Surviving the “Eating Season”– The Holidays pt 3– PIE!

Only two more days!

I am amazed at how fast the year has flown and how quickly Thanksgiving has arrived.  2 more days!

I love Thanksgiving!  It is a lot of food prep and work for me to cook the holiday meal for my family, though the past couple of years have been a bit easier….less food and less prep.  Tomorrow morning, I begin making pie.  And I love pie!

Pie is a staple of Thanksgiving!  Apple pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie….. oh, there are so many pies to choose from! 

For years I made three types of pie every Thanksgiving—Pumpkin Pie (either one deep dish or 2 regular pies), Chocolate Cream Pie (with an Oreo crust) and Pecan Pie (for my husband, as I do not like Pecan pie).  I would have a slice of Pumpkin pie and Chocolate cream pie on Thanksgiving after dinner (from which I was over-stuffed and really had no room for pie).  And then as I watched a movie later at night I would have another slice of Pumpkin pie.  Breakfast the day after Thanksgiving was always easy for me—Chocolate Cream pie and Pumpkin pie. 

Pie all day long until it was gone.  And the size of the slice varied, depending on what meal and how many pies I was eating at that time. 

I really did not pay attention to portion sizes or what a true portion of pie looked like.  Why should I?  It was Thanksgiving Day….. weekend….. week…. And I was surprised when I would gain 10 or more pounds over the “eating season”?!  Maybe the excess pie had something to do with it (and the cookies in December, too!).

Then I joined Weight Watchers in March of 2006 for the 5th time.  That first Thanksgiving I went to the workshop and made a plan…kinda…. But not really.  But I did pay attention.  It was that workshop where my then leader showed us the plate and how we could use that plate to really see a true serving size of pie.  WOW!  THAT was a HUGE eye-opener!  Because, what she showed us was the same size as the small piece of pie I would cut when I was having both Pumpkin and Chocolate Cream pies…. I thought my 2 small pieces were less than or equal to one piece of pie.  Boy was I wrong!

It was not until Thanksgiving 2007 that I took that lesson to heart and really paid attention to my portions for Thanksgiving and for Pie.  My leader again showed us the plate demo for a pie slice and I again was amazed.  But this time I was serious and determined to reach my goal….I was so close and so I stuck to that serving size of pie—one slice. 

And I was satisfied with one slice…one true portion of pie!  Who knew?!  I did not need the excessive amount of pie.  I did not feel deprived eating a portion and sometimes even smaller.  And I could enjoy my pie.

Over the years I have adapted recipes and found ways to enjoy pie without the guilt…. Always paying attention to the serving size.  Last year I made a slow cooker Crustless Apple Pie from skinnytaste and it was delicious!  It is now a staple for my Thanksgiving and for other times of the year.  I still make the Chocolate Cream pie for my son and have a slice and that satisfies me.  I don’t make Pumpkin Pie because I am the only one who eats it and I don’t need the whole pie…instead I make a Pumpkin Spice truffle with Pumpkin Pie yogurt, crushed graham cracker and whipped topping.  Oh…it is good!  And this year I will be using Pizzelle cookies to make pie shells for the slow cooker apple pie filling and for the pumpkin yogurt…..very low in calories and smartpoints and delicious!  I can enjoy a treat or two or three and still feel in control. 

And when I have that one slice of Chocolate Cream Pie, I will have that true serving size based on this plate demo—this is what my leader showed us all those years ago and what I shared with those who attended the Weight Watcher workshops I led every year –

Take an 8-inch paper plate—This represents an 8 inch pie.

And fold that plat in half— No that is not a serving size of pie….. we may want it to be…but…..

Fold the plate in half again— okay, this looks like my kind of pie slice….but this is NOT a true serving size of pie, Not the size slice of pie that those smartpoints are based on…. So…..

