Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guilt and Forgiveness

I'm sorry, but this got pretty long. 

For the past several years, we’ve been lucky enough to go on an amazing vacation to Rehoboth with some of our very dear friends.  And through a sheer coincidence of fate, it happens to be Restaurant Week when we’re in town.  It’s fantastic, special three course menus at almost all of the restaurants, for set prices, highlighting regional cuisine.  Very, very lucky all around. 

This year when we left for vacation in the beginning of June, I swore to myself I’d be “good.”  I charted out the distance between our house and each end of the boardwalk, and then again from the boardwalk to the end of the main drag.  I figured if I walked as much as I thought we would, and if I ate well, I might even manage to come away from vacation lighter instead of heavier. 
On our Saturday trip down, we stopped at a nice restaurant, and I proudly ordered a salmon salad.  We grocery shopped, and I kept an eye on what I put in the cart, making as healthy of choices as I could.  Even when we went to the massive liquor store, I bought low calorie booze.  That night we went to a local British pub, and again, ordered fish with a vegetable.  Smugly.  This was going to work.
Then came lunch on Sunday.  We went to Dogfish Head’s brew pub for lunch.  And I was presented with their three course restaurant week menu, and it all went to hell.  Fresh mozzarella?  Deep fried soft shelled crabs?  Home made tiramisu?  Yeah.  As I was spooning the tiramisu in my mouth, a dessert at lunch, I thought to myself, “it really doesn’t get more decadent than this.  It’s not even noon and I’m eating dessert.” 
And with that began my downhill slide.  I told myself that we were on vacation, my diet could be on vacation too, I could truly enjoy myself.  To eat with abandon, to throw caution to the wind.  But I felt horrible about it.  Guilty.  Really, really beat myself up inside.  Even though I knew we were walking at least five miles every day, sometimes more (we hiked a good bit as well).  I thought that it would counter balance things a bit, but every bite I put in my mouth had guilt attached to it. 
Then one morning, we were all hanging around the fantastic front porch of the rental house, each picking away at our version of a morning meal.  It might have been a morning that I slept in and the others walked to the beach towers, it might not have been.  But it was just a nice lazy day, reading, drinking coffee, hanging out.  I had an assortment of foods on my breakfast plate – fresh berries, a hard boiled egg, and a few slices of honey blueberry bread from the farmer’s market.  And it hit me then that my friends, all eating similarly odd concoctions of food, really didn’t care what I ate.  They weren’t judging me.  Admittedly, for as long as I’ve known these people, I’ve probably been “most likely to order dessert,” but regardless, they were not the people who were making me feel bad about my food decisions.  It was me.  And me alone.  I’m the one who judges myself, and I’m the one who makes me feel bad about what I eat. 

So for the rest of the trip, I let myself enjoy the food.  We were on vacation for goodness sake!  I ate, I drank, I savored and enjoyed every single minute of it.  I accepted the amount of weight I would gain back, acknowledged that there would be a higher number on the scale when we went home, and just let it go.  I think at one point I even tweeted about it, that the person who you’re hardest on is often yourself.  It was sort of a revelation.  No guilt.  Just acceptance.
We came back from vacation and I lost the weight I had gained, relatively quickly, but to be honest I think most of it was water weight from the booze.  I was back on track.  Again, smugly.  I went into the end of the month at my lowest weight in a decade.    
And then, at the end of June came my high school class reunion.  (Which is another post all together.)  For a variety of reasons, not all high school related (Matt had his first bout of the illness that eventually put him in the hospital), it was a weekend of emotional eating.  On Sunday, when I finally left the family picnic, I stopped at one of my favorite childhood restaurants and got take out for myself – pepperoni rolls, hummingbird cake, some sort of cheese based vegetable casserole.  Chocolate milk. 
We had friends over for the Third of July, and I ate like I’d never heard the word “diet.”  In fact, I specifically asked friends to bring foods that weren’t healthy.  All tied to emotions.  All tied to being the fat girl in high school, the girl who had to plan an event she didn’t even want to be at, the girl who wanted to drown her sorrows in the company of good friends and good food. 
Hot on the tails of the Fourth, we went to Chicago for a conference.  And let me tell you, Chicago is one hell of a town to go on a food bender in.  We ate some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten in our lives.  I drank booze out of quart glasses.  Our last meal in town had seven courses.  But we walked.  Constantly.  Our hotel was incredibly inconvenient to anything.  And the first day alone my pedometer marked 13 miles.  In flip flops.  When I told fellow conference attendees the places we’d walked to, more than one said “but you’re not supposed to walk there.  That’s what cabs are for.” 
We came home from Chicago and Matt went right into the hospital.  I took over cooking while he was sick, and I’m the queen of comfort food.  Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, sandwiches on fresh bread for lunch.  Whatever he wanted to feel better, I made.  He wanted Burger King on the way home from the hospital, and he got it.  And now, it’s the end of July, and as I sat down last night after a heated and stressful neighborhood council meeting, I ate a handful of homemade oatmeal cookies and acknowledged a few things about myself. 
1)      I am always going to be an emotional eater.  What I need to do is to acknowledge that, and balance it with exercise or something else, to not let me gain weight back that I’ve worked so hard to lose.

2)      I can’t beat myself up about my relationship with food.  I’m the only one judging.  I’m the only one I’m disappointing.  I’m the only one who set unobtainable goals without room for error.  And I’m the only one who can fix it.    

3)      Considering how much we’ve eaten in the past two months, I think I’m on my way to understanding what it will be like to “maintain” after I finally reach my goal weight.  That’s been a pretty big fear of mine, given that I’ve done this in the past and gained it all back, so that’s a good thing. 

4)      It’s time to forgive myself.  I have two more emotional hurdles to get through in the near future, but looking at my calendar, once I survive to mid-August, the rest of the year is smooth sailing.  I have given myself permission to eat what I need to in order to stay sane until then, and then I will re-dedicate myself to weight loss and exercise.  FORGIVE, ACCEPT, LET GO.

5)      It’s also time to congratulate myself.  Regardless of how stressful the past two months have been, I’ve still lost (and kept off) forty pounds this year.  It might not be the amount I wanted to based on my irrational goals, but it’s still pretty damn good. 

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