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Iris' Story: Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Dieting/Binging

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I'm 43 years old, the mother of two (15-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl). I'm happily married to a "skinny minny" who can eat whatever he damn well pleases and not gain a pound (a little jealousy there). I'm a nurse practitioner in women's health care.

I've had a weight problem as long as I can remember. I don't remember ever being under a size 12, even was I was younger. My dad was the vice president of a candy company, so it wasn't until my teenage years that I realized that normal families didn't have sweets for dessert at every meal. The message reinforced was that plates had to be clean before dessert could be eaten. In looking over my writings and journals from high school and camp, I wrote that I always wanted to be skinny. Presently I'm 5'6" and really cannot remember ever weighing less than 150. I guess I must have at some point in time (like birth!), but can't remember. I honestly don't know what I weigh now—probably around 215.

I have dieted my whole life. I drank liquid protein in the late 70's for two weeks so I could weigh around 135-140 when I got married. The weight I lost then was probably gained back in a week. I have been through Weight Watchers countless times; the Diet Institute; Overeaters Anonymous; behavior modification programs; and most recently, this past summer I used Redux for a few weeks. I lost 27 pounds and have probably gained back half.

Dieting was a lesson in futility. I felt cheated, frustrated, angry, etc., when I wanted certain foods and could not eat them. I remember arguing with the male lecturer at Weight Watchers because I had gained 3 lbs. in 1 week. He just couldn't understand the fact that it was hormonal, and that I literally had no control over this weight gain. I was always successful at weight loss—20 lbs. here, 40 lbs. there, etc. I could take the weight off by denying myself, but the weight always came back with more. Being active in feminist circles, I discovered Susie Orbach's books, which led me to Judi Hollis, then to Overcoming Overeating books. I felt like someone had lifted a weight off my shoulders—I could legitimately eat what I wanted to without repercussions. What an almost simple solution! Legalizing food was (and still is) extremely scary—lots of shoulds/should nots still play over and over in my head. Eating that one cookie has, in the past (and almost still does now), led me to finish the box. It's still difficult for me to separate stomach hunger from mouth hunger, and when I'm experiencing PMS, I really do a number on myself with bad body thoughts. But, as they say, "one day at a time."

My new mantra has become to make peace with food and to examine my feelings and thoughts. Before I grab the food item, I try to analyze what I want (crunchy, smooth, etc.) and get to the nitty gritty. Am I really hungry, and if so, for what? OO has helped me reflect more on the "why?" behind what I put in my mouth and the realization that everything is okay. It has simplified my life—I can now truly eat what I want. There are moments when the little voice in my head replays the old messages of "Are you sure you should eat that? Think about those calories," etc., and I find myself back in the good/bad category game.

I'm at the point now where I feel okay with myself—not great, but not beating myself up either. I'm back to exercising which always energizes me, and I'm becoming more introspective about personal feelings—dealing with issues head-on—as opposed to turning to food. Food has been my friend, lover, confidant—but also the devil in disguise (the vicious cycle all over). I think (and hope) that I have a better grasp on it now.


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