Fold the plate in half again— Now THIS, THIS is a true portion of pie.  1/8 of an 8-inch pie is what the smartpoints are based on.  This right here is a true portion of pie…doesn’t look too small….until you place it in your hand or on a dessert plate…with the fork next to it.  And those Costco pies?  Well this is a pretty small slice of that pie!

This Thanksgiving enjoy your pie.  Eat it.   Savor it.  Before enjoying it, practice this plate demo…..Being aware of what a serving size of pie looks like, helps us with portions and helps us to not feel guilty! 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

Surviving the “Eating Season”– the Holidays part 2

The week before Thanksgiving.   Traditionally, at least in the past, this week before Thanksgiving meant the annual WW Great Plate Thanksgiving prep workshop.  I loved that week in Weight Watchers meeting rooms.  I looked forward to it every year.  That workshop gave me an opportunity to plan for the holiday meal, to learn tips and tricks for navigating a food laden holiday and one that could be stressful. 

I learned a lot in that one annual workshop.  The first time I attended and really absorbed the ideas of the Great Plate workshop was 2006, on my 5th journey with WW.  My then leader, gave us all paper plates and then we planned. 

This year and last year we did not do the Great Plate workshop and I miss it!  I miss the planning, the discussion of the point values of all our favorites, the ideas shared, the tips on how to navigate the day and the weeks that followed. I miss the recipes shared, and the tips on making a favorite recipe a little lighter, and lower in point values.  I miss the connection with others and sharing of challenges that the holidays presented and how we could get through those challenges. 

Workshops were then and still are where the magic happens!  And I have learned a lot over the past 13 years in those workshops from other members sitting in the chairs.  With Thanksgiving next week, I have been thinking a lot about what I learned for many years in the Thanksgiving Great Plate workshops and how I could use those lessons this year. 

How do I navigate the holiday?  What has helped me and will help me as I go through this years “eating season”?

Here are just a few of the things I have learned these past few years—

-Know your budget—And build it!  Whether your budget is calories or points, know what it is and how to increase it.  With WW we all have a daily and weekly budget to spend on food.  Know what that is for yourself.  Save those extra weekly points for the day of your holiday meal.  Add in some fitpoints, earned through exercise and activity for the week leading up to the holiday.  Save some of those daily points and roll them over into the weekly to use for the holiday meal.  All of this builds a great budget for us to use and not feel guilty when we indulge in our favorite foods! 

–Plan your meal—This is what the Great Plate workshop did…. It helped us to plan our meal.  What are you going to have?  What are the special family foods that will be at the meal?  Write your meal on a paper plate so you can see what you will be eating on Thanksgiving.  Planning and visualizing the meal will help when the day finally arrives. 

-Know the smartpoint values of the food—Once you plan your meal, check the point values of the foods you would like to eat, the ones you wrote on your plate.  Knowledge is power and knowing what the food will cost you, will help you to plan and to build your budget so you have plenty to spend on your holiday meal. Look up the smartpoints of your foods on the WW app and run your recipes through the recipe builder to get the smartpoint values.  And if you don’t have the app or recipe then estimate—look for similar foods.  Know before you go… Know before you eat!

–Lighten up Recipes—There are tons of recipes online (Skinnytaste, Emily Bites, Pound Dropper, WW) that are lighter versions of favorite Thanksgiving foods.  Try one or two.  Or find ways to substitute ingredients in recipes that will bring down the calories and ultimately lower the point values…try light butter, use phyllo dough for pie crust, use unsweetened applesauce in place of oil, use egg whites, etc.  Over the years I have made many changes in recipes, some were successful, and we still use them (Cauliflower Stuffing from Delish) and some didn’t work so well…. There are just some foods that we love as is, and that don’t work when we lighten them up.  The most important thing is to find a way to lighten up a recipe without losing the flavor—that is how we will feel satisfied and we won’t feel deprived!

