200 or so pounds later…What the past 2 years have taught me about weight loss, food addiction and that infamous “track”

January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s been about 2.5 years since I had weight loss surgery which is somewhat hard for me to believe

Sometimes it feels like yesterday

Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve embarked on a journey to not only lose weight but to gain CONTROL over my life in the area of food so that I could HAVE a life.

The life I had previously was full of much pain and misery.

It was difficult for me to walk.

Diffucult for me to breathe.

It was a life that included daily health issues that had to be monitored.

Constant pain in my back and feet….to rashes from excess skin hanging here or there.

Heat rashes from sweating because as we all know–being obese is living in a constant state of fire.

I had to be propped up in the bed every night so that I would not suffocate under my own weight.

That is when I could actually still sleep in the bed of course as soon that would be taken from me too.

Every night of my life, l I woke up suffocating under my own weight.

A complication that many people suffering from obesity deal with every day of their lives.

I broke every single chair in my dining room and had to replace them with benches.

Eventually I could not fit on them either and so I was no longer able to join my family at the dinner table.

I could not fit in a fold up chair so I was no longer able to watch my daughter play soccer.

I outgrew EVEN being on the sidelines.

More than this though was the misery that came from ALWAYS BEING HUNGRY.

I woke up HUNGRY and unless I fell asleep in mid-chew….I went to bed hungry as well.

Almost every hour of the day included relentless cravings that never left.

The only peace I had from these cravings was when I gave into them.

But almost as soon as I could stuff my body with the food that I craved… I was met once again with a barrage of new cravings.

And they were always stronger than the last.

As if they evolved and got smarter.

As if me giving into them was the very fuel they needed to grow more diabolical and dangerous.

I tried every diet.

I read every book.

I prayed.

And nothing worked.

I could not make the cravings go away.

Pills did not do the trick.

Weight loss surgery did not make them leave.

The cravings were still there– plaguing my every thought.

Even after I had 80% of my stomach removed from my body.

I look back now on some of the entries I posted in the very beginning and I am reminded once again of the depression that I went into when I first had weight loss surgery. A depression that hovered over me because the cravings and urges were still there.

Only now the cruel twist—I could not physically get the food down due to the surgery.

So the little bit of peace I might have in life when giving into the cravings was taken away.

All I was left with now was the insanity—and no reprieve.

I craved 3 bags of Reeses peanut butter cups and a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Yet when I had the surgery, my body could barely get 3 sips of water down at one time.

So there I was.

Left in a state of misery without any means of satisfying these powerful urges that I feared would drive me crazy if I didn’t answer the call.

As someone who has read countless books on dieting, I can tell you that 90% of them all say virtually the same thing.

Oh their titles may promise you that THIS is going to be the book that has some secret the others did not.

This is going to be the diet, book, pill or fill-in-the-blank that will FINALLY give some advice, method or strategy that the others were missing.

And yet time and time again, I found the same advice over and over  just repackaged with a different title, different author or different way of saying virtually the same thing.

I knew that the dieting industry’s advice worked for a great number of people.

I saw it work for them.  I personally knew people for whom it worked!

You know them…the people who could follow the basic advice of a dieting book or plan and come out victorious.

I just wasn’t one of them.

Here are the basic things you are told by almost every diet you go on

1. Eat less/Move more

2. Count something!  Let it be calories, points, carbs…whatever “thing” we are counting on this or that diet.  Don’t go over the magic number and VOILA!! The weight comes off

3. Exercise

4. Eat in moderation

5. Distract yourself if you have a craving. Go brush your teeth! Chew gum! Go for a walk!  Call a friend! Surely one of these will do the trick, right??

Every diet that I ever tried said some version of this.

And none of them ever worked for me long term.

But not because their methods do not work.

Their methods DO work!!

They are common sense.

Eat less, move more.

Work out.

Eat in moderation.

They all are methods that WILL work….IF you can actually stick to the plan.

