So, this is kind of revolutionary.
Not in the sense that it's anything you haven't heard before; most of you have lived through this first-hand. But for me the last two weeks have been one of those quiet, personal revolutions -- you know the kind -- in which everything in my life has shifted just a bit up the spectrum and produced some surprising new harmonies.
I've always been a big girl -- I was a chubby little kid, spawned from a family of large (sometimes very large) people on my father's side. I'm healthy and graced with some natural strength and athleticism, but I've spent my entire life struggling with food. I stayed at chubby through high school; my lowest weight in my adult life was 165 when I was fourteen -- a time when I was also racing bikes on the junior competitive circuit and riding upwards of 250 miles a week. In college I had a bout of serious depression and my weight rocketed upwards over 300. I've never had any major health issues otherwise -- no diabetes, no high blood pressure -- but being that big is miserable and physically painful.
Since then, no amount of work has ever gotten me very far. I've gone through years of near-superhuman discipline -- starving, exercising an hour or more most days, gritting my teeth and battling through it, managing to drop maybe 50 or 60 pounds in a year. But the mental effort required is intense, and not something I've been able to keep up for much longer than a year. The demons, they always drag me back down in the end. One holiday meal kicks off the cravings, breaks down the bulwarks, and a few months later I'm fully off the wagon, eating crap for every meal, having lost even my tenuous, fragile control over the impulse -- the drive -- to eat and keep eating; feeling tired and weak again, putting it all back on, digging out the big clothes again.
Anyway, a last month I came down with the swine flu, tested and confirmed. (For the record, I don't recommend it, it's a nasty one.) I spent just over a week lying inert in my bed, alternately sleeping and staring at the wall. And during that week, my appetite was zero -- no interest, no desire, amounting to an outright aversion. I made myself eat at least a little something every day, but for the most part I fasted for the entire week. And as I had plenty of time to let my mind consider the implications, the thing that occurred to me was this:
"Wouldn't it be awesome to just not want to eat?"
And I realized that my real problem wasn't the food, it was the desire. Why do I feel so compelled to keep eating? The impulse in my brain, once it hits, simply will not be denied -- it'll keep nagging until I give in, and then once I've satisfied it, another impulse will follow shortly thereafter, beginning the cycle again. I'm a soda junkie and a fast food addict. I crave carbs AND fats AND salt. There was no contentment to be had, no feeling of ever having had enough. Is it really supposed to be like this? Is it really supposed to be such a struggle? Lots of people I know don't appear to be struggling at all... they eat until they're done, and then they stop. Why can't I have that?
Which is all just to explain how I found myself primed for Seth's book when I found it. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic; I turn my nose up at anything faddish or extreme when it comes to diet and nutrition, having been let down too many times before. And I can't say I was without any doubts when I shelled out the few dollars for the book. But I shrugged my shoulders and decided to give it a shot because it did suggest something that no other diet I've seen has suggested: that this profound drive to eat, which is my root problem, can be managed directly, and the rest will flow naturally from there.
So, I've been doing the plan for three weeks now. I'm 33, 5'10", and have around 150 pounds total to lose to get to my "ideal" weight, but more like 100 before I get to a place where I think I'll feel reasonably comfortable and content. It's going to be a long journey, but I'm in no particular hurry. For two weeks I've been doing 5 tbs. of ELOO daily in two doses (yes, it's a lot, and I'm thinking of tweaking how I get those flavorless calories, but I'm a big girl and it's been a good start.) Otherwise, I haven't consciously changed my eating habits; I've been more curious to see how the plan affects my eating on its own. Here's how it's gone for me:
Almost immediately, my appetite was roughly halved. I became stunningly detached from eating -- I still feel real hunger, but the compulsions lurking behind it -- that little voice that says, "seriously, McDonalds, NOW" -- are gone. No more guilty batches of cookies or brownies before bed. I mean, I still like cookies and brownies, but there's just no drive to seek them out. I don't really care about them.
I DON'T CARE ABOUT BROWNIES. That's the statement that rocked my world.
I developed a heightened sensitivity to salty and processed foods -- they don't taste any different, but they no longer taste good. When it came time to eat, I found myself naturally seeking out whatever seemed least offensive at the time, often fruit or salad (light on the dressing, because salad dressings can be kind of overwhelming now), with maybe a few bites of something more strongly-flavored. I found myself not finishing most of my meals. I have a new problem with food spoilage, because I'm not eating everything in the fridge before it goes bad.
It hasn't all been a stroll through the meadow -- a week in, I had a sudden craving for carbs, and I gave into it a bit; but then it went away and things got back on track on their own. I wish my appetite suppression amounted to more of an aversion; this thing where some people apparently eat 1200 calories a day and are just-stuffed-I-tell-you -- that hasn't happened for me. I'd say that so far this plan has made it easy to stay within what are realistically my actual requirements, and maybe just a bit less, but I still average about 1800 cal. per day, creeping up to 2000 now and then. Still, given that previously I was averaging more like 3500-4500 cal./day easy, this is a massive, staggering improvement. The plan has enormously reduced my appetite, but hunger is still an issue. It's real hunger, physical hunger -- headaches, crankiness, fatigue, stomach discomfort -- but as a longtime compulsive eater, I'm still learning how to interpret and respond to my body's signals rather than my brain's. I tend to wait too long to eat (a situation not helped by a job where I have no control over when I can sit and have a quick snack), which never lends itself to a measured response. But even when physically hungry, I'm now eating more to shut my stomach up -- here, have an apple and leave me alone for a couple more hours -- than to gratify my demons. It's a good thing.
I don't know how much weight I've lost. I figured out a few years ago that the number on the scale only makes me feel bad, so I've vowed not to worry about it for now. But I can say that three weeks in, my jeans suddenly have more room in them than they did before. Based on past experience, I'd guess five or six pounds, but it doesn't really matter. What I want -- what I hardly dare to hope for, though I find the hope creeping in more and more every day -- is that rather than waking up a couple of years from now and finding myself still this size or bigger, I will instead wake up and find that I've become considerably smaller, without having to obsess and struggle and fight every minute of every day in the meantime. The other great benefit I've seen, the thing that makes it worth chugging my mix of oil and water twice a day in and of itself, is the change I've felt in my attitude toward myself. I no longer feel disordered and tortured and ashamed. I no longer feel that I'm daily failing at something that so many people seem to find so easy and effortless. Now this thing I've fought with my whole life has become so much easier, so very nearly effortless for me as well. It turns out it wasn't a fundamental failure of my essential being after all. Who'd have guessed?
I do not expect a perfect diagonal line down the weight chart; I know there'll be adjustments to be made and bumps on the road. That's fine. A bit further on, I'll be looking to invoke a little more conscious order in my diet since I have this potent new tool to help me out. Once I can drop just a little of this weight -- enough so that I don't feel quite so ridiculous on my bike -- I'll get back to riding as my main mode of transportation (I'm fortunate to live in a city that's arguably best scaled to the bicycle.) I still have some minor issues to work on -- getting off the soda, introducing more whole foods and plants into my daily diet (I'm also fortunate to live in a city located in a ridiculously diverse and fertile food-growing region and the cradle of the locavore movement.) But for now, I'm just enjoying and getting used to my unexpected liberation .
So, hello, I hope to be hanging around. I'll probably have some questions from time to time. It's lovely to meet you all. And isn't this just the coolest thing ever?