–Choose Wisely—focus on the foods that are special for this holiday and skip the food you eat regularly.  Walk around the buffet table BEFORE dishing up your plate and pick what is really worth it to you.  What is worth it to you??  I only make my roll recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas and attempts to lighten the recipe just didn’t work….it wasn’t the same, so those rolls are absolutely worth it to me and I will spend a chunk of my budget on those rolls.  Knowing and building your budget and planning how to spend that budget BEFORE Thanksgiving will help you to make decisions that work for you and that are worth it to you! 

–Skip the Stretch– wear tighter Clothing—Don’t wear loose fitting, stretchy clothes to Thanksgiving.  Why?  Well, have you ever eaten a big Thanksgiving meal and had to unbutton your pants or loosen your belt?  That is why we don’t wear loose fitting clothes.  Tighter pants will help us to stop eating sooner, keeping us from eating to the point of being over-stuffed and about to burst.  Skip the stretch this holiday season!

–Get in some activity—before, during and after Thanksgiving.  Go for a walk after the meal…..  Play some football…. Participate in a Turkey Trot…. Go for a hike…. Just move a little and maybe start a new family tradition.  My husband and I go for a long walk or a hike on Thanksgiving morning.  It helps me to feel like I have earned a little treat but more importantly that activity puts me in the right frame of mind to stay on track and not over-indulge too much.

–Pay attention to Portions—some serving utensils are also measuring utensils in disguise and you can use them to dish up your food without anyone knowing you are portioning out your serving.  You can also use your hand to estimate portions.  If measuring isn’t an option and you can’t remember the hand portion estimates you can always use the Island method—a method I shared with my members every year that I coached the Great Plate Workshop—Make Islands NOT continents or volcanoes on your plate with your food.  Making islands helps to control portion size and keeps us aware!

–Have an anchor—An anchor is the thing, thought, or visual that reminds you of your goal, your why.  You have set a holiday goal of where you would like to be on January 1st, now find an anchor that reminds you of your goal.  It can be something you can touch or a mantra you say or a photo or a picture in your mind.  Whatever your anchor is, use it to help you get through the Thanksgiving holiday. 

–Enjoy the day—focus on loved ones.  Focus on conversations and traditions.  Yes, Thanksgiving is a food holiday, but it is also a day to enjoy family and friends and to be thankful.  Have your plan but don’t stress about it…. control what you can and let go of the rest.  And Enjoy the day!

–Have a “Day after” plan—yes, pre-plan the day after.  Get rid of the leftovers so they aren’t tempting you.  Plan the healthy meals you will enjoy the day after Thanksgiving.  And plan the kind words you will say to yourself if you over-indulge and go off plan.  Plans are great, but sometimes we just take a detour.  If you have the “day after” plan ready it will make forgiving yourself easier and will help you to get right back on track. 

What is your plan for Thanksgiving?  How are you going to handle the day?  How will you build your budget?  What foods are worth it to you? 

Knowledge is power!  And planning is a powerful tool.  Use it to help you navigate the day so that you feel successful! 

And remember—Don’t Gobble ‘Til you Wobble!

It is a HoliDAY, NOT a HoliWEEK! 

(One more surviving the eating season blog post is coming—the next one will be on pies and pie servings with a visual on how to estimate what a true serving size is!)

Surviving the “Eating Season”– the Holidays (part 1)

We are smack-dab-in-the-middle of the “eating season”.   The season that kicks off on Halloween and ends with the New Year.  The Holiday Season.  The challenging season. 

I refer to this as the “eating season” because of all of the food that abounds during these two months… the parties, the celebrations, the gatherings and the holiday….. ALL centered around food!  And THAT is a challenge for me…. for anyone who struggles to lose weight and/or maintain their weight.

So how do we navigate the holidays?  How do we get through them without feeling like a failure? 

More importantly, how do we survive this “eating season” and feel successful?

First, we must define what success means to us through the holiday season.  What will make you feel successful when January 1, 2020 arrives?  For me success has looked different through the years.

