Why it can be good to lose weight

betty ming liu Food, Inspiration, Relationships 8 Comments

With Lady Gaga, Katie Couric and Demi Lovato all going public about their bulimia, I hesitate to say anything about my food issues for fear of seeming trivial.  But hey, that’s never stopped me before!

A pop star, a TV anchorwoman and a judge from the TV show “X Factor.” Wow,  big personalities. I applaud them for sharing their struggle with eating disorders. Women suffer so much because of the intense pressure to look hot. Plus, we are often very, very hard on ourselves.

Food-related problems always remind me of an obese woman I met back in the late ’90s. We were in a therapy group that also included a guy who was an alcoholic. (I was in good company, and I mean that.) During a discussion about stress, depression and self-medication via addictions, the woman said that she turned to food rather than booze for one simple reason: a sloppy male drunk might be considered anything from pathetic to macho. But society views a female drunk as simply disgusting.

However, she explained, fat women are socially acceptable. Wow, again.

Given these realities, my relationship with food is pretty conventional in the usual conflicted way. I’m not overweight and I love food. The cooking, the shopping, the theater of dining — it’s all a great pleasure for me. Unfortunately, with our stomachs the size of a single fist, we really don’t need to ingest that much to stay strong.

So for me, the down side of food is that I also eat when I’m stressed. Mad, sad, frustrated — somehow, scarfing down cookies or pizza seems like an easy release. (Of course, a bowl of steamed dandelion greens is never on the list of cravings, haha!) I also indulge during vacations, when the array of once-in-a-lifetime edibles leads to tourist eating. And let’s not forget special celebrations where food and booze is central to the fun.

In other words, food isn’t just about physical nourishment.

While I’m in favor of vacation and party eating as well-deserved treats, it would be healthy to break the cycle of food-as-emotional-weapon. And I have spotted a solution….

I’ve noticed that my relationship with food is never a problem when I’m happily creative. Give me a story to chase. Or, get me in a groove with my writing, painting, drawing or even a home craft project. During these moments, I eat when I’m hungry. Period. More of that in my life, please!

It’s important to get on track now because the holidays are right around the corner. Don’t know about you, but from Halloween on, my calendar is all about get-togethers involving food, booze, schmooze. Usually, by the start of the new year, I’m looking at an uncomfortable, five-pound muffin top bulging from the waistband of my suddenly too-tight jeans.

That’s why this fall, I’m exploring the possibility of getting into emotional holiday shape by eating reasonably. For that, I am so, so grateful for LoseIt.com, a website that offers an interesting way to track calories, food, exercise and intake. While there’s a great iPhone LoseIt app, I’m very happy using the LoseIt.com website. I have a blog post  about it, which includes my YouTube video on how to use this free site.

The chart below is from my LoseIt account. It begins in June 2011, half a year into a struggling relationship. I didn’t realize then that we were verging on irreconcilable differences but this chart helps me see how food became a haven as I ballooned from my normal weight of 126 to 136.6 lbs.

Now I’m not saying that weight gain during a romance is a bad sign! There’s such a thing as feeling relaxed enough to let go; some people call it happy fat. I thought it was what I had and I did, briefly. Then it turned into gloomy gluttony — until I began exercising, went through the breakup, found a new job…

And then the job became super-stressful! To deal with that, there were marvelous vacations featuring food and booze. I returned to work refreshed and sane. Now I’m feeling read to get on track with regular exercise, plenty of sleep and healthy eating. My hope is that sharing this post will motivate me to stick with the program.

Well, that’s my food story. Would love to hear yours. This is a topics that people sometimes think it’s silly to talk about. But it’s not. :)

Comments 8

  1. Post

    Well, it’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m at my desk starting my work day. Catch up with you tonight. May you have a day blessed with great conversation and lots of reasons to laugh. And of course, there’s gotta be good food. xo

  2. It’s so interesting to see your weight timed with what was happening in your life—wish I had a chart like that!

    I’m quite the opposite. When I’m stressed, I usually don’t eat. My first semester at NYU, I lost 15 lbs. by Thanksgiving. People were seriously worried about me. I slowly gained 3/4 of that back over the next semester. Then, when my long distance high school boyfriend and I broke up 2nd semester of my 2nd year, I dropped again.

