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  • Over the years, I’ve had many best friends. The problem is few of them were human. One of those friends was food. I was as broad minded with food as with any other friend. Gender, ethnicity, politics, religion didn’t matter to me as long as my friend was always available and I experienced a sense of immediate gratification when we were together. I rarely met a food I didn’t like. Frowning on tradition, I saw no reason to limit eating to meal times. A best friend goes everywhere with you, is there for the celebrations and the losses. Since food was my best friend, it was always with me, in my purse, my pockets, my glove compartment, my nightstand. My cupboards were well stocked as was my refrigerator. No one in a third world country needed to worry that I wasn’t cleaning my plate.

    We had glorious times together, food and I. We shared gourmet meals in the finest restaurants. We knew all the best bakeries and coffee shops for our special treats but, as sometimes happens with best friends, we began to tire of each other. People were beginning to notice, calling us codependent and other unpleasant names. Meals were just not as enjoyable as they used to be. I tried to do things on my own. I set boundaries around the time we spent together. I tried to be friends but not best friends but, always there were those reminders of the good times; the occasional crumbs in the nightstand, the crumpled Hershey’s Dark Chocolate wrapper in my pocket, the vintage ice cream scoop in the drawer. It was clear I had to make a clean break.

    In reality there was nothing even minimally amusing about my romance with food. The costs were subtle but life altering and devastating; my reputation as an honest person who could be trusted, sky rocketing medical costs, masquerading as high blood pressure, exhaustion, possible diabetes or heart problems and on and on and continuous expenditures on doctors, emergency room visits, hospital stays and therapists. The heavier I got, the more desperate I became. I was constantly ashamed. I could not stop destroying myself with what should have sustained and nurtured my body.

    I’d lie awake at night salivating over the pint of butterscotch ice cream in the fridge, waiting for my husband to fall asleep so I could sneak into the kitchen. I could find my way in the dark and always left a spoon under the dishtowel on the counter near by. I knew I had reached the tipping point when I found myself “sneaking” into the kitchen for that ice cream fix when I was home alone. That was the worst part. I was sacrificing my values for food. I was lying, hoarding, creating worry and fear in my family and friends. I was in complete despair.

    A good friend who watched my struggle stopped by one day. I knew she had been heavier than I was but now she was fit, active and happy. How did you do it, I asked. She knew I had tried every diet, every program, every supplement without ever finding a way to stay stopped. She was usually very outgoing and outspoken but she said in a quiet almost shy voice, I tried a diet of kind thoughts and loving words. Oh great, a smart ass. I never should have let her see me vulnerable. But she was serious. I know, she said, it sounds crazy but so was following over 50 diets and spending thousands of dollars on programs and pills. I had nothing to lose, she said, except maybe the weight so I tried it. It worked. I not only lost the weight I regained my self respect and the trust of my family and friends. It’s free and always available. Love is never in short supply.

    I thanked her and watched her briskly walk down the driveway and easily get into her car realizing those were two things I hadn’t done in years. Oh well. I started towards the fridge again and as I passed my recliner, I stopped. My friend looked wonderful. I was in my fat clothes looking for a hug from food. Who was crazy? I sat down and sarcastically said to myself, I love you, I really love you. In seconds, I was sobbing uncontrollably. All the memories of shopping for clothes as a child returned. My mother’s voice saying I was too big for the pretty dresses and the cute skirts and blouses. I needed practical clothes. I remembered the abuse and thinking if I was fat no one would hurt me. Those three words, I love you, started a powerful waterfall of memories cascading through my mind. Finally, I pulled myself together, still not convinced that all those emotions had anything to do with my weight. I stood up to get my ice cream, took a step towards the kitchen and found I didn’t want ice cream. I didn’t want anything. I didn’t crave anything.

    That was years ago. The weight loss was a process not an event. It was gradual and there was no suffering involved. As my friend said, loving thoughts and kind words were always just a choice away, ready to support me. I went to a wonderful nutritionist who agreed with my approach and encouraged me not to see food as dangerous nor take it out of the house. She said no one was ever punished back to health, that part of loving yourself is trusting yourself. Eat what you want and realize you are able to stop whenever you choose. She was right. Balance was restored in my life, not just in my diet but in all areas.

    I highly recommend a good cleanse of all negative self-talk and destructive thinking followed by a diet of loving thoughts and kind words. It works.

    image from flickr creative commons
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