Back in 2006, success through the holidays for me was to not gain more than 10 pounds.  In 2007, success meant I would lose weight, any amount would count, even .2 lbs.  In 2008, my first holiday season at goal and as a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, success meant maintaining. 

Some years I didn’t think about it, didn’t think about setting a goal.  Some years I set goals based on what success looked like to me.  By defining what success meant on January 1st of the coming New Year, I took away the power that guilt held over me and gave myself the power to control my choices.  I was in control.  And defining what success meant to me, it gave me a focus, something to work toward and gave me flexibility.  My choices followed whatever my definition of success was. 

This year, success through the holidays looks like a loss at the scale.  It doesn’t matter to me the amount, just that it is an overall loss on January 1st

But how am I going to do that when there are so many temptations?  When there are so many challenges? 

That is where the second step comes in.  Once you decide on what success looks like to you, you can then set your goal based on that.  The holiday goal is what success looks like to you.  My holiday goal this year is to lose, at least a little.  To step on the scale that first week in January 2020 and see a loss from where I am today.  That is my goal.

Then once you set your holiday goal, ask what steps you need to take to get there.  What will help you to get to that goal?  What will help you to achieve success? 

For me, having a loss over the holidays does not mean that I HAVE to deprive myself.  It does not mean that I won’t get to enjoy the holidays…all the events….all the gatherings….all the celebrations.  And it does not mean that I won’t be able to enjoy my favorite foods and treats.  Because, if I deprive myself….if I don’t enjoy the holidays…..if I stress about the celebrations and parties and holiday gatherings because I tell myself I CAN’T have this or that…..if I deny myself my favorites….. I am doomed!  I am setting myself up for failure.  I am setting myself up for a big slip down that slippery slope.

So, how do I enjoy the holidays without over-indulging?  How do I enjoy the holidays and all that they bring and STILL reach success as I have defined it for myself? 

I do it by setting my holiday goal, and by figuring out what will help me to achieve that success! 

I know that eating mindfully is important for me, especially during challenging times.  And mindful eating means that I am tracking.  Tracking gives me awareness of how much I am eating, and what I am eating.  And mindful eating and tracking also means I am paying attention to portions.  So, tracking and portion control will help me to reach success.  But I need more to help me as well.  Moving will help.  Exercise will help.  And movement and exercise are two different things.  Exercise for me is intentional.  It gets my heart rate up.  It works my muscles to exhaustion.  So, exercise in the form of my bike, strength-training, and walking (fast) will help me to get closer to that holiday goal.  But I need to do more than a workout.  I need to move during the day.  I need to not sit so much.  Moving in the form of parking farther away, cleaning house, getting out in my garden, going for a leisurely walk after dinner, dancing around the house to my favorite holiday music, and making sure I get up out of my chair every hour will help me move closer to my holiday goal and help me to reach success.  And going to workshops will help me.  I need to step on the scale.  I need the accountability and I need the inspiration and support of others traveling this road we are on. 

Once we are aware of what we need to do, of the tools that will help us to achieve our success, then we can set small, weekly goals to help us get to that bigger holiday goal…. One-step-at-a-time!  Each week, ask yourself, what can I do this week that will move me a little closer to my holiday goal?  What one thing can I do this week that will help me reach my success?  And set that smaller weekly goal.  Just one thing. 

For me, this week, tracking will be key.  Tracking every day.  Tracking every food I eat.  Tracking the portions.  Tracking my exercise.   Tracking will give me the awareness I need about my food and exercise habits.  And tracking will give me the information I need to make adjustments next week… adjustments that will help me reach success!

How do we navigate and survive this “eating season”?  By defining success as it pertains to each of us.  Then setting our holiday goal based on what success means to us.  Once the goal is set, coming up with the actions that will help us to reach that goal will give us a focus.  And then we ask what we CAN do this week that will move us closer to our holiday goal.  Once we answer that question, we set a smaller weekly goal to get us moving in the direction of success.  This is how we survive the holidays.  This is how we reach success; whatever success means to each of us.

