Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 115 My friend Kathy's experience with shifting out of food addiction

Some years back Kathy and I were in a group called Women and Food, all women trying to shift their relationship with addiction to certain foods and compulsive eating. I'm so glad she finally got around to writing her story. If you want to connect with her directly, email her at

In 1958, at the age of 11, I went on my first diet and for the next 50 yrs. gained and lost hundreds of pounds. I went on every fad diet there was and then would gain back the weight lost plus more. In addition to the faddish starvation diets, I tried the healthy ways, like OA and WWs, and acupuncture and hypnosis, etc… but still gained back whatever I lost. I also addressed the mental health issues behind my obesity with various counselors, with healing touch therapy, working the 12 steps and other spiritual processes. I thought I had covered it all and when I retired in 2009, decided to let it all go, eat what I wanted and enjoy life! In the summer of 2010, one yr. after retirement, at the age of 63, I hit a new bottom. I went on a cruise and had to be pushed in a wheelchair up the ramp to the ship; I hardly left my room because of my inability to walk very far. I weighed 330 lbs..

A friend had seen a program on Shades of Hope, a treatment center in Texas for eating disorders and recommended I look into it. I searched for something closer to home and less expensive but could only find treatment for anorexia/bulimia, not plain old overeating! Shades of Hope treats all addictions at the same time, including overeating and co-dependency, which I learned was another one of my many issues!

It was a major investment in myself, a huge commitment, and I was full of anxiety and fear of failure when I went to Shades for the 6 day intensive program on October 23, 2010. Our group of 7 people was put on the same basic balanced food plan, whether needing to loose, gain or maintain! The plan was based on national diabetic and heart healthy diets. We met with a nutritionist, wrote down our specific food plan daily, ate 3 meals and 1 snack,  and had to weigh out each serving. It seemed like a lot of work and then it was a lot of food!  We walked together each morning but I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group; got physically sick trying and was given a special dispensation.

Most of our days were spent in group therapy. On the 3rd day, we wrote out on huge sheets of butcher paper a timeline of our life, noting major events every 2 yrs. and the history of our relationship with food. It was very obvious that my overeating started at a very young age in order not to feel emotional pain. It was also obvious that I carried the extra body weight to protect myself from dealing with intimate relationships. But, I felt I had dealt with all of those issues during previous therapy and did not have any more emotional issues to work on. Then on the 5th day, I shared my timeline and the therapists pointed out that I had been carrying my mother’s shame for her sexual behavior all my life and protecting myself from that shame. That was a new concept to me! With the support of my group and the wonderful therapists at Shades I processed that shame giving it back to my mother; it was not mine! It was a huge relief not to have to carry the weight of that shame.

I came home from Shades exhausted but had surrendered my issue with food. I looked at food only as fuel for my healthy body.  I wrote my food plan out every week according to the recommendations of the nutritionist. It was a balanced diet of protein (small portions), a little fat/dairy, some grains, some fruit and lots of vegetables including salad twice a day. No sugar or white grains. I ate 3 meals a day and 1 snack at night according to my written plan. I took my own food with me when I went to friends, potlucks, etc… and for a time even weighed my food in restaurants. I started water aerobics three times a week and went to a few OA meetings, talking to a sponsor daily for awhile. I practiced affirmative prayer stating that “I am Lean, Healthy and Strong” and the weight just fell off. 

I lost 112 lbs. in 1 ½ yrs. and have maintained that for a year. It has been relatively painless, seems like a natural way of life! I accredit that to the emotional work I did at Shades. It was an amazing experience, a life changing week.

I still eat the same healthy foods but do not follow the plan to the letter although I have not had unhealthy sugar for 2 ½ yrs. (no ice-cream, cake, cookies!) and have no cravings. I do 1 ½ hrs. of water exercise 3 times a week and take walks on occasion. I am physically healthy and no longer take anti-depressants. I would like to lose 50 more lbs. but don’t seem to have the drive to do that. It will come I’m sure. I know that it would take sticking strictly to the food plan and increasing my exercise regime. BUT, as I am now, I am whole, healthy and happy! It is a miracle!  

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