Dieting Habit Holdovers

I’ve noticed, after 2+ years of non-dieting, that the habits I practiced for so much of my life, still can come back with haunting clarity at the oddest moments.  This is a collection of a few of the bizarre ways that my near decade of dieting practices have left a mark upon my life. Since I’ve done many different dieting/lifestyle changes in my life, many of them for years, the effects were bound to be long-lasting.  I guess sometimes I forget just HOW long-lasting.  I am reminded though when moments such as these come upon me.

I’m not sure what counts as “triggering” for folks but thought that since these reflect years of dieting rhetoric that have ingrained themselves into my mind I’d put the warning out there: Some of these might be triggering.

  • When I prepare my morning toast; almost EVERY time I find myself thinking “Was that more than a tablespoon of Mayo?  Don’t you realize that has 100 calories?! Oh my gods I think that might be 1.5; maybe even 2 whole tablespoons!!”
  • Pasta usually makes me ponder how many cups I could get for the fewest points depending on the size of the pasta shape.
  • Sometimes while swimming laps I’ll find myself debating doing “just one more” because that would mean more Points to spend later.  I still have to shake that one away before I’m able to really analyze if I WANT to go a bit longer or should stop.

So, how do I move past such moments?  Usually I can laugh them away with a head shake at my past obsessions; much in the same way I will point at and scoff at the commercials promoting the newest pill/machine/mechanism touted for weight loss online or on tv.  Sometimes I have to close my eyes and remind myself that those behaviors and thoughts are no longer a part of my life and I’m happier for it.  Still, sometimes they just linger there, little demons of a past destructive life, waiting in the recesses of my mind, waiting for me to succumb again to their siren-song of empty weight-loss promises.  I guess that just means that healing a body and mind which has spent so many years fighting against itself is a really long process.

What sort of diet behavior/thought holdovers do you still struggle with?  What mechanisms do you use to cope/push away such destructive thoughts and behaviors?


19 thoughts on “Dieting Habit Holdovers

  1. One of my bad habits is to want to trade exercise for food. All the equipment at the gym tells how many ‘calories’ you’ve burned (I put that in scarequotes because, how does this thing know, really?) so there’s always a temptation to connect that chunk of imaginary calories with food later and being ‘good’. Which I think is exactly backwards for me now– food is fuel for all my activities, and I should eat what I like without trying to rationalize it, plus I don’t exercise so I can eat, I exercise because it makes me feel good. Whew, that was rambly 🙂

    It’s really weird too, because when I was dieting I never exercised because it made me ravenous. So I’m not sure where I made that connection.

    • G that sort of trading mentality is at the back of my own mind often. Years of “trading” movement for “calories IN” are maddening! Maybe you made the same connection despite your own experience because that theory of IN/OUT is so prevalent and pushed forward from every arena…

    • One of the things that’s really interesting to me about the trading exercise for food thing is that as an athlete we’re taught never to create a calorie deficit from activity because it will cause lethargy and put your body in starvation mode and mess with your athletic performance. It seems like the exercise police would catch on to the fact that a starved body is not a healthy body.


      • Ragen that’s an interesting tidbit to know! Too bad no one seems to think lethargy and starvation mode are unacceptable in a fatty if they are in the “noble pursuit” of thinness.

  2. I definitely third the trading thing. “If I work out for 10 more minutes, that’s 2 points I can use up later” and what have you. I don’t know how WW does points anymore, but I also find myself looking only at fat, calories, and fiber when checking out nutritional facts so i can figure out the point value in my head 🙂 and until the last year or so, i definitely had the “oh crap, i ate “poorly” today, so i’ll start eating “better” tomorrow.” I’m very proud to say THAT shit has gone out the window.

  3. There’s still (STILL!) a twinge of guilt when I put butter on my vegetables. That’s from years of brainwashing that the only healthy way to eat vegetables is plain steamed. I hate plain steamed vegetables – but the minute I started using butter and seasonings and the like, I started to love them. But there’s still that ingrained notion that you’ve somehow ruined their nutritional value by putting – horror! – butter on them.