And then one final question—after asking what you can do, and setting the smaller goal ask yourself–WILL you do it?  Because we all CAN do it, but the real question is Will we do it!  And that is where the commitment and power lie!

What does success this “eating season” of holidays look like to you?  What will make you feel successful when January 1, 2020 arrives?

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

Excuses.  Excuses.  Excuses.

I can come up with hundreds.  But none of those excuses will help me to get where I want to be.  None of those excuses will help me to reach my goals. 

The only thing excuses do, is keep me from becoming the me I want to be, the me I strive to be.  Excuses keep me stuck, unable to reach the goals I set.  And excuses keep me beating up myself.

Every day I step on the scale.  Dread fills me as I look at the number.  I know what it is going to say.  When I started this blog last April I was 26 lbs over my goal.  Now I am 29 lbs over my goal. 

And that frustrates me!

And then I justify my weight with a myriad of excuses.  Excuses that keep me from reaching my potential.  Excuses that fill my mind with negative thoughts and words.

I am working on changing those thoughts.  I am working on ending the excuses. 

Today I get real.  With myself.  And with you.  No more hiding behind the mask of excuses.  No more lying to myself.  No more “I’ll start tomorrow”, because guess what—tomorrow never comes! 

No more excuses.

I am where I am because I have not made me a priority.  Period.  And there is no excuse for that.  How can I be the best me, if I don’t make myself a priority?  And that doesn’t mean that I become selfish in the sense that I never do anything for anyone and only do what I want for me. 

Making me a priority means–I face my emotions instead of eating them.  I find time in my day to move more.  I find the time to spend on self-care.  I make time to fix healthy meals.  I make time to meal plan.  I get a good night’s sleep.  I spend time with my family.  I make time for walks with my husband.  I make time for date nights.  I spend a day in my pjs watching movies if that is what I need.  I write. 

Making me a priority means letting go of the stress, anger, and other emotions that I allow to make me eat.  And it means letting go of the things I cannot control.

Making me a priority means living my life to the fullest.  And it means loving myself, imperfections and all. 

No excuses.

So, today I start, right now…not tomorrow, today!  And I start now 29 lbs over my goal weight.  No beating myself up over this, because that won’t help and will lead me right back down the excuse lane.  Instead I will celebrate that I am getting real with myself.  I will celebrate that I did not gain the entire 72lbs back.  I will celebrate that I am alive and can now work on what needs to be done.

Because, after-all, I am worth it! 

I know it won’t be perfect, but who needs perfect?  I just need to keep moving, keep learning and keep growing!

OOPS!

Well….. I have been doing this a LONG time…. 13 years now, not counting all my previous attempts.  So, you would think I would remember… that I would know better…. But…..

Yes, I have been struggling, but I decided to start again with tracking, something I have not been consistent about for quite some time.  Yesterday was pretty good.  And this morning I had EVERY intention of having a great, stick-to-my-points, day. 

And then this happened. 

It is small…..really small…. The smallest ice cream cup a person can buy.  Only 3.6 oz.   Can’t hurt, right?  I had a great on point breakfast and then decided to have a tiny treat….

I ate it all, which wasn’t much!  And then I went to track it and wanted to check the points.  It is less than a ½ cup serving, so it had to be less than the 12 smartpoints I usually track for a ½ cup of this ice cream. (note to self, this ice cream ranges from 11-15 points per ½ cup and this particular flavor is 14 smartpoints per serving). 

WHAT was I thinking??? I know to ALWAYS look up the point values BEFORE eating.  Oh. My. Gosh.  How many times over the last 13 years have I talked about or heard about checking points before eating?  Yet, I thought I knew the points without looking, it was smaller than a normal serving size after all.  HA! 

This little, less than ½ cup serving of ice cream was…. Wait for it….. 13 smartpoints!!  13!!!  WHAT!! 

