Breaking Up With Food: Strategies To Try

July 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

There is so much more to losing weight than having a food plan and an exercise plan.  It really doesn’t matter what “diet” you choose if you can’t stick to it.  You are the one that has to find the strength and motivation to keep going each and every day.

But I’m not that strong.

And I’m almost never motivated.

So how in the world am I supposed to fight off the urge to dive headfirst into a box of Oreos or live the rest of my life from the recliner when I feel unmotivated?

There are real, genuine moments on the weight loss journey where  you feel you have come to the end of your sanity.  Take the donut box away from a sugar addict and you’ll come quite close to seeing someone come unglued.

I can promise you that I have even thought at times that I would literally go insane if I did not get the food that I was craving or obsessing over.  I have driven my car in circles around the block trying desperately NOT to go McDonalds.  I’ve left the house at 2 am to go to Taco Cabana because I simply could not have any peace at all until I ate a Burrito Ultimo.  I had laid in my bed staring wide awake into the darkness trying desperately to not go insane before giving in.

I have far fewer episodes like this than I did at the start.  This is the brilliant part.  The more you practice finding ways to NOT go off your plan, the easier it will become.  This is because habits and routines are formed with each hour that goes by.  They become a part of you.  Your faith in  yourself grows.  Your strength grows.  It may take awhile…maybe a year or more…..but at some point resisting will not be the maddening experience it is on day one.

Back in 2006 when my husband left me, I thought I was going to go insane.  I started having panic attacks.  I lived 24 hours a day gripped by the fear that I could not handle my life without him.  I was so full of fear and dread that I could barely function.  Every day of my life was a living hell.  I thought numerous times that I was going to go crazy.  I was sure of it.  And in those desperate times, I read a book called “Divorce Busting”.  It gave real life strategies that a person can implement in their everyday life to help them survive a breakup after a spouse has walked away or is threatening daily to leave you.

It’s ironic that the book was called “Divorce Busting” because it did not ‘bust’ my divorce at all!  It did, however, help me survive the whirlwind of insanity I was living in.  It gave me strategies to use so I did not have to sit there in my insanity and dwell on how much my life sucked!

Breaking up with food was just as difficult for me.  I loved my husband and he left me.  It tore my heart out.  It hurt.  I thought i would die. I thought I would go insane.

Now replace “husband” with Brownies, Ho-Ho’s, and Reeses peanut butter cups.  Same paragraph.  I loved them and they  had to go.  It tore my heart out.  It hurt.  I thought I would die. I thought I would go insane.

The end result was the same–PANIC, LOSS, DEPRESSION

In those moments where I feel as if I am going to lose it and attack a donut box–I pull out the same strategies I used to get through my divorce.  At the end of the day, the concept was the same and the strategies worked just as well whether you’re breaking up with the love of your life or a big bag of Kit Kats.

#1 – Change Anything.

In relationships,you develop routines. Places you go together. Shows you watch together. When you break up, suddenly everything reminds you of that person. The same is true of food if you have a deeply embedded relationship with it. Now many things you do just feel uncomfortable because food is not involved.

Do you have a routine, tradition or ritual surrounding your eating? Do you drive down the same road every day that takes you by the McDonalds drive thru you go through automatically?  Is there a certain chair you always eat in?  A show you always watch with food? Do  you have places you go regularly where you end up eating? Are there other places you go that are more conducive to NOT eating? ? Do most of your problem times seem to happen at a certain time of the day, such as in the morning, right after work, or just before bed?

Now change ANYTHING.   Drive down a different street.  Sit in a different chair.  Watch a different show.  Take an “experimental attitude” about this situation.  Switch something up.  Anything at all and see what happens.  I used to have multiple routines surrounding food.  I would always plan what I was going to eat while watching “Survivor”.  I paired my favorite foods with my favorite shows.  Every morning when I dropped the kids off at school, I would go through McDonalds for the sausage biscuit/hasbrown dollar meal.  It became a routine.  I used to carry bags of food in my purse and I would always buy gallons of ice cream from the same Walgreens.  I had to break up my routines.  For a time, I had to stop watching Survivor altogether because it reminded me of the food I would eat.  I changed from Walgreens to CVS.  I even moved furniture around to make the room look different. (OK I had someone move the furniture because I couldn’t do it myself at the time….but the point is…I changed things.)  Changed the environment.  Changed where I sat.  Changed where I drove and even where I shopped.  Try it. Change anything and see what happens.

#2 – Do a 180.