If you can actually NOT eat outside your points.

If you can actually avoid cravings.

If you can actually manage to find some method to distract yourself from violent cravings that hound you day and night

But I never could.

And that is when the cold hard reality would set in for me.

The reality that I was and always would be a dieting failure.

A slave to food.

Someone with no hope.

What a pretty miserable reality to wake up to every day.

It’s much like being diagnosed by a doctor with a disease that has a cure.

Only you’re immune to it

The cure that is….

Because it works for most everyone else—JUST NOT YOU

This led me to have weight loss surgery.

A surgery called vertical sleeve gastrectomy also known as the Gastric Sleeve.

It’s not the gastric bypass or the lapband or any of the other surgeries you may have heard of that do things TO your stomach while still leaving it in your body.

No my surgery was hand picked by me because it REMOVED 80% or more of my stomach from my body

And threw it away!

When I heard this surgery existed, I knew it was the one for me.

My stomach ruled me and I wanted it gone.

OUT!!!

My surgeon asked me the day before surgery what my biggest fear was….so I told him this—

My only fear is that you won’t take out ENOUGH…

I didn’t care about anything else but removing this monster from my body

This evil master that kicked me around day and night

That dragged me around on a leash with no mercy

The surgery made it virtually impossible (in the beginning) for me to get solid food down.

I had to start early sipping water so as to avoid getting dehydrated

That’s because it took THAT LONG to get anything down

There were moments of freedom from my appetite but it did not take long for the bully to return

For the relentless cravings to rear their ugly head once more

Cravings that I always tried in the past to resist with all my strength….

Only to give in eventually in an effort to avoid utter insanity

Because that was what it felt like

What it still feels like at times

When a craving or urge comes over me

It feels like the beginnings of insanity

The more I resist it, avoid it or fight it….the more it intensifies

And then the panic sets in

The fear

The concern that I might literally go insane

So that is why I would always give in

Because I can’t really afford to go insane, ya know??

I’ve got work to do and kids to raise

Going crazy isn’t something I have the luxury of doing

Trying to fight a craving left me feeling completely off the hinges

And was it really right for me to subject others to that….I would say to myself

To be so completely irritable and irrational that everyone around me is subjected to this difficult demeanor?

If you think a woman PMS’ing can be scary…try being around someone fighting off the cravings of addiction.

I hated that my kids had to tolerate someone that is  crabby and frustrated when she could become a much sweeter Mom if she would only just eat the flipping cupcake!!!

It was to the benefit of the world around me and everyone in it if I just gave in and ate what I was craving!

That’s how I often rationalized it.

The alternative was after all to either become an intolerable person for others to be around OR…

To potentially go completely insane

And who has time for that?

But with the surgery, I had no choice.

I could not get the cupcake down

And so there I was left with no alternative but one.

GO CRAZY

But this is what I learned….

I didn’t.

I never actually went crazy.

I felt like I was going to

I felt depressed and panicked and full of anxiety

I felt trapped and scared and like pulling all my hair out

I was irritable and crabby and completely intolerable to be around

All the things I feared

And I went into a total state of depression for awhile

But regardless of all these things….I somehow lived

I survived

And the cravings and urges began to ease off

As if by not feeding them….they lost their power

Hmmm—there’s a thought!

They were replaced by this very peaceful feeling of CONTROL

And how did all this happen?

It happened because (as I would learn over time)…I was no longer feeding my sugar addiction

I was no longer eating the substance that was MAKING me crazy

After surgery as more months and then a year went by… I was able to eat more.

The day came when I COULD get a cupcake down if I wanted to

And this is the thing about weight loss surgery….

Even one that involves removing a large portion of your stomach

Over time you can eat more.

You can get certain addictive substances in there once again.

And if you do….the cravings WILL return.

Now I still after 2.5 years can NOT eat anywhere close to the volume that I once could

IN ONE SITTING

But this only means that it has slowed me down

If I still eat destructively, the weight WILL return

Just not as quick.