So, here I am.  The experienced Weight Watcher member and former coach and I figured I KNEW what the points would be without double checking.  Oops!  A lesson learned.  A reminder to check BEFORE eating. 

And a lesson in slips.  They happen.  We all slip.  We all hit that bump in the road.  We all have those “Oh my gosh” detours.  And even the experienced have those moments. 

But that slip is NOT failure.  The bump does NOT derail everything.  It is a just a moment in time.  A moment on the journey that allows for feedback.  It is an opportunity to learn.  To realize what works and what doesn’t.  An opportunity to see that sometimes on this journey we slide a little, sometimes even a lot, but it doesn’t mean we have failed and cannot succeed.  We learn and we can get back on track.  We move on, rerouting the journey so that we keep moving forward…. One-slip-at-a-time….. One-step-at-a-time….

That slip is just another steppingstone on the path to success!! 

So, I tracked that little bit of ice cream.  And combined with my breakfast, I am almost out of points for the day.  The day is just starting.  Good thing I have those 0 point foods to rely on today!  And those extra points for the week.  I have my plan for the rest of the day and this slip WILL NOT derail my progress!

This is proof that I am really on a perfectly imperfect journey!  And all is still right with the world!

Swimsuit Shopping… Ugh!!

It finally happened.  My favorite swimsuit, died.  I have had that swimsuit for 10 years.  I wore it a lot!  And this week, I wore it for the last time.  When pool season started a couple of months ago, I noticed that my swimsuit was getting thin…REALLY thin.  Uh Oh! 

And this week I put it on to jump in my pool and the skirt hung down to my knees.  The material had separated.  It was done.  Time to throw it away and move on.

But THAT meant a trip to the store to buy another swimsuit. 

THAT was terrifying.  Trying on clothes in stores, looking at my reflection in the mirror, has never been my favorite thing to do.  Not when I was at my heaviest.  And not when I was at my thinnest.  Those mirrors are not flattering.  And looking at my flaws was discouraging. 

We are our worst critics and it is easier to see the flaws….. those things we don’t like about our bodies tend to stand out, making us notice them first.  I know…. It is a mindset thing…..  

So, the thought of trying on a swimsuit was just a bit stressful.  But I had to do it.  It would be far worse to buy the swimsuit that I had not tried on first and have it not fit or not cover certain parts of my body.  And I know that would be far worse, because I have purchased swimsuits, more than once or twice in my lifetime, that I did not try on first.  And those NEVER worked out!

I headed to the store and found a few suits to try on, in a size I thought would work and styles I felt would cover what I wanted covered and colors that would make me smile.  I was trying to see the positive. 

And then I stepped into the dressing room….. Ugh!  Those mirrors!  Swimsuit shopping is far worse than any clothes shopping trip.  At least with shirts, I could find layers to cover the parts I was ashamed of, the extra weight I was carrying….layers creating the illusion that it wasn’t there, that I was thinner than I thought.  Layers would hide the flaws.

A swimsuit though, hid nothing.  Yes, a skirted swimsuit would help to hide the hips, but the rest, well it was all there for anyone and everyone to see.  A swimsuit hid none of the flaws.

That is HARD to see.  REALLY HARD! Especially for a person who is hard on themselves.  There is so much body shaming in our world, so many faked and photo-shopped photos of how a woman’s body “should” look, that it is often difficult to see beyond those flaws, to see the positives, to love our bodies and celebrate what they can do.  And standing in that dressing room, reminded me just how hard it is and that I still have work to do, myself.

Because, if all I see or look for is the flaws or the negatives, well THAT is absolutely ALL I will see.  And I will NEVER see the positives or the beauty and strength.  I have worked long and hard on this.  I have struggled to change the mindset, sometimes successfully, sometimes failing.  I have done the exercises talked about in WW workshops, where I look in the mirror and find the things I love about my body, the strengths I have.

