The following except has been reprinted, with permission, so that others do not feel alone in their struggles.
I need help. Every morning I wake up thinking of what diet I am going to do today. Nearly every night, I go to bed uncomfortably stuffed and aching joints, often my heart palpating from a sugar overdose, either hating myself or dreaming of what diet I will prescribe to starting the next day. These diets, usually Weight Watchers or Prism, last an hour, sometimes four hours, once in a while four days and, albeit quite rarely, four weeks.
It's not that I don't know how dangerous excess weight is. It's not that I am ignorant of the fact that diet and exercise are the only ways to control weight. I am a nurse; an RN-BSN, and in fact am only a semester away from completing my masters degree in nursing. I am a member of the American Holistic Nursing Association and have been for nearly 10 years. Yet here I am, a hundred pounds over weight, tired, grumpy and, worst of all, discouraged.
Kathy, I need a shift in my mindset and in my lifestyle. This is not who I am at heart. I have two amazing horses and love riding, yet my weight has gotten to a point where that is challenging (for me and my horses both!). I am a compassionate person and love helping my patients understand the importance of health promotion, but now I feel like such a fraud.
I feel stuck.
Dear Susan (name has been changed),
You are far from alone and I am glad you wrote to me. There is so much for us to discuss. My first thought, upon reading your letter was that I must ask permission to reprint it, because you must know that you are far from alone. I hope that by sharing this letter, others may take that first step in asking for help and changing their lifestyle. When I receive a letter like yours, I start dissecting it looking for clues and ways to help you feel better about yourself and achieve a healthier lifestyle. I will start by saying that this will be a process. Do not try to change everything all at once. Here are my initial thoughts:
1. You focus on a diet. What diet will I be on today? How long will this diet work? When will this diet fail? More accurately, when will I fail this diet?
- You are focusing way too much on "the diet", which I believe (you believe) will be the answer and will bring you happiness. You have set up a series of negative expectations, that are self-fulfilling. "I try a diet, I fail a diet. I am a failure. I cannot do this." A "diet" is not the answer. As Albert Einstein says, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." It's time to stop trying a diet. NO MORE. From now on, we will focus on eating good things.
- My guess is you're eating to fuel an emotional need. Regardless of the reason why (for the moment), we know that overeating and binge eating on the foods of your choice, are making you feel unhealthy (your joints ache, your heart palpates) and are making you hate yourself. For starters, please read my handout on Cravings: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Not only are there chemical reasons and physiological reasons for the cravings, but there's a "chain of events" that is happening that must be broken in order to achieve change.
- You fall into a group of people called nurturers, whose JOB is to take care of others. Your job is physically and emotionally draining. You go to work all day, give your time, heart and soul to others, and there is not much left at the end of a day for yourself. What nurturers must do is take care of themselves FIRST, before giving to others. You must start your day taking care of yourself.
- In reference to #2 above (late night, binge eating), you are finding a way to "give to yourself" at the end of a day. In a dysfunctional way, you are rewarding yourself with food. "I had a hard day. I don't have anything left for myself. I will have a treat." In the short term, you do feel better. In the long term you don't. This is part of a bad chain of events that starts with a need, is rewarded with food, turns into feeling guilty, bad and possibly depressed, which in turn starts with a need (to feel better) and the cycle starts all over again. This "chain of events" MUST be examined and MUST be broken.
- That you "see" a healthy lifestyle as a goal is great! That you "know" what it embodies is important. That you wrote to me and reached out for help means that you are ready to "stop the insanity" and try something new. It means that you are strong enough and serious enough to ask for help. These are four positive identifiers in your journey to changing your lifestyle. You're on your way to success.
Changing your lifestyle is the only way to maintain your health in the long run. By examining key physical, nutritional and emotional behaviors a lifetime of benefits await you. 365fitt offers an 8 week Change Your Lifestyle, Change Your Weight program via email and also offers phone and personal coaching to suit your schedule. When you're ready to "stop the insanity" and try something new, don't be afraid to ask for help. It could be the best thing you've ever done.