I thank God every day that I now understand how dangerous sugar addiction can be

And how as a result of the severe cravings sugar produces—the average diet book just won’t cut it.

It isn’t about everyone else having a cure I don’t have access to though

It’s not about me being some failure with food.

It’s simply that 90% of the advice in diets is simply not the proper prescription for sugar addicts

You can’t ingest a substance you are addicted to and expect yourself to no longer crave it.

And many diets allows you to eat sugar

Oh you have to count it, log it, or attach points to it under the belief that if you eat it in moderation…

You will be satisfied.

That to deny yourself is only to create a bigger desire for it.

But no one tells that to a serious alcoholic.

They don’t suggest they find a way to moderate their drinking.

And any tried and true alcoholic knows that when they attempt to moderate their drinking….it doesnt’ work!

In my personal research, I have discovered something quite fascinating.

Sugar addicts and alcoholics have the most in common amongst those who struggle with addiction.

People who quit alcohol often end up getting hooked on sugar.

People who quit sugar often end up getting hooked on alcohol

That is why studies show that sugar addicts and alcoholics are two sides to the same coin.

And maybe it’s because you find sugar in alcohol.  Well how about that?!

Hooked on the same thing only finding it in different sources.

Both alcohol and sugar affect the brain’s “reward” system in a similar manner.

It gives people a similar feeling or “high”.

And if you discontinue the use of either one– you experience similar cravings and similar withdrawal symptoms.

This is why we are often like mice in a maze.

We find our way out of one stronghold, bad habit or addiction only to be led down into another one.

We think we have worked our way out of one long corridor of the maze only to find ourselves going in circles with some brand new vice!

It was only when I became totally aware of the fact that I was addicted to sugar that I gave up eating it.

It was when I opened my eyes to the dangers of sugar addiction that I realized it wasn’t food in general that I had a problem with…but what they PUT in certain foods that I was eating.

When I got serious about giving it up and experienced freedom and success in this area….

That was when the thought popped into my mind to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening!

A random and totally unrelated thought….right?

Or was it really just sugar slinking back into my life disguised as a cocktail

As if sugar having been kicked out of my life decided to regroup and come back with a new strategy

Zapping itself from solid to liquid to entrap me yet again

I never really thought too much about alcohol prior to that.

All my life, I had gone through phases of drinking wine in the evening only to forget about it totally.

It didn’t really interest me that much.

It was only when I rid myself of sugar in food that I then began craving it in liquid form through alcohol.

Only I didn’t really know that is what was happening.

Sugar is a sneaky thing ain’t it?!

Now I am more aware than ever of how clearly obvious one addiction can and will flow to another if we are not careful.

I can go months without even the thought of a glass of wine entering my mind.

But that is only because I am busy feeding my sugar addiction with food.

But whenever I kick sugar out of my food…that is when I suddenly find myself being inundated with the thoughts of wanting alcohol!

It’s very much like a see-saw.

I view it as though I have an enemy with two battle plans.

Plan A has and always will be FOOD.

My enemy knows me well having studied me for 41 years.

It knows that sugar in FOOD is my primary form of addiction.

My first love….

It is the easiest and most effective means of defeating me.

Yet when I experience victory in this area, my enemy will always use the back up plan of alcohol.

 

Now that I know this and recognize it, I find it almost funny with the total lack of subtlety my enemy has used when putting these thoughts in my head.

I always thought he was so sly but that is not the case once you’ve seen his strategy mapped out again and again.

He never seems to stray from that strategy of Plan A or Plan B.

He alternates between the two and why shouldn’t he? Hasn’t it always worked?

Haven’t I ended up falling prey to one of these at varying times?

But now I see it clearly for what it is.

It is simply nothing more than sugar in one form or another calling for me.

And it all boils down to the same cravings and urges.

Why do so many people who have weight loss surgery turn to alcohol?

