I struggled to lose the same 30 pounds on and off for 20 years. This was hard because food was at the heart of everything I did. My love affair with eating started when I was a child. Years later I became an executive chef, and turned it into a full-time profession. I pursued food like it was my job, both on and off the clock.
You could find me planning menus, procuring the best ingredients, or whipping egg whites into submission for a souffle at work. At home I was researching restaurants to go to with my family on vacation. On my days off I sampled chocolate chip cookies at a new bakery, or spent hours in the wine store comparing notes on different varietals.
Thoughts and images of food swirled in my head, like a constant feed of tempting suggestions to eat. Food was the focal point that defined my life. When I invited someone to dinner, they eagerly anticipated what I would cook. Friends texted me pictures of meals they just knew I would love. And my husband always introduced me to his business colleagues as “the chef”.
When I turned forty, my obsession with food started to feel like a curse. A weight I lugged around physically and mentally. I felt sluggish and distracted, overweight and unable to sleep through the night. Most afternoons I was ready for a nap after lunch.
Is this what mid-life is supposed to look and feel like?
I knew my relationship with food needed to change, and I was ready to let go. Who would I be without my beloved companion? I was ready to find out.
Let’s be clear. I did not want to lose the same 20 pounds, only to regain it again. I had tried conventional approaches restricting food and exercising more, repackaged a dozen different ways by the diet industry. Those plans never worked long-term, because they never addressed my obsession with food. They never got to the root of the desire behind the eating.
If I wanted to keep the weight off permanently, I needed to find an approach that retrained my brain and its dynamic with eating. A way of thinking that I could not unlearn.
It turns out the solution had nothing to do with food.
When I figured this out, I knew it was the missing piece.
It was not a food plan, a macro counter, or thirty day pack of shakes. It was not a series of videos with high intensity interval training. And there was no system of points to tally up at the end of each day.
It was something so simple, obvious in fact. But rarely practiced.
I started paying attention to food I put in my mouth. I moved out of my subconscious mind and stayed present.
Switching from reactionary into purposeful eating was not a straight-forward process, but a transformative one. It meant being deliberate, and deciding my meals ahead of time. I allowed urges for unplanned food to be there, unanswered. I practiced eating when I was truly hungry, and stopping when I felt satisfied.
It was a shift in mindset around food. I became conscious of what I put into my mouth and why. I realized I had particular cravings for food that had nothing to do with hunger, but that intensified after a stressful day. I unearthed patterns of eating buried deep under many layers of excess fat.
I realized food was not the problem, my thoughts were.
This is a huge revelation for a foodie, and it was hard for me to accept at first.
Food just sits there. It is not tantalizing, tempting, seducing or beckoning me. It does not pin me down and force its way into my mouth. And it does not get its feelings hurt if I reject it. Food does not care about me. I should know that, right?
So who would I be if I was not pursuing food? When food was off the table, what was left?
For starters, the truth. Every feeling and experience, usually filtered through food, was exposed for what it really was. At parties or lunch dates, if food was not important, then the person sitting across from me was. I started to hone in on conversations. When I sat down with my kids at dinner, I listened to what they had to say.
When I ended my love affair with food there were many unexpected benefits.
First, I had more time. I no longer spent hours shopping, cooking, eating out or even bingeing on food tv. I worked to reduce food imagery in my mind, not amplify it, so my thoughts and time were redirected.
The result was surprising.
I had a steady stream of creative ideas for my business, more time to implement them, and intensified concentration. Best of all, my family became a more satisfying source of joy, replacing the temporary pleasure from food, and without the negative consequences of overeating.
My original intention was to lose weight sustainably. I achieved that, but the unanticipated results were tenfold. Being at a natural weight, and feeling comfortable in my clothes is incredible. But having freedom around food is so much more than that. It is the map to my destiny. It is the life I was created for.