Memoirs of a Stress Eater

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I never really considered myself an “emotional eater”. I went out to eat a lot, and I didn’t exercise. I always assumed I was just maybe a little lazy, had no will power, or just told myself I didn’t care. I didn’t feel like I was eating when I was sad, or happy…I was just mindlessly eating. Period. But when I look back and really think about it, I can see how closely the fluctuations in my weight, correlated with some of the most stressful periods in my life.

I gained a little weight after I got married right out of High School. I was 18, trying to be a real adult, telling myself I was “mature” and could totally handle it. I was working, we bought our first house when I was 19, and I began going to school img_0834full-time to be a Surgical Tech. I felt like I was coping with the stress pretty well, but I do remember my weight steadily creeping up, and was somewhere in the 180’s when I finished school.

So I graduated tech school at age 20, began working in Labor and Delivery, and I dropped a few pounds after life slowed down a bit. BAM! My ovaries go absolutely insane! Pumping out signals to the entire system that I need a baby, ASAP. Any woman who has tried to conceive knows, that when that baby bug hits you, it comes out of no where and you are totally consumed. One day you’re just going about your day, you’ve always thought babies were adorable, but it hadn’t really struck you as possible to have one of your very own yet. Then out of no where, it’s suddenly all you can think about, you feel obsessed. Almost frantic. Now try having that feeling while working in Labor and Delivery and actually witnessing childbirth and that sweet moment when a new mom holds her slimy, sweet little angel for the first time. Over and over, multiple times a day, everyday…for your job. There was no stopping me! I needed to have a baby!

The Ballooning Effects of Motherhood

So I’m 21, and I have my first little man, Levi. My whole world had been rocked, I was a mommy.

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Levi and Mommy at Niagara Falls, 2010

I, like most new moms, really had no idea what I had signed up for. I knew I’d be tired, I knew I would have a little life totally dependent on me. But like most things in life, until you’re actually living it, day in and day out, you really have no idea what’s in store for you. Motherhood is truly the most beautiful, stressful, life-altering, chaotic thing I’ve ever done. It is such an adjustment any time a new little person enters your life, but especially when it’s your first child. Along with the love, and joy, comes a lot of stress…and for me, also a lot of eating! When I gave birth to Levi, I weighed in at 204 lbs. Side note: it’s hilarious to me that I can recall my exact weights at every moment of my life, but sometimes for the life of me can’t remember to get the laundry out of the washer before it starts to stink!

Anyway, so I’m 204 lbs when I was 9 months pregnant with Levi, fast forward to when Levi was 2, and not only had I not lost any of my baby weight, I was up to 215.

So then started the whole yo-yo dieting extravaganza. I did so many stupid things to try to get the weight off, that they’ll probably need to be a separate blog post. Let’s just say I tried a lot of different things. I was sick of messing around, I was ready to bring out the big guns. Enter Phentermine and running.

Success! Wait…What?

I lost 60 pounds. I had horrible dry mouth, thinning hair, ate little to nothing, and my body fat percentage was still sitting at about 49%.

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60 lbs lost after Phentermine

I know this because after losing all of that weight, I was feeling pretty good about my progress and decided to have my body fat percentage checked with a Bodpod, at an event hosted by Advocare. Bad idea. I was “shook”. How on earth had I lost all of that weight, gotten myself into a “normal” weight range, and still half of my body was made up of fat? There was a trainer there to explain your results with you after the test, and he flat-out said, “You’re probably not eating enough and are doing way too much cardio and no resistance training.” He totally called me out. Had he been following me around? I was actually kind of defensive about it when I saw the numbers. I lost 60 pounds pal! You can’t tell me crap! It turns out, he was completely right.

So I ignored the BodPod results for a while, until I learned from a friend, why strength training and eating more protein was so important. I learned why I should focus more on actual fat loss, instead of just “weight loss”, and why the BodPod had read my body fat percentage as being so high. Spoiler Alert: It was because I wasn’t just losing body fat..I was losing weight yes, but that weight was made up of muscle, water, and fat…instead of just fat. Hence the term, “skinny fat”.

Single Mom Stress and Building a New Life

By this point, I’m 25. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it’s pretty obvious to me now, seeing how I’ve changed so much over the past decade, why most marriages that begin at age 18 fail, and ultimately mine did.

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Levi and Mommy at Watkins Glen 2013

I was 25, a single mom of a 3-year-old, and even though I took a long hiatus from men, I was trying desperately to maintain my weight loss, just in case someday I wanted to try to meet someone. I was only 25, and realistically, I knew that I wouldn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life.

After finally dabbling in dating as a mom, some breakups, and pointless first dates, God finally brought me Wes. I can remember joking at work one day, saying, “I just need somebody that’s a family man, age 35-40, that wants to watch Netflix with me, and makes me laugh.” And that’s exactly what I got. I won’t say either of us are perfect, because no one is, but he’s exactly what I needed, and things moved quickly!

