Ever since I started college, my state of being has been “deprivation.” I have never felt comfortable enough to eat what I actually want at all times. In fact, when I do eat exactly what I want, I feel guilt. I started buying groceries for myself when I moved off campus my junior year of college, and never once do I recall buying exactly what I want when at the grocery store. Even when I was in my upswings in my weight continuum, it is never that I eat whatever I want on a daily basis. It’s that my stumbles become more frequent and I forgive myself more readily.
So what exactly are these stumbles? Well, I am a control freak. I like to have control over everything, including my food choices. My approach to eating is deliberate, and in most cases I’m not eating what I want to eat, but allowing food to serve as a means to an end as opposed to something to really enjoy.
There are moments in time when I feel like I can stop controlling things and just go with the flow. It’s like a mental vacation. Usually, it is a real vacation, and my mentality translates into food. When I’m living out this vacation mentality, it’s not that I’m not counting, it’s just that I’m not caring. I don’t care that my burrito is 500 calories, because I’ve decided to stop being in control for a minute and to enjoy food. To me, this is a stumble.
This invariably results in one thing: stomach distention; being full to the point of extreme physical discomfort. Because once I give up mental control, I lose all sense of how to eat if not to finish everything I’m given or everything that’s available. I’ve always struggled with going to visit my mom, because food is abundant, and I am on vacation: a very dicey situation for me. I have never learned how to stop eating when I’m full. I’ve never learned how to eat to the point of satiation.
So when I get myself into this vacation mentality, it’s doomsday. I have a compulsion to eat everything I want, because I know that the next day I don’t get what I want. There is obviously a big problem with functioning in this way, but I don’t know any other way. When I started Weight Watchers, I had a system to deal with it, and it was to eat whatever I wanted after I went to the Weight Watchers meetings once a week. I never felt fully deprived, because I knew that if I really wanted something, then I could have it on Thursday night. That stopped working for me when two things happened: 1) my weight got low enough that the extra calories were too much for my BMR, and 2) I started allowing multiple dinners/desserts, because I was fully into vacation mentality. Every. Thursday. Night.
The truth is, now it’s easy for me to be controlled and restrictive. I never have to figure out when to stop, I already know because I’ve already counted calories and portions. It is hard for me to maintain weight loss, because I don’t know how to find the happy medium between eating 1,000 calories a day and eating 3,000 calories a day in my brain.
So on Sunday when I was driving from Michigan back to Ohio, I had already decided I blew it for the day, and I was fully settled into vacation mentality. At 9pm when I got home, I was still full from breakfast and lunch. But I stopped at Taco Bell and got nachos and a burrito. I have no idea how I talked myself out of ice cream and fries at McDonald’s as well. I also drank wine that I didn’t need. I was exhausted from a tiring weekend and a long drive, and I should have just gone to sleep. But vacation mentality made me feel like I needed to eat as much as possible while I could.
As I begin to think about my upcoming transition to maintenance as opposed to weight loss, I really, truly fear my vacation mentality causing me to gain all the weight back I worked so hard to lose. I am thinking about introducing a Food Vacation Day once a month, and rotating the meal that is the “vacation” (meaning that I only get ONE meal a day rather than allowing a whole day or weekend). But I’m not sure I can strategize my way out of this one without some serious therapy.