I had a little food relapse.
For those of you who are new to the story, last April I launched Operation Get Healthy, and over the course of six months I lost 67 lbs. I went to Jenny Craig for help with the eating, and I talked about it with friends, and here, for help with the mental part of losing weight.
I hit my goal weight last October. I kept going to Jenny Craig for weekly weigh-ins and consultations, for help with maintenance and to keep me on track. By early December I was totally weaned off their food and on my own. Starting right after Christmas, I began cancelling or postponing my weekly appointments - I was busy, I was doing fine on my own, blah blah blah.
When I finally slunk in to see my Jenny Craig consultant two weeks ago, I didn't know what the scale would say. I felt good, I felt on track, but my head has been known to tell me a lot of things that aren't exactly true.
I weighed the exact same amount - to the ounce - that I weighed back in November.
"You've mastered maintenance!" my consultant raved. "You're doing great!"
I skipped out of the appointment feeling on top of the world. I made it through the holidays, two months of snowstorms and sick kids, and one blogging conference and I didn't gain an ounce.
I'll admit it - the words I'm cured came to mind.
Just like with recovery from alcoholism, I'm in recovery from food, too. It is dangerous for me to forget this fact, to think that I'm the size I am now due to anything but vigilance, hard work and more than a little self love.
My consultant's proclamation - well meaning though it was - had the unintended side effect of making me think food wasn't a problem for me anymore. I've mastered it, I thought. I'm cured.
I felt finished. I forgot that there is no finish line. Just like with sobriety, I am someone who will need to be vigilant about food for the rest of my life.
It started with a trip to Target to get Valentine's for the kids' classrooms. Next to the little paper valentines were bins and bins of chocolates. Oh, I should get some for the kids, I thought. I threw two bags of Dove Bliss chocolates (my favorite, not the kids' favorite) into the shopping cart. That should have been clue number one.
On Valentine's Day, I gave each kid a card. I didn't say a word to anyone about the chocolate.
The day after Valentine's Day I went to give myself a little after-dinner treat. There were only six chocolates left from the original two bags. I thought: Oh, Steve must be eating these, too.
As I unwrapped a chocolate to pop into my mouth, the truth finally broke through. Nobody is eating these but you, Ellie. You bought them in secret, hid them so nobody else would eat them, and now you're lying to yourself.
Stunned, I threw all the rest of the chocolate away, and vowed not to mention this to anyone.
The next morning, I fearfully stepped on the scale. I don't generally weigh myself at home. I don't want to get obsessive about the number (in either direction). I want to be motivated by a healthy lifestyle rather than a number on a scale. But I had to know what my chocolate relapse had done to my weight. I didn't know how I'd feel if I had gained weight, but I had to know.
The only path away from denial that I have ever found to work is to open my mouth and speak my truth. So instead of sweeping The Chocolate Incident under the rug, I'm talking about it. Even typing these words, I feel better. I can put the whole thing into perspective, honor the things I do well and forgive myself for my mistakes.
Left to my own resources, here's what my head would tell me: you've already blown it, so have another chocolate. Start again on Monday. And I know from past experience that Monday would come and go and I wouldn't start over, because I would be so deeply into that cycle of lying to myself that I wouldn't see it.
There is no Starting Over. There is no Finish Line. It's just the way I am now: I am someone who will always need to be conscious of what I eat. Aware. Not owned by it, or consumed by it, but simply AWARE.
Operation Get Healthy has now officially become Operation Awareness.