagreb 🙂

  • Susan A.

    December 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Great, great, great post. I have tears in my eyes. I have stuggled with my weight since being a teenager, but within the last year began running and letting myself eat anything I want–just not as much! I feel I have taken the control away from the food. (I cried once duing the 1st two weeks of the South Beach diet a few years ago because I "couldn't" have a glass of wine on the ONE night I was out with friends–talk about the food having the control!) Anyway,you really said something so profound about the perfection and rebelling. I have always been the "good girl" and the "rules-follower". Food has been my way of rebelling against how I thought I should act, and eat. It makes so much sense to me. Thank you–I love your blog, and the inspiration you bring to others! Yes.I.Can.And.I.Will! I have that taped to my treadmill!

  • Donna

    December 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    You are sooo not alone, but you knew that. You're a smart cookie! I share the same behaviors. I fail frequently. 🙁 self-deprecation is sooo not productive, and I'd scream at any one of my close friends if they did to themselves what I can unconsciously do to myself. As long as I stay "present" I can ward off the mindless snacking — but who knew it would be such a challenge to stay in a constant state of consciousness!

  • TX Runner Mom

    December 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    My oh my, how your post hits home! I have struggled with my weight for years..mostly as an adult, because I was uber active with dance and gymnastics growing up and could eat the junk and burn it off. Thank you for posting this, it feels great to know I am not the only one who "rebels" this way and then beat myself up for days afterward. We can get control of this!

  • Janice from Fitness Cheerleader

    December 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I'm with Karen – sugar is an addiction. When sugar is consumed there is an overcompensation of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back to normal, thus driving it too low, which then causes further cravings. Diet products with artificial sweeteners cause the same reaction. I had to give up sugar, and artificially sweetend products cold turkey in order to return to a healthy body weight.

  • 49rTerry

    December 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    OMG – this is so me! I've been feeling the same as you and I appreciate your writing and sharing it. I don't feel as alone in my struggles and you're giving me hope that I can succeed.

    I have copied your inspirational post and plan to use it to help me get going again.

    Thank you for being you, for being funny, sarcastic and human.

  • pensive pumpkin

    March 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    just found your blog. you are awesome.

    also, the only reason I didn't get a C in evidence is because I was screwing the TA. I married him. LOL

    off to find the follow button!

  • Siobhan Sullivan

    September 7, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I am right there with you! I was just talking about this very thing with some friends. I dream of having my slimmer pre-pregnancy body back. I was 10 lbs away from my goal weight when I got pregnant. I started eating for two right away, because I didn’t know if or when I would get sick so that I couldn’t eat. Well, I never got sick, gained 50 lbs plus 30 more after my son was born. Aaaaaaannnnndd 10 years later, I cannot get back on the bandwagon. I am a total food rebel! Potatoes, cheese and an ice-cold Coke are my drugs of choice! Sigh. . .


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