What is your typical response to stress or anxiety? How do you respond when you become angry? Do you have certain habits you fall into when you feel lonely?  Most of us do have automatic responses to many situations.  It’s the way we normally react to things.   Now do a 180.  Do the complete opposite of what you would normally do.  Here’s an example.  When my ex-husband and I were getting divorced, I would sit by the phone waiting for his call.  I wouldn’t go anywhere with the children because I was afraid he might come by the house and I would miss seeing him.  I was tied to his actions.  I sat by the phone.  I waited by the door.  And everything I did was based on him.  Then one day I took the advice of this book and did a 180.  I knew he might want to come by the house to pick up more of his clothes but instead of waiting for the call—I packed up the kids and left.  I took them to McDonalds (of course) but the point is….we did the OPPOSITE of what I normally would do.  At that time in my life, I never would have dared to just leave without telling him where I was going or risk him coming by and finding me not at home.  So I did the exact opposite and guess what happened? He did come by and I wasn’t there.  It threw him for a loop too. He was not happy because he was used to me always sitting here waiting for him.  I had done something totally out of character.

After that, I started regularly doing 180’s.  I would ask myself “What is the opposite reaction to this situation?” and then I would try it.  When my husband moved out and arrived a few months later with his pregnant girlfriend I wanted to scream.  I wanted to break plates against the wall.  I literally wanted to die.  You may think I’m crazy but I did a 180.  I congratulated them and then I bought them a gift.  My husband never looked so shocked.  The new girlfriend who would later become his wife also appeared caught off guard and yet from that day forward she was never anything but extremely nice to me and my children.  It’s hard to do the opposite but sometimes it’s exactly what needs to be done.

Now how does this relate to food? My typical response to stress is to eat.  So I would consciously do the opposite.  Go for a walk.  My typical response to loneliness was to eat.  So I tried to do the opposite.  Instead of eating, I’d write.  I’d call someone.  For me doing the opposite wasn’t necessarily eating an opposite choice either.  It was the complete opposite.  Instead of laying in the bed and eating, I’d get up and put on the music in an effort to do a 180—cleaning something, doing laundry, or keeping myself active instead of stagnant.  Doing the opposite doesn’t always work but it’s always worth a try.

I find the best way to think about my 180’s is to ask myself what my kids or my close friends would generally expect me to do.  How would they expect me to react to a situation? Then I’d ask myself “What can I do that would shock them?”  THAT is the 180 to try.  For me, getting up and going walking was definitely the shock of their life! In the beginning, I could only get to the mailbox but seeing me out there in the Texas heat of July trying to walk was the OPPOSITE of what they were used to seeing me do.  That was the 180 of my life and it led to me changing my life.


#3 – Act As If.

My mother used to say to me “Reinvent yourself”.  She told me that sometimes in life, that’s what we have to do.  I used to sit in the recliner and fantasize that I could wake up in the morning with another personality.  Someone who was stronger than me.  Someone who was active and had willpower.  I used to wish this personality would take over and quiet the one that only wanted to lay in bed and eat.  I spent years trying to motivate myself into being this type of person.  Yet I learned that sometimes we have to “act as if” we feel a certai way and do it anyway.

When I was getting divorced, I spent a lot of time depressed.  When my husband would come by the house, I wanted to cry.  It was devastating to me to see him walk in the door dressed in new clothes and looking happy.  I knew that he was enjoying his life while I sat at home changing diapers and wondering how I would survive.  The strategy I read in this book on surviving divorce suggested to “act as if” you felt that way.  So I did.  I would force myself to get up, get dressed, put on make up and do my hair.  I would light candles to make the house smell wonderful.  When he arrived, I would make sure I behaved AS IF I was happy and content.  Once I told him that I had a date.   I acted “as if” I was moving on with my life.  He watched the kids while I went out the door as decked out as I could get myself and then drove to a parking lot and sat there for an hour.  I suppose this was a combination of all the above strategies.  It was “changing anything” because I never would have dated at that time.  It was a 180 because it was the total opposite of what he’d expect me to do.  And it was “acting as if” I had somewhere to go and someone to see!  All of this took effort and forced me out of the recliner.  It didn’t always work but I look back on the times I employed these strategies and can say they were effective when I tried them.

I never feel like getting up in the morning.  Yet I’ve learned that even if I have no where to go I can motivate myself if I “act as if” I have big plans!! For me, taking a shower and putting on something nice along with makeup and doing my hair gets me going.  Even if I plan to do nothing, once I’m looking at myself in the mirror all done up and ready for the day….I suddenly FEEL ready too.  We can “act as if” in a lot of areas of life.  If we want to eat, we can “act as if” we want to be healthy and forego that donut.  In time, the way we pretend we feel often becomes how we REALLY feel.  It may be pretending at first but in time it sinks in.  There is a scripture that says “As a man thinks, so is he”.  I have found that to be true.  It is possible to work your way into a new way of thinking by often pretending at first that you feel that way.  You may think you’re lying to yourself when you say “I am strong.  I am capable. I have the strength to do this” but in the end this will be no lie.  If we continue on this path of thinking then in time it will truly become how we feel.




