How eating mindfully helped me lose fifty pounds
No, this isn’t a photo of me but this is pretty close to how I looked before I started my weight loss journey.I wasn’t always overweight. When I married my husband in 1979, I was a svelte 105 pounds but by the time he passed away in 2006, my weight had ballooned up to almost 200 pounds. How did that happen? I asked myself the same question all the time. Though this is not a photograph of me, it certainly illustrates how I felt.
I knew that dieting is bad for you so I said I would NOT go on a diet
When I decided to try to lose some weight after he passed away, I said that I would NOT go on a diet. I actually think dieting is bad for you because it puts people into an endless cycle of yo-yo dieting. I’ve seen someone I love dearly go through this her entire life. As the Lindner Center of Hope outlines in their blog, yo-yo dieting puts a great deal of strain on a person’s heart and can lead to heart disease. For people with Borderline Personality Disorder, this kind of weight loss approach also reinforced black and white thinking, also called Dichotomous thinking, This kind of thinking process leads us to overreact to certain kinds of stimuli, for example when meeting a new person, we tend to put that person up on a pedestal and then when they have done something that displeases us, we “split” on them and see them as all “bad.” But what does this have to do with yo-yo dieting, you might be asking?Being on a diet when you tend to think dichotomously will cause you to tend to withhold pleasurable eating, skip meals, view certain kinds of food as “good” or “bad.” The reality of the situation is that like emotions, food is neither good nor bad, it is fuel
.When you find yourself engaging in dichotomous thinking, try asking yourself the following questions:
Is this thinking evidence based? What is the proof for this thought?
Am I evaluating this event or food from as many different angles as possible?
Will this thought stand on its own if challenged by another person?
If I took a poll of 100 people, how many others would agree with this thought?Is this a credible and fair thing for me to be thinking?
I wasn’t really sure how to approach this idea of wanting to lose a serious amount of weight so I returned to my mindfulness practice.I knew that eating mindfully would involve focusing intently on what I was eating so the first thing that stopped was eating while sitting in front of the television, a bad habit I had developed after my husband died.I decided that I was not going to deny myself certain kinds of foods that I like such as hamburgers but I would, instead, limit my portion sizes.I still eat all the same kind of food I used to, even food that is not good for me, just in much smaller portions.
Next, I turned my attention to my grocery list. Harvard Women’s Public Health says that you should evaluate every item you add to your shopping list by paying attention to the health value of every item you put on it and then ONLY buying what is on your shopping list. This was a big help to me because I tended to impulse buy when at the grocery store. Additionally, they also advise that you start with smaller portions and “bring all your senses to the table,” something I found enormously helpful. Taking smaller bites and really taking the time to chew my food thoroughly was another big step for me when learning how to eat mindfully.
I decided to eat like a squirrel
eat like a squirrel. Pay attention to what you are doing!
Once I had gotten that down, I started walking and that’s where I had serious help from my little dog, Yoshi. He and I would walk miles every day, sometimes as many as 8 miles per day. This helped me to really see the weight start to melt off.
My walking buddy and partner in crime, Yoshi
Eating a proper nutritious diet is extremely important for those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Many of us tend to use food as a way of getting comfort when we are experiencing difficult emotions. I began to realize that doing so was what had helped me gain all that weight. The sugar rush I received from eating too many sweets actually would exacerbate my painful feelings and, in many cases, make them bigger even though I was unaware it was happening. That led to more eating.I gradually began to incorporate a better diet for myself which included:
Low-fat dairy products (so switching to 1% milk)
Eating cereal in the morning that contained whole grains
Eating more seafood and consuming legumes and nuts on a regular basis and the most important aspect of eating more vegetables and fresh fruit
And I switched to pure virgin olive oil instead of cheaper corn oil
But it isn’t just the portion sizes that matter, what you eat is also equally important
In an article published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience in 2013, Sansone and Sansone discuss the relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder and Obesity in their article entitled, which found that approximately25% of people diagnosed with BPD had some kind of binge eating issue and were clinically obese. While most of us don’t usually read medical journals such as this, the findings are significant. They say that obesity is a “ multi-determined syndrome with contributions from both genetics and the environment,” and for many of us that will come as a relief because in a lot of ways being overweight is not anyone’s fault.It took me about 24 months to lose all the weight and I am so grateful that even though I had to euthanize Yoshi in April, I have managed to keep my weight off.Learning how to eat mindfully was what helped me turn the corner. I use the practice of mindfulness in most of my daily comings and goings. It has made the world of difference and is what has helped me put my BPD into remission.