Thursday, February 7, 2013

Secretive Eating and Breaking the Cycle

You may or may not know that I became an endurance athlete as an adult (started with half/full marathons in college [2003-2006] and graduated to triathlons in 2009). It's the complete opposite of where I was as a child and early teen. I despised exercise. I remember complaining that we were walking too far when we were at Arches National Park. I stopped and sat on a giant rock. It's not that I was out of shape at that point in my life (almost 13 years old). I just hated exercise. That's only one example of the many hiking excursions of my pre-teen/teen years. Funny how things change, right?

I contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic (if it was happening in the early-mid 90s). It's not that my parents fed me unhealthy foods. In fact, they did a wonderful job of cooking and preparing foods considered healthy under the Standard American Diet guidelines. I place no blame on my parents for my struggles with being overweight. It all falls on me. 

I was thin at one time... when I was 7 years old (in 2nd grade). I started to gain some weight in 3rd grade. I'm not sure why I gained weight at that point. 4th grade was when I really packed on the pounds. Thankfully, I've always been a tall person. Even at 9 years old, I was nearly 5 feet tall. That definitely helped a bit, but I couldn't hide the extra weight. 

What were the reasons to my weight gain? Secretive eating. There are multiple facets to this. 
  1. Next to my elementary school was a soda shoppe. I would frequent the soda shoppe with a few classmates after school. We'd eat fresh-cut curly fries and I typically would drink a chocolate milkshake or green river (phosphate drink). We all know how calorie-dense fries and shakes are. These after-school escapades occurred at least once per week. After indulging there, I would walk the few blocks home and eat dinner (and sometimes even dessert, if my mom made something). There was one rule in our house surrounding our diet: Only one dessert allowed per day. A glass of soda was considered dessert. We never could drink a soda and then a milkshake.
  2. In 4th and 5th grades, I would ride bike with neighborhood friends (one being part of the soda shoppe group above, but she stayed super thin the whole time) to a local place called The Pie Pantry (now closed), the drug store or Noble Roman's pizza. The Pie Pantry served ice cream, cookies and other baked goods. I'd sometimes buy a bag of 6 (large) chocolate chip cookies and get a dish of ice cream (no, I didn't eat all the cookies at one time). At the drug store, I'd buy candy to eat and take back home. Fun DipNips, and all kinds of other junk food. I would hide the candy in my closet at home and snack on it when no one was around. At Noble Roman's, my friend and I would typically order breadsticks with cheese and tomato sauce. I could easily eat 2-3 breadsticks with dip. Again, I would go home and eat my regular meal at home. 
  3. I hinted above that I would secretly eat candy and such at home. One of the things that I think put on most of the weight was my addiction to chocolate and peanut butter. I'm a little embarrassed about what I did. I would melt chocolate chips and mix it with a large scoop of peanut butter. I would then go hide somewhere in the house and eat the concoction with a spoon. I would wash the dishes before anyone else got home and put everything away. 
My parents never knew about any of these things. They just knew I was gaining weight. At my peak halfway through 6th grade, I weighed 158 pounds at 5'2". Something had to be done. Second semester of 6th grade, my mom put me on a diet. She made me write down all of my food intake into a food journal. I had to measure my food, as I could only eat serving sizes. I also continued to get taller, helping thin out my body. I ended up losing 30 pounds from January to May that year. I finished 6th grade weighing 128 pounds, which was a much better size for my height. 

My height is now 5'9". I've stayed healthy since middle school. I've never been "thin" or "skinny". I've always had a little bit of insulation in the mid section. My hips, thighs and stomach (below the belly button) tend to hold onto a little bit of fat. 

I still find myself eating secretively (or thinking I am). I will sneak something out of the fridge and be eating in the kitchen, only for my husband to ask what I'm doing. Why do I still feel the urge to be secretive about my eating? Am I ashamed about what I'm eating? My husband isn't going to take the food away from me. I have to make the decision myself on whether I'm going to eat something or not. It's my choice. Just like it was my choice to eat all that junk food when I was a kid. 

We all have the choice. I recently completed a Whole30. Yes, I complained a bit about the strictness of the program. I succeeded though. I went 31 days sugar-free (in addition to already being grain-, dairy- and legume-free). I ate a little bit of fruit, which is approved on the challenge. 31 days. I am amazed. It's incredible to see how far I've come since I was that overweight child. I had a sugar addiction my entire life. I craved sweets. I believed my day wasn't complete unless I had a dessert. Whole30 broke that addiction. It changed my taste buds. I don't crave the goodies like I used to. Not even Paleo goodies. I will probably experiment with some Paleo goodies, since I'll be creating recipes this year for a cookbook. I'll be sharing those goodies with others though. I don't have the desire to eat them. I'd like to provide others with dessert options, if they so choose. There's nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while. Paleo cakes, brownies, cookies, coconut milk ice cream, etc. Life still happens. We celebrate birthdays and holidays. Those generally involve some sort of sweets. 

I still enjoy food, but in a different way. I look forward to my meals. Steak. Sweet potatoes. Salads. Soups. Casseroles. Roasted chicken. Fish. Bacon. Sausage. Eggs. You get the picture. There's something extremely satisfying about roasted veggies with meat. It's nourishing. I'm fueling my body for optimal performance now. The decisions I make are going to affect my wellness in either a positive or negative way. I would prefer to be at my best. You can be too. You may think it's too hard. It may be a challenge in the beginning. Look where I came from though. I've been there. I know what it's like. It can be done. 

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