Why has it been reported that a person’s risk for alcoholism DOUBLES after weight loss surgery?!

Does this mean that the surgery itself is somehow causing this?

By no means!!

The surgery is simply making it really hard for someone…oh a sugar addict let’s say….to ingest that substance they are wildly addicted to!!

Try having 80% of your stomach removed in a gastric sleeve procedure and see how many donuts you can binge eat afterwards?

What’s a sugar addict to do?

How about this?

LIQUIFY IT

Because after surgery, you can get liquid down much easier than food.

Your stomach is reduced but what we call “slider foods” will go down easy.

Turn to liquid…a cocktail, a milkshake, a soda…pick your poison.

But it’s just sugar making a comeback

Revamping its strategy like the astute enemy it is

I think it is very important for people who suffer with addictions to understand what is driving them to it.

Of course our feelings, our backgrounds, our emotions, our circumstances all lead us many times to look for a source of pleasure to ease the pain.

But many people out there are not overfeeding themselves because of any trauma.

They are just literally hooked on a substance.

They are addicted to it.

And it’s a physical problem that requires a physical answer.

The answer is simple.

DON’T CONSUME WHAT YOU ARE ADDICTED TO

Don’t eat or drink what enslaves you

And be consciously aware of what is IN the food or drinks that you ingest.

Because sugar lurks and hides for you in places you may not think.

Even though I have educated myself in this, I have found it far too easy to fall for it once again.

I can still easily fall into temptation to cravings

Cravings that can make me believe I have no choice but to give into them

Cravings that say they will never end unless I surrender

Cravings that promise to never let me go unless I feed them

An utter feeling of powerlessness to the master who can bring me to my knees

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one question:

How much power do these cravings really have over us?

Once addicted—how can we ever overcome?

And this is what I know to be true….

 

Cravings and urges are difficult, uncomfortable, and seemingly relentless.

And yet the reality is this….

Their power lies more in the “act”

Their ability to trick us into believing we cannot resist them

Because once we believe THAT

We will surrender

 

They are bullies who are more talk than anything else

Oh I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt when the bully punches you in the face

Or taunts you, threatens you and has his heel on the back of your neck

But the bully is a liar

You see….cravings will tell you that they cannot be defeated.

That they will never go away.

That they have some kind of supernatural permission to drive you totally insane.

Cravings will insist that they are so intolerable–you will literally lose your mind

Lose  all control over your senses if you don’t feed them

Can’t you feel the panic descending??

But none of that is true

It feels true.

But feelings are not always reality.

Cravings and urges are real.

They produce a lot of misery.

But they DO end.

They do have a shelf life.

They WILL expire.

They can’t make you go insane.

You may be grouchy and irritable and virtually intolerable to everyone around you for awhile

But they are temporary.  They will go away.

And you have and ALWAYS HAVE HAD…far more power over THEM than they ever will have over you.

I find it really odd that I can know all this and yet still fall prey to it.

I have found myself even dwelling in guilt over the fact that I could fall so easily into the same bad habits that I fought so hard to overcome.

Then it dawned on me after my pity party had gone on far too long that I really need to do a reality check.

That if I think I am immune to falling back into a bad habit then I must be pretty arrogant about myself!!

What makes me think that an addiction which once almost claimed my life would simply walk away and never try to entrap me again?

What makes me think my “enemy” won’t return with a more sly battle plan than the one before?

Do I think that because I have experienced victory that I won’t ever again taste defeat??

I am so busy lamenting over my weight regain.

So busy in self pity over having used alcohol as a substitute crutch for sugar.

Crying puddles over having once again fallen back into cupcakes.  And why??

Because it means I got off track

And here we go….

THE TRACK again….

There it is….

That infamous track we are always falling on and off of when it comes to weight loss

That track we have to get back on…

And that’s what I spend too much time boo-hoo’ing over

This ridiculous “track” that I think I’m falling off of…

Until I took my children to Six Flags amusement park the other day

Something I could NOT have done at 417 pounds

And it was there I was met with a roller coaster

I hate roller coasters.  I always have.