Standing in that dressing room, yesterday, trying on quite a few swimsuits, I realized that, yes I still have work to do.  I don’t know that I will ever fully switch my mindset, but I can be more aware and mindful of my thoughts and the words I say to myself.  And thanks to my journey with WW, I have the tools to help me change my mindset and the tools that help me to be mindful of what I am saying to myself and HOW those words affect me. 

Yes, I was stressed.  Yes, I was dreading the mirror.  Yes, I was dreading all the flaws that the swimsuit would highlight.  But I still went swimsuit shopping.  I faced the mirror.  I faced the criticism running through my mind.  I confronted the words of my dad, that I still hear, all these many years later.  And I tried on swimsuits.  Oh, some were awful!  Just awful.  But I found two swimsuits that didn’t make me completely cringe….. actually, they made me smile because they were filled with color, LOTS of bright colors rather than the solid black I usually picked. 

I faced my dread and shut down the negative thoughts as I stood there in that dressing room.  Okay, I may not be where I want to be.  I may not have that thin waste, and I may see too much loose skin.  But, there are positives and THAT is where my focus needs to be, something I have learned to look for and notice through my journey with WW (Weight Watchers).  And it is the lessons learned and aha moments  in workshops that helped me switch what I was thinking while standing in front of the dressing room mirror in a flaw-revealing swimsuit.  I could see some positives– I have legs I love.  My legs are strong.  I tan easily in the summer sun.  My smile brightens my eyes.  And my eyes come from my birth mom.  THOSE are the positives I will focus on for now.  Those are the images that will keep me going as I work toward my goals and toward becoming my best self. 

Changing my mindset.  Thinking differently.  Choosing differently.  THAT is a part of this journey I am on.  I may be my own worst critic.  I may not love everything about my outward appearance.  BUT if I stop looking for, purposely looking for, those negative flaws and instead CHOOSE to see the positives, well then I WILL reach my goals.  Because our choices reflect our thoughts. 

CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS AND YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR WORLD!

I am doing that now. I am refocusing on the positives, thanks to the death of my favorite swimsuit!

Secret Eating

I was asked recently by a friend and fellow WW member to explain secret eating, the why, the how, the reasoning behind it, what it got me/gets me.  She understood emotional eating, but why the secrecy?

You see, she wasn’t a secret eater…isn’t a secret eater and she wanted to understand, so she asked me to tell her more.

I am a secret eater, though I do it much less often today than I did years ago. 

Secret eating was and still is a part of my food addiction, a part of how I deal with my emotions.  And it is a way to avoid the judgement, you know “that” look from others when we are eating something we “shouldn’t” or in a “greater volume” than they think we “should” (the whole bag of cookies…..).

We talk a lot about eating our emotions in WW Workshops.  Something I relate too.  I am an emotional eater.  Eating emotions is a habit ingrained in us from an early age.  Sometimes it is a way of celebrating.  Sometimes emotional eating is to fill a void…. giving us comfort, something to do, calmness and a whole list of other “needs” that our emotions are looking for.

Yes, food fills those needs.  Though only for a short time.  And we continue the habit of eating those emotions because we get something from it, we get that reward we are looking for or the need met.  If we got nothing from eating our emotions, well then we would stop. 

But we get something. 

And then we feel guilty and need to eat that guilt.  An unhealthy cycle that is difficult to break. 

But it can be broken. 

And that is what we work on in the WW Workshops, strategies to change the habit of eating our emotions and to find some other way to feed the hunger we are feeling. 

I am an emotional eater.

I am better than I was before my 5th start with Weight Watchers.  It was in my workshop that I learned strategies to deal with emotions, other than eating them—ways that fed the needs of my heart and head without food.  Journaling became my “go-to” when emotions threatened to bring back old habits.  And that journaling, along with other changes got me to my goal weight and gave me a self-worth that I had never known. 

I would love to tell you that I am “cured” of emotional eating.  But I am not.  I am human.  I am imperfect.  I still fall back into old habits.

