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The path I was on which led me to Bright Line Eating (www.brightlineeating.com) probably started when I was in junior high. It wound through several diets, successful attempts at weight loss and subsequent weight gain. The decision I made in August 2017 to try Bright Line Eating was definitely a good one. I want to share the truths about my habits and my life that led me to that place. This will be the first post in a 3 post series that talks about what led me to Bright Line Eating, what I loved and needed most from it, and what I’m continuing to struggle with as I work to find a more reliable peace around food. I don’t recommend reading this post if you find yourself triggered by discussions of weight or specific foods.
Earliest Memories of Disordered Eating
I mentioned above that my disordered eating probably started in Junior High, circa 1991, because that was the point at which I hit puberty and started gaining a decent amount of weight every year. I realize that weight gain in and of itself is not a sign that there is a problem but if I think about the behaviors I recall, it becomes clear to me that I had a problem.
Although I definitely ate when I was hungry, I was eating compulsively when I wasn’t hungry as well. I turned to food for comfort and out of boredom. I would eat multiple, full bowls of sweetened cereal at bedtime, just because. If there was a bag of salty chips in the pantry, it’s possible they would disappear in one or two sittings. I would have multiple servings of ice cream at one time. I don’t recall often feeling hungry but feeling over full was definitely a common occurrence.
Food also elicited a feeling of love because of the care and attention my grandmother would put in to it when we visited with her. Whether it was having my favorite ice cream on hand, or the care she gave to the snacks and meals she prepared, my grandmother cared deeply for us and I could taste it in my food.
Memories of Eating in College and Early Career
Food in college and the early stages of my career became more about coping with my social anxiety and the pressure to succeed academically. Having a plate and a mouth full of food at a party makes a convenient excuse to not engage in conversation. In addition to that, a bag of something crunchy, salty or sweet made a good partner to the hours of homework as I worked towards my degree in physics.
I knew that “diets don’t work” way back in 2001 but at the same time my weight was continuing to increase as a result of my disordered eating habits. I don’t have recollections of having hunger or fullness cues let alone being able to honor them. I’m mentioning at my weight gain was a result of disordered eating because I realize that weight gain happens for other reasons too. I know people who have lost and gain weight for reasons completely unrelated to their eating habits. Bodies and their needs are constantly changing. I wasn’t listening to mine at all.
The Start of the Yo-Yo Dieting Cycle
I jumped onto the diet train after I found myself criticizing a friend who was unhappy with her eating and weight gain. At least she was doing SOMETHING about it. I needed to stop feeling sorry about myself and my relationship with food while simultaneously judging everyone around me who was trying get their eating under control.
Here is the list of what I recall trying , specifically with the intention of controlling my weight. They are in chronological order as best as I can recall them.
- 2001 – Slim Fast combined with frozen diet entrees – height 6’0″, starting weight 240
- South Beach Diet
- Overeaters Anonymous
- L.A. Weight Loss – got down to about 175lbs, maintained in the mid 180’s for some time
- My Fitness Pal and Jawbone calorie and exercise tracking
- 2016 – Fast Metabolism Diet – got down to low to mid 180’s
Eating Habits Leading Up to Starting Bright Line Eating
My eating habits in the year between Fast Metabolism Diet and starting Bright Line Eating weren’t awful in my opinion as far as my choices were concerned. We rarely went out to dinner or ordered take-out and mostly were eating healthy, reasonably balanced meals at home.
The amount of food I found myself taking to work in a given day was staggering. In December 2016, my wife actually got me this massive lunch bag to hold everything I brought to work in a day. Think construction worker out on a job site for all 3 meals size lunch bag. It was MASSIVE and I was filling it I thought I was making good choices though! Snacks and lunch in a given day would include all the food groups. If I was eating “unhealthy” things, they were portioned out in a snack size baggie. At work, I was eating a mid-morning snack, lunch, and then a mid-afternoon snack. At home, I was eating breakfast and dinner and often times a before bed bowl of cereal or ice cream. It was a lot of food. I wasn’t tracking it because I know that is not a sustainable behavior for me long term but I thought my choices were mostly sound.
I would eat breakfast around 6:00am and would find myself pulling into work between 7:30 abd 8:00am already “hungry”. I would push myself to hold off on my snack until 10am or so since lunch wasn’t until 12pm. Then, I would eagerly await snack time sometime before 3pm. My body was basically telling me I was always hungry.
Access to Snacks
On top of that, we have access to an snack cabinet at work. At any point throughout the day, I could walk to the cabinet. Most days, there was something in there that I would be able to happily enjoy. I tended to avoid the sweets but healthier, crunchy salty snacks were fair game in my mind. For a while, there were little peanut butter containers in there and I loved enjoying one (and sometimes two) of those with my bag of carrots. If you’ve never tried carrots and peanut butter, I do highly recommend it. The chances are high that you will have more sanity around it than I did.
Besides the snack cabinet, there is a pop corn maker. A movie theater style popcorn maker. No Joke. When we first got it, I went through a period of making popcorn every afternoon and i would often go back for multiple bowls full. Then, on top of that, if there was popcorn left in the morning, I would do everyone a favor and eat up the day old popcorn. That really was my thought process.
Leftovers? Yes, Please!
Let’s talk about meeting leftovers for a minute. I work in a school and there are often meetings that involve ordering food. As soon as I saw the email hit my inbox, I was out of my chair and in line for whatever was available. “Leftovers are in the breakroom. Help yourself.” It did not matter at all if I had just eaten lunch. If there was food available, I was going to eat at least something.
My office is literally across the street from a Dunkin’ Donuts. We joke that emplyees from our building probably keep that Dunkin’ in business. Some of my coworkers go there twice a day for coffee. I tried to limit myself to getting coffee to a few times a week mostly to keep my budget in check. I’m a huge fan of flavored lattes, especially Pumpkin Spice.
Besides the Dunkin’ though, a couple of my co-workers are donut connoisseurs. Through them, I came to learn about Federal Donuts and Beiler’s Donuts in Philadelphia. Donuts from either of those places put Dunkin’ to shame, in my opinion., but if there was a communal box of even Dunkin’ Donuts, I probably was going to have one.
Undeniably Disordered Eating
All of this stuff, and a lot more, led me to the time I wrote about in my post Bustin’ Out at Rock Bottom. My day 1 of Bright Line Eating was almost 7 months ago. A lot has changed since then and in the coming posts, you will see that I’m no where near a stopping point in this healing process.
As I’ve spent this time writing this post, I find myself feeling a lot of shame and disgust. I’m struggling a bit to make peace with the fact that I’m going to put this out into the world. This was my reality. It was ugly. At the same time, I have a sense that it’s not unlike the reality of a lot of other folks. I am of the opinion that NOT talking about this kind of stuff does more damage than the alternative.
If you are so inclined, I’d love to read your comments about how your story differs or overlaps with mine. If the comments feel too public, use the Contact Me to send me an email. I’d love to connect with you and read about how disordered eating has impacted your life.