    If I catch myself at this, I remind myself in an internally authoritative voice that I’m an adult and I can damn well butter my vegetables if I want. And they’re good that way and I will enjoy them and there’s absolutely no virtue other than eating something I want the way I want it.

    But those voices are so deeply entrenched that it’s going to take a Bobcat to root them out completely.

  4. it’s f***ing difficult to stay away from «sensible weight management plans». I always find myself thinking, «well, I’m sure I could maintain this!» but I could NOT. I find myself thinking that I really have no willpower when I react to WW and other weight management BS by saying that I’m not going to waste my life counting points or weighing aliments, or by becoming so preoccupied with food. It’s hard to resist to the urge of giving in to «but it’s your health! the most important thing ever! If you are not willing to do what is necessary to lose weight, then you don’t care about your health». And I get so goddamned pissed when my friends are telling me that they are only making «lifestyle choices» and that being told that a medicine student that they are 40 pounds overweight according to the BMI is actually exact science. GRRR!

  5. I still struggle with compulsively falling back into food restricting/overexercising habits when I get stressed out. I’m only a year or so into self-acceptance, and sometimes I just have to *breathe* and remind myself that the stress I’m experiencing has nothing to do with my body (it’s fine the way it is!) and then I try to do some extra self-care for a while until I find my bearings again. I’m finding that it takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience to stop using body-controlling behaviors in stressful situations. I’m also finding, though, that the more self-acceptance work I do, the faster I bounce back and the more triggers I avoid entirely. Yay for progress!

  6. I still struggle with the Fantasy of Being Thin. I find myself thinking things like, “I just have to lose some weight and then I will try yoga” or “If I lose weight I won’t be depressed” or “If I weren’t so fat I would have better self-esteem and have more friends.” I find that it helps me to think of fat people that I like or admire and remind myself that these people are not letting their weight get in the way of things that they want to do. I also struggle with the trading of exercise for food…I am thinking of taping a piece of paper over that pesky calories-burned-counter on my treadmill.

  7. For me, the fact that I can estimate (pretty accurately) the kcals in almost any food, and could tell you how big a “serving” is. just imagine how much brain space that must take up. If I hadn’t memorized all that crap I would have room for useful stuff, like phone numbers!!

  8. The most persistent is “You know, I don’t really need to eat. I’m not that hungry. I think I can skip dinner. I’ll just go straight to bed.” That with my hands shaking, lightheaded and my stomach moving from growling to cramps because my day didn’t turn out as planned and it has been ten hours since lunch.

    The other is, “Oh, there’s food! It’s a party! All that delicious food! I’ll eat all I can. And then some. And a little more. And then some more, if I can. Because there might not be food tomorrow!”

    Convincing myself that there is a (reasonably) steady supply of available food and that I should eat it when I’m hungry has become easier over 15 or more years of not dieting but only after I have been actually working on my issues for 2 years I can do it. Most days, at least.

  9. Oddly enough, the one thing that stays with me now is eating off of smaller plates. I started eating dinner off the salad plates to ‘trick my brain’ into believing that I’d eaten enough because I’d eaten a plateful.

    I still eat off those salad plates, but now it’s because they’re a really dark cobalt blue and colorful foods look so much more delicious on that than they do on my white dinner plates.

    Sometimes I eat one serving, sometimes two, but I eat off those smaller plates because they make my food look even more delicious. After all, you take the first bite with your eyes! LOL!

  10. I’ve never admitted this before but I got into the habit of writing down everything I ate that day for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. If I wrote it down, then I could go on and eat a snack or something. Thing is… it didn’t leave my head after writing it down. I thought obsessively, “I ate this for breakfast, this for lunch, and this for dinner. I ate this for breakfast, this for lunch, etc.” You get the idea. Somehow it was supposed to make what I ate controllable, when all it really did was become a form of compulsive thinking. I don’t think it’s ever helped me lose any kind of weight or anything. Weird.