But…. I don’t stay there.  Now I can get back on track more easily.  My emotional eating lasts less time than before WW.  My new healthier habits do take charge…. eventually.

But the secret eating is more difficult.  It is different……

So, when my friend and co-worker asked me about it, I told her. 

Secret eating is about emotional eating, but not about finding comfort, or something to do, or healing a broken heart.  For me, Secret eating is about STUFFING those emotions back down.  I don’t want to deal with them.  I don’t’ want to face the pain. I don’t want to own those emotions.  I want to stuff them back down into the hole from which they came. I want to hide them deep inside me and forget they are there.  Some things are just too hard to deal with. 

So, I ate them.  I stuffed the emotions back inside me with that food.

But why in secret, my friend wanted to know? 

Because eating in secret meant I could lie to myself.  It meant no one would know.  It meant I didn’t have to own it or recognize it or acknowledge that that is what I was doing.  I could eat those emotions, stuff them back inside and then hide the evidence…. In my purse, in my dresser drawer, deep in the garbage can, in the car, behind the linens in the closet…. anywhere I could hide the evidence. 

And then it didn’t happen.  If no one knows then I can continue to ignore and not have to admit the shame and guilt.  Eating in secret meant I could stay in denial.  The shame and guilt I felt was overwhelming and having someone else see what I was doing, what I was eating, would make that shame, that guilt, too heavy to bear and it would bury me.  And if no one knows then I could avoid the judgement (I was judging myself harshly, so I didn’t need anyone else to judge me).  So, I ate, secretly……

And the cycle continued….

The thing is, it didn’t change what was going on.  The emotions were just buried now, under the guilt for eating those cookies and candy bars and hiding them.  The guilt was the focus now.  And I could just eat that too! 

I found that I was fooling myself into thinking that no one knew.  My husband knew some of the time, and because he loved me he didn’t say anything.  The guilt and shame I would have felt if he had told me would have been much harder to bear.  I could let myself down, I could lie to myself and I could disappoint me… but to do that to my husband or my kids, well that would not have been a good thing at all.

And my body showed the effects of my secret eating.  It didn’t matter how many times I hid what I was eating, or that I didn’t own it or track it because what I was eating, alone and in secret showed up….. it showed up in how I looked, what happened with my weight and more importantly, how I felt about myself.

It still does.

My secret eating is much less now.  I deal with my emotions.  I face them.  But…. There have been times these past couple of years that were just really hard…. And I struggled.  I would pick something up at the store…. candy, cookies, doughnuts, chips, peanut butter… you name it…… and hide it and eat it when I was alone.   These extra 26 pounds are proof that sometimes, when life gets hard, old habits can creep back in.  And I ate secretly, for all the reasons I have already said. 

But, I know what I am doing now.   I know that it won’t heal what needs to be healed.  IT won’t fix what needs to be fixed.  Eating in secret still shows up in public.  So, I stop.  I stop before it goes too far. 

Because of all that has changed in me and all of the healthy habits, I can stop that secret eating before I go too far, before I can’t turn back.  I don’t’ have to stuff those emotions any longer.  And I don’t have to hide because of the shame and guilt.  I can catch it and reach out for accountability.  I can tell someone, mainly my husband, and that helps to get rid of the guilt and shame.  And I can go to a workshop where I know I am not alone in this. 

Will I ever be completely cured?  NO.  But I have the tools in my pocket that help me to get back on track quickly and strategies that keep me moving forward, learning and growing. 

I heard in a meeting a few years ago from a wise leader when the topic was emotional eating….. “if you won’t eat it in front of others, then what is it you are really hungry for… what are you feeding because it isn’t physical hunger that makes you hide what you are eating.” 

Those words run through my head and get me to stop and think.  And rethink.  And deal with things.

I am still striving to be the best version of me that I can be.  And that means continuing to learn and grow on this amazing, perfectly imperfect journey.