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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather C. July 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm

So glad to know that my thinking is right in line with “#1 “Change Anything.” My hard part of the day is when I come from work tired and hungry. I just want to eat and take a (not so) quick nap. I’ve been thinking if I came in through the garage, changed into gym clothes and worked out BEFORE I entered the house, I’d likely be less tired, more motivated, and have a lighter and more appropriate snack. It’s either that or I have to come home to someone else’s house instead of my own so I am out of my comfort zone ;o) “#2 Do a 180,” I think that was very Christian thing of you to do for your (soon to be) ex’s girlfriend. And, you established a kind relationship early on, which was probably of great benefit for everyone involved- especially your children. “#3 Act As if” reminds me of the phrase “fake it till’ you make it.” Right now I’m faking losing weight! I call it maintenance. But it’s certainly better than gaining and I’m making good food/exercise choices. Just not working super hard to bring off the pounds. Have a blessed weekend Holly!


Adelyn July 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Thank you for this post…such wonderful reminders…
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Courtney July 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

These are awesome ideas Holly! I’m so grateful that you’re sharing some of your tips and tricks with us. 🙂


Jaime July 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm

What a great blog! I am so amazed at all of your accomplishments and how you continued on your journey even after all of the road blocks in your way. I will remember you when I have feelings of giving in. I am a new subscriber to you blog and look forward to reading future posts!
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sunnydaze July 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Great post! I read Divorce Busting when I separated from my husband years ago and it worked! He even had a GF and I followed the advice in the book and it worked like a charm and we got back together (but still ended up divorcing 7 years later). Great thought to put the advice of that book to weight loss.


Sheryl Chandler July 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I loved this post, Holly. I actually do some of this and have talked about it, so it was very validating. I do the “act as if” thing. If I act like a “blonde bombshell,” I feel more like one. If I act confident and like I’ve got it together, I began to act that out more. If I act like an organized person, I start being more organized. This was just what I needed to hear today. Thanks so much.


annamarie July 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Excellent Holly. I just love love your posts. Doing a 180 is fantastic idea. Right now I am holding onto the circle with me in it idea. I even mentioned it with some. And so far it is working. Thank, Thank you so much for your posts.
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Lori July 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Welcome back. I’ve missed your wisdom.

Those are some great strategies for life, not just weight loss.
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Shay July 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm

HOLLY–once again you have knocked it out of the park. Your strength in sharing your personal stories and the lessons you’ve learned from them is simply profound. I love “as if.” And I think if one acts “as if,” one may soon BECOME “as if.” Thanks once again for the post!
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Losing The Rolls July 19, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Holly, I’m glad your ex is your “ex”. The stories of that guy and how he treated you make my blood boil. I love these tips and will try some out, especially the 180.
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Kathy July 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

All I can say is WOW!!! What a great way to change the situation we are in.


Julie July 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Thank you, Holly. I’ve gone through 2 divorces and have been obese. I’m also disabled. It’s very hard for me to get up and do anything and being disabled, it’s hard for me to come up with a reason to move my body, when it hurts so darned much. I will try and follow your advice.


Dagny Kight August 4, 2013 at 2:08 am

Exactly what I advise!!! Instead of going on some new diet, take a good hard look at your own routines and start taking them apart! You’ll find that you have a LOT of rituals built around food. I certainly did!! Going on another diet FAILS because it doesn’t fit your life. Only you can determine what’s going to work for YOU and that means working with your own schedule, your own habits, your own routines and what YOU can do to change them! Instead of a food journal, I created a form for logging your routines so you can start to figure out where to make changes.

and PS—-Thank you for a post that’s in full sentences and paragraphs. A pleasure to read!
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Dagny Kight August 4, 2013 at 2:23 am

I want to add that your descriptions of your own past behavior prove what I have always believed is true about people like us—-We are NOT “out of control” rather WE FIGHT TO TAKE CONTROL. If you were out of control and impulsive, you would have been stuffing your face, not engaged in a war with your urges.

Too many of us demean and belittle ourselves that we’re emotionally broken and weak-willed, that we’d lose weight if we just “put our minds to it” or if we “want it bad enough.” We believe we are who society tells us we are. But the fact is we fight damn hard. We fight the toughest adversaries there are—our own physiology and our own brain wiring.
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