  11. I’m very glad that I found FA when I was relatively young (just 20) after struggling with an eating disorder. I had never done any formal dieting – no counting calories or anything I just jumped straight into not eating and exercising. The main thing I find myself doing is thinking oooh if I just exercised a *little* more and ate a *little* less I could lose some weight and regain my thin privilege. As I know it could never just be a *little* with me this is very dangerous.

  12. I recently bought a bunch of fancy tea (a yerba mate/white tea combination) so I could quit coffee, on the grounds (har) that the acid in the coffee wasn’t helping my digestive problems. I also bought these sugar crystals to go with them, because that was what they used to sweeten this tea in the store, and it was soooo delicious. But I just wasn’t nailing the flavor when I brewed it, until I went up to (gasp!) AN ENTIRE TEASPOON OF SUGAR CRYSTALS in a cup of tea (and mind you, I drink only one cup a day — mate is potent stuff). ZOMGFATPOCALYPSE! How could I? What a pig! Which of course, is completely irrational, when you consider that I used to put hemp milk in my coffee, which probably had at least as many calories as the sugar. Butbutbut…SUGAR! IT’S WORSE THAN CRACK!

    Gargh. There needs to be one of those “Sense — this picture makes none” meme posters about this stuff.

    • Seems like a lot of us still “battle” (I hate using war euphemisms for such things) against the urge to trade in movement for food. A relationship that should never be pushed on the masses I think. If we could just separate this ideology of one being intrinsically related to the other I think we’d all be so much better off!

      Meowser I wish was was into meme poster creation; those would totally rock!

  13. I still know the approximate fat grams in everything. I still know what points things are in Weight Watchers. I still count how many carbs I’ve had each day. I still know how many steps I’ve walked in any given length of time, even without a pedometer, I can still estimate it pretty closely. That shit never goes away.

    The difference now is that I can break that thinking down for what it is – obsessive weight loss thinking. And it has no value in my life. I wish I could get rid of it, but it persists, so I acknowledge it and move on and do the best I can.

  14. My thing is that more and more counties in my area are voting to put calorie counts on the menus so I now have angst over choosing a muffin for a snack because it has 300 calories as opposed to the bigger rice crispy treat which has only 200 calories even though I don’t like rice crispy treats and do like muffins. I don’t need to know that the chicken salad sandwich has the same calories as a doughnut. Having the calories posted on the menu board has made me really anxious about my food choices, it makes me feel that the only valid choice is the low calorie one.

  15. Sara A, I have that problem too…seeing food strictly as carlories not as nutrition. Clearly a doughnut isn’t going to be as healthy for your body as a lovely hunk of chicken salad on whole wheat with fresh veggies. A part of your brain KNOWS that, but not the part that’s the loudest.

    I still do the “I’ve been good today…I can have a little something” equation in my head. Like have a few chips with catsup is a reward for not eating much today, and by having them, I’ll finally feel full and not tired/achey/headachey from depriving myself of food all day. Then guilty.

    Yesterday my friend took me to a local spa for a birthday pressie, and I hadn’t eaten much (not on purpose…just didn’t think about it until I was really hungry). During my hour-long massage (which was awesome, btw), I thought, “When I’m done here, I’m-a heading over to that cafe and getting a hunk of cheesecake”. But I didn’t. Instead I gulped down several glasses of ice cold water and had a gigantic salad with a ton of veggies and a light viniagrette dressing. Hit the spot perfectly.

    It’s all about really listening to your body and doing that intuitive eating thing. If you want a muffin, think about how lovely it would be, not about WHY you want it (hunger? something sweet and crumbly? Making up for not getting a pony when you were a kid? RIIIGHT), then really savour and enjoy it.

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