April 23rd, 2010

Fair Warning: This post has NOTHING to do with Commuter Couples.

Why is it I can put on 20 pounds inside a few months and then spend years trying to take it off?

As you might recall, in October I developed sensitivity to gluten, which is basically anything that is made with wheat or flour. You try eating the standard American diet and not eat wheat: it is no fun. I was avidly reading food labels, interrogating restaurant service people and wondering if I’d ever eat pizza again. I was shocked at the number of processed food items that have wheat or wheat products in them, which basically means they are off limits to me.

I did a lot of research during this time about gluten allergies/sensitivity/Celiac Disease. Every book I read and many blogs dealing with gluten sensitivity talked about how much better people felt after clearing gluten from their system. They extolled the unexpected weight loss they’d had after getting wheat out of their diet, as wheat often acts as an inflammatory agent.

Not so for me.

After I went gluten free back in October, I packed on 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

Go figure: taking out all of the wheat in your diet also takes out about 85% of the fiber as well. What are left are simple carbohydrates which turn into sugar in your body. All the calories and none of the satiation factor? No wonder I gained 15 pounds!

Gluten free felt like prison to me. Unless I minutely controlled everything that went into my mouth there was a chance that within an hour of eating I’d have gut-clenching pain and suffer the sting of acid reflux.

My sister, who has tried more interesting food plans than you’ve ever even heard of, recommended going on a “raw” food diet. Before you flip out: we both decided that steak tar-tare and sushi wasn’t our thing (not that there is anything wrong with either of those food choices. To each his own).

Once again, the research on and offline and blogs praising the Raw Food diet pointed to the fact that people who were on a raw diet were likely to return to their natural weight. When the primary sources of food in your diet are fruits and vegetables you’d think your weight would drop like a rock.

Me? Not so much. I packed on another 5 pounds.

Even still, I spent 12 weeks eating raw. The nice thing about being 90-95% raw (I just couldn’t quite get rid of the coffee) was that it felt like freedom. I could eat anything that wasn’t cooked without worrying about running into that evil gluten demon.

I felt awesome eating raw. Almost all of my food cravings went away. I slept better; I had more energy. Except for that pesky weight gain, eating raw food was much more rewarding than eating gluten free.

Then real life got in the way.

A friend was coming to town for a week and asking someone else to limit themselves to restaurants and meals that are all raw was more than I was willing to do. I reverted to being gluten free during her visit.

Now being 20 pounds heavier than I’d like to be I’ve found myself being very conscious of all aspects of eating: what I’m eating, how I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how fast I’m eating, etc.

My friend is naturally thin. While she was in town I availed myself of opportunity to observe her eat.

The difference in the way she and I handled ourselves around food was striking. While eating meals, about 2/3 of the way through whatever her entrée was, she’d say, “I’m full.” More importantly, she’d push her plate away from her. And most importantly: she didn’t touch the food again.

My first inclination is always to be part of the “clean plate club.” The starving kids in China, Africa…pick your own continent…was my impetus to eat up!

But back to today: even if I do claim to be full, I rarely push my plate farther away that my chubby little mitts can reach and NEVER do I leave it alone. Oh no: I’m going to pick and pick and pick at it until once again I am a card carrying member of the “clean plate club.”

Fairly early on in her visit I made some smart-mouth comment about her size 2 body.

She put her fork down and caught my eye and very calmly said, “Please don’t make comments about my weight.”

At first I was taken aback. What was the big deal?

Later as I reflected upon it how arrogant was I to think I had the right to comment on her weight (or the lack thereof). How furious would I be if someone commented on the 20 pounds I’ve packed on in the last few months? (Hold that thought. Later you’ll see how I responded.)

Was it okay to comment on her slight physical stature because that is what society deems as ‘desirable’? While my overweight body is the opposite of what is ‘desirable?’

I had never thought about my reverse snobbery: hating people (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, however, definitely envious) of size 2 women when the closest I’ve ever been to a size 2 is when there is another digit to the right of it and I’m embarrassed to admit it wasn’t always a “0”.

Sadly, since my friend’s departure I’ve kind of fallen off of the wagon. I’ve reverted to some of my higher fat, lower fiber choices, eschewing the wonderful green smoothies that I enjoyed all of January and into March. I no longer want the spinach salads that I was drooling over a few weeks ago.

While visiting my doctor last week she pointed to the steady weight gain since last year. “Do you realize you’ve gained 20 pounds from your lowest point?”

Was she serious?? Do you think you can hide 20 pounds? Do you think I haven’t noticed that I only have two pairs of slacks that fit (or are fit) to wear into the office? “Yes, Doc, I noticed. It is kind of hard not to when your underpants are cutting off your circulation!”

So what is the deal? Why do I struggle so much with my weight. Why is it a dragon I just can’t seem to completely vanquish? I’ve spent many hours pondering why I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life. Is it because I like food too much? Rich food too much? Is it portion control? Is it that I don’t exercise? The answers to those questions by the way: Yes. Yes. Yes. No – I do exercise.

Let me tell you a story:

Recently my mother visited a friend whose health has deteriorated to the point she can no longer live alone. My mother found the visit very depressing and she had a hard time shaking off the sadness she felt after leaving her friend in the assisted care unit. She called me a few days later and I was surprised at how upbeat she sounded.

“What changed for you?” I asked.

“We went for a drive today and ended up around the lake. We stopped at that frozen custard shop we always like. It reminded me of vacations we’ve taken together, Lara. Somewhere between the dip of vanilla and chocolate I started feeling better.”

“Gosh,” I began, tongue securely in cheek now. “All these years I’ve wondered how it was I’d become an emotional eater. Now I know I came by it legitimately.”

“Very funny,” she said her tone dry.

“Truly, Mother: the only thing I’m waiting on now is for you to tell me you smothered your ice cream in peanut butter.”

She was silent a moment.

And another.

I wondered if I’d gone too far.

Peanut butter is my mother’s answer to everything! It is her Ultimate Feel Good Food.

“Lara – if I’d have thought about it or had peanut butter handy, I certainly would have glopped it on top and relished it as it went down!”

Indeed.

Mystery solved.

Okay. In all honesty being an emotional eater wasn’t news to me. Like many people, I don’t treat food like it is nutrition or fuel for my body. It is there to comfort me when things are tough. It is there to celebrate with me when times are great. Food is my fair weather friend. No matter what happens: food is always there for me.

When I started this blog in July 2009 I swore to myself that it wouldn’t devolve into another blog about food and food issues (again: not that they’re anything wrong with them). Yet here we are. I appreciate your indulgence in this and I promise to keep my food drama to a minimum.

Lastly, just in case you’re curious: Unless you’re my immediate family (sorry, you’re fair game) I always run any portion of my blog past whoever I’m including stories about. When I sent the story about monitoring my thin friend and her eating habits to her for her approval she responded: “I’m not a size 2. I’m a size 4.”

I don’t know about you but that didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, basically she can never come into my house again. I can’t afford the liability: her skinny butt might slip between the cushions on my couch and she might suffocate! Of course the pillow I might hold over her face might factor into it as well…….

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