    By the time my third and final year came around, I gained it all back plus some, I think. I wasn’t cast in a lot of pieces in my BFA program and was unhappy about how my senior year was going. I eat when I’m bored or like you said, when I feel unfulfilled creatively. Today, I’m not dancing quite as much as I’d like, but I’m pretty well balanced.

    I hate to fit the stereotype, but being a dancer, I’ve always had a finicky relationship with food—some periods more extreme than others. I know weighing yourself semi-regularly is healthy, but I don’t allow myself to keep a scale or I become erratically obsessive. Instead, I try to monitor myself by how my clothes fit and how I feel. Wearing less spandex (leggings! tights!) and putting on that always slightly too snug pair of jeans usually does enough to keep me in check.

  3. I used to think that people who were really into food were just gluttons. I grew up with an overweight sister who loved to snack, but complained about being overweight a lot. I thought being big was the worst thing you could be. She made it seem ugly.
    And when I developed Cushing’s Syndrome in my 20s, my worst fear happened. I became ugly. Big. Heavy. You know, the ”F” word.

    Aside from all the health issues, I think I’ve enjoyed food now more than before. Maybe because I know I haven’t been in a size 2/4 for 10 years. I wonder if that will happen, but I know that even though I want to lose weight, I don’t eat like a bird the way I did up until the age of 22

  4. Post

    Kristin and Skye, how generous of you both to share your experiences — and so frankly. Just goes to show food is damn complicated! The self image issues are kinda fragile, aren’t they?

    I just feel it’s good to talk about it. And Skye, you are absolutely beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Kristin, I have made peace with my scale over the decades. I didn’t have one until just a few years ago. It doesn’t make me crazy anymore. I just find it a helpful tool for keeping an eye on things, because my metabolism changed a lot after hitting the 50s. :)

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  6. Betty,
    How strange that this subject would come up at exactly the same time I was visiting my VA doctor. (Well actually I was seen by a good looking med-student and her teacher. My doctor is old.) They stuck me on the scales (boots and all) and said “you’re at 30%; you need to get down to 18%. They want to get me on this “MOVE! weight management for Veterans”
    1 Weight Managment Class- one time class.
    2. 8 week Weight Management class
    *Physical Activity
    *Behavior Change
    *Motivational Weight loss Hypnos (optional)
    3. Long Term Weight Maintenance Classes

    Sound like fun? Then then had me fill out a big questionnaire about eating, exercise and motivation. Our bodies change and so does our dietary needs. When I was young could eat anything! I don’t have to worry about gain weight. They you get older and things change. Food has a different role. I too got into the eating to moderate mood trap.
    Another problem is I am not enjoying activities I use to. I HATE to work out at a gym. I have bitter memories of Ass-hole jocks that think they are god’s gift to the world. But I have enjoyed Alpine sports, water sports and biking all my life. I started Snow Skiing at 8 and Water Ski in JR High. We rode our bike EVERYWHERE. My brother and his wife ride their bikes 100 miles every weekend. My dad rides his bike every day.
    I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu, Peru with my girlfriend on one trip. We rested a day then we went to Huascaran an the nearly 20,000 Pistraruri. Another trip I was in the Amazon and skied run that they used for the 2002 downhill race all in a 24 hour period!
    Now that I am not working I should be working on how to enjoy the rest of my life.
    One of the activities I enjoyed while on a submarine was reading the Guinness Book of World Records and planning trips I could do. I set a goal at one point to go to the highest point in every state (over 6000′) another worth goal would be a trip to the lowest and highest point in the lower 48 states. They are only 90 miles apart as the bird flies… can you believing that.
    I have a climbing “rack” which I have really never used. My Nieces and nephews have been getting into it. I built it up when I was in the Navy. I didn’t have anyone to go with so I just top roped stuff.

    I think that if I can get back into the life is an adventure mode again all of this will just drop back into place.

  7. Pingback: Why I’m unplugging for the next two weeks | betty ming liu

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