Even when I could FIT in them–I didn’t willingly go on them.

My 11 year old daughter decides to sit with me on the bench while we wait for the others

Not wanting to leave me alone I suppose…:)

So we are sitting on the bench when she says to me….

“Mama–I know why you don’t like roller coasters.”

Why is that…I ask….

And she replies THIS…

“Because you always talk about wanting to be on track.  How you don’t like falling off track.”

(This is what happens when a child lives with a mother who is a life long “dieter”….she picks up the phrases we use…”

This made me laugh a bit because I know she’s referring to the figurative track I often speak of in weight loss

But she didn’t take it so figuratively.

She saw it in a much more literal sense like the track of the roller coaster.

She says to me…

“Rollercoaster tracks don’t go straight.  They go upside down and sideways.  But I guess you like a straight track.  I don’t even think you’d like the roller coasters they have for babies and toddlers.  Even those have a little twist.  I guess you just like your tracks straight.  So you don’t have to worry about anything.”

Hmmmm….

And

OUCH!!!!

I wouldn’t even be able to handle a TODDLER roller coaster??

Thanks Charlotte!

And why??

Because this little spoiled brat (the brat being ME) likes her tracks STRAIGHT

I’m not interested in any track that goes upside down or sideways.

I don’t want any surprises or shocks or unexpected twists

I want my track EASYGOING with NO loops

According to Yoda…I mean….Charlotte

I started thinking about this after she said it and made me realize something

This track I keep thinking I’ve fallen off of when I fall back into bad habits

It was never a straight track to begin with.

Just because it went upside down and sideways doesn’t mean I fell off.

It just means the ride has twists and turns and loops.

I’m still on it

SO ARE YOU

Weight regain and relapses and transfer addictions and crutches and screw ups and mistakes

They aren’t what happens when you fall OFF the track

They’re what happens when you’re on it

Because the track was never straight to begin with

You’re experiencing all those things BECAUSE you’re on the track!!!!

If you choose to hang out on the bench and watch everyone else ride the roller coaster

Then you won’t have to worry about all the twists and turns

You won’t have to worry about that upside down loop where you relapse back into a box of twinkies

Because you never tried giving them up in the first place!!

You can’t relapse  into a bad habit you never even tried to give up

Because you’re on the bench watching everyone else ride the roller coaster

No I’ve decided this…the track was never straight to begin with

Maybe I just thought it should be

Screwing up doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off track

It simply means the track had a loop

One that you may ride through 6 or 7 times before it spits you back out and cuts you a break

But this I know

All those loops and sideway turns don’t last forever

Even roller coasters come to an end

People get off dizzy and sometimes throwing up in the bushes but guess what….THEY SURVIVED

And cravings are like this

They may make you throw your hands up in then air and scream—but they will come to an end

IF you ride it out

I’ve learned a few things over the last 2.5 years

I’m a sugar addict in ALL forms whether it’s a cupcake or a cocktail.

I have an enemy and he uses cravings as bullets

The bullets are blanks and if I stand firm….they disappear like nothing more than air.

BUT THEY LOOK AND FEEL REAL IN THE MEANTIME

But here’s the secret

Cravings WILL subside if you wait them out

And the more time that passes, the stronger you become

And then its up to us to not go back

To not let that addictive substance back in the door to enslave us once more

But even if we do

Know this

We all fall prey to relapse because the track we are on has loops

It goes upside down and sideways

But it does come to an end

In the meantime,  its up to us to buckle up and take the ride

You may not feel up to the challenge

But I was reminded yesterday of a Martin Luther King, Jr quote

That sums up what we have to do

photo-63

 

Now let’s move forward

And never give up the fight!!

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image2086525

 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy R January 21, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Great Post! I really liked your post and got a lot out of it.

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Nicola January 21, 2014 at 11:26 pm

What a wonderful post, Holly 🙂 As you described, I like my own path ruler straight and rigidly mapped out and beat myself up if I don’t “perfectly” walk along it by following my “plan”. What I’ve realised over the past year is that perfect doesn’t exist, all paths have curves, crossroads and bumpy bits and no one can follow any “plan” 100% of the time, no matter how great it looks on paper. The most important thing is to just keep going by putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard taking that next step sometimes feels. If life holds no surprises then it also holds less joy, so shake it up a little bit and enjoy the ride!

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LN January 22, 2014 at 3:51 am

What wisdom is in this post! Thank you.

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Cindy January 22, 2014 at 5:47 am

Holly – I am so glad you have resumed your blog! You hit my nail on the head for me and said it so much better than I ever could have….Cindy B.

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tz January 22, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I am also glad you resumed your blog! you have such a great way of describing the struggle that is weight-loss. Beautiful post.
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Pam Holmes January 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm

When I got out of bed this morning, I remembered the years I spent sleeping in a recliner, because the bed was just too uncomfortable. This is of course, just one of many inconveniences I endured as a morbidly obese woman, but my first thought was, “I’m never going back there.”
It’s so hard–losing weight, keeping it off, fighting these addictions, I think the most important thing to always keep in mind is how much we have gained by losing weight. Personally, I got my life back, and I know you did too. That really should be enough to keep us “ON TRACK”! I just wish it was that easy….
Pam Holmes recently posted..Honoring an Old FriendMy Profile

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Lauri January 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm

You are right on for me Holly. I have become such a sugar addict! And it’s funny because lately, as I’ve been trying to fight this addiction, I keep thinking how nice it would be to have just one little glass of wine every night. Yikes! You have opened my eyes to the probable reason why I am thinking that. I don’t drink except for once every few months and then it’s only one drink. For me to want a glass every night is highly unusual and now I think I know why I’ve been craving it. Thank you for opening my eyes a little more 🙂

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Mary Ellen Quigley January 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Holly – I am so glad your blog is back. I appreciate your need to take a break, but I have really missed hearing your words of wisdom. I too am a sugar addict. I did great for a while, but it seems things have crept up on me again the past 6 months or so.
Mary Ellen Quigley recently posted..What I’ve Been Up ToMy Profile

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Erin January 22, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Holly, you are SO INCREDIBLY MOTIVATIONAL. I really, really needed to hear this today. Fist bump!

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Aimee @ Irresistible Icing January 22, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Holly,
I always love reading your posts! I know all too well the feeling of urges and having to sit through the emotional turmoil of it. I’ve lost and gained weight so many times I’ve lost track of how many times it’s actually been. I love the idea that it’s all part of the journey. We don’t simply lose the weight once and done. No, it’s a constant battle every single day to make the right choices. Some days just happen to be easier than others!
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Lady Amanda January 22, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I love Charlotte. She totally rocks. We will probably see Charlotte on TV one day. She will probably have a talk show like Dr. Phil. The difference between her show and his will be that she will actually helps people. 🙂 Give her a squeeze for me. What a cutie she is. I love to hear the things she says.

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Former life girl January 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Great post! Yes sugar addiction is real, and its a beast!
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Tammy January 23, 2014 at 1:19 am

Thank you so much for this post!!! It’s like you climbed inside my head and captured the thoughts and emotions that have been bouncing around in there for the past 3 month, but that I couldn’t express. I think this should be required reading for all health care professionals, I don’t think alot of them can understand the emotions that go into sugar addictions. I am saving this and may print it out for some friends and family to read, since you explained it so much more eloquently than I ever could. I am currently 2 weeks into a 21 day Daniel Fast, trying to get the sugar cravings back under control after a disasterous holiday season. There’s days I feel slightly in control, and other times I seriously cannot wait for it to be over so I can eat! The only thing keeping me from bingeing right now is my commitment to God to do this for 21 days, otherwise I truly think I would have given in by now!

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