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At Bristol in Lights 2014

Within the first year of us dating, we were engaged, married, and building a house. I got comfortable with Wes, and stressed with trying to build our new life together as a blended family. I packed it on! We were married in May of 2015, and by the time I got pregnant with Tyson the following October, I was already tipping the scales at 225. After pregnancy 247.

During my pregnancy, I knew that after Tyson was born, things were going to change. I had to figure this out and get it under control. I knew that I couldn’t keep up with this life I was building, in the body that I had. After he was born, I wanted to wait until things settled down a bit, and then start losing the weight. I thought I should wait until I had a handle on breastfeeding. Then I figured I should wait until I went back to work and got into more of a steady routine. Then, I thought it would be best to wait until he was sleeping through the night.

When he was about 5 months old, I finally realized, that wasn’t happening any time soon. Levi had started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old. Tornado Tyson was showing no signs of relenting.

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Tyson and Mommy, 2016

I finally realized there was never going to be a perfect time to start, and that I didn’t want to delay my progress any longer. The sooner I started, the sooner I would finish. But I had to get a grip on the emotional and mental side first, and here are some of the things I had to tell myself constantly:

 You Are Not a Dog

I had this funny habit of rewarding myself with food. Any time I got through a busy day at work, whenever I got through a stressful day with the kids, I needed a treat! Cook Out milkshakes were a personal fave! Peanut butter with Reese’s cups. Oh yes. I really had to start being mindful of what I was teaching myself. Even though now I’m realizing I titled my blog about MSM’s, Girl, Treat Yo Self, I really tried to not view those meals are a reward. It just seemed like a catchy title okay! So instead of food, I rewarded myself with other things. I made a list in my phone. Every time I hit a new milestone in my weight loss. For example, getting to the 100’s…I got myself a little something. I got myself something for every ten pounds lost. The only rule was, it couldn’t be anything food-related. My rewards were things like new gym shoes, a pedicure, or a new outfit.

 Be Patient, Trust the Process

I can’t tell you how often I had to tell myself this. Any time I felt like it was happening too slow, or it was too hard, or I was just tired and didn’t care anymore, I would repeat this to myself, “Be patient, trust the process.” I would pull myself together, quit having my pity party, and just do it anyway. Successful people aren’t successful because they’re better or smarter, they are successful because they snapped themselves out of the excuses and did it anyway, when other people would have given up. I had to ask myself, when I was stressed or tired, “Is what I want right now, more important than what I really want?” Nine times out of ten, those fajitas, or that milkshake weren’t what I really wanted. What I really wanted was to be able to walk into work without feeling like I was dying. I really wanted to be able to walk into any store and find clothes that I liked, not just the ones that hid my fat rolls the best. I really wanted to be able to feel confident and like I could accomplish anything that I wanted to. I didn’t really want the nachos everyday.

I love a good before and after picture. Transformation pictures can be so inspiring, and really show that it’s possible to set a goal and accomplish it. Any time I have posted a transformation picture, the number one question I get is of course, “How did you do it?” I hope you’re beginning to see, through this blog and through my Instagram posts, that there’s really not one specific thing.

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October 2016 to April 2018

I love the way that I choose to eat, I’m not “dieting”…I just eat according to my goals. I love the stress relief that I get from going to the gym. It works for me, but that’s not to say that it will work for every single person. We all have our own likes and dislikes. I can explain to you what I have learned and how I came to really advocate flexible dieting in conjunction with weight training, but I would never be so arrogant to say that it’s the only way to reach your goals. What I will always, always emphasize is the mindset. Mindset is everything. No amount of nutritional knowledge or exercise science in the world will help you reach your goals if mentally you’re not in the right place. Adherence is the number one reason that most diets fail. It’s not that the diet won’t work, it’s just that we can’t stick to it.

I hope learning a little about my story, and my issues with stress eating can help you see that it’s normal, but more importantly I hope it helps you see that it is possible to not get stuck there. Just because you’ve always been a stress eater or an emotional eater, doesn’t mean it’s a permanent part of you. If you can learn to catch yourself in the act, identify what you’re doing, call yourself out on it…you can start changing how you react in those moments. Go to bed, take a shower, do yoga, take a walk. Choose to not just numb out with food. Do things to relieve the stress, that don’t have the lasting effects that overeating does. It takes practice, but you can unlearn any behavior you learned, it just takes practice.

Finding Your Willpower

Willpower, discipline, motivation. Call it what you want, willpower is a lot like money. We know we need it, we all wish we had more of it, but it always seems to disappear as soon as we get a taste of it. See ya tax return! If you have struggled with your weight at all, you have probably told yourself that you just don’t have enough of it. Most of the time, when we start a diet, we’re extremely motivated. Whatever it was that gave us that initial spark of determination, we run with it, gritting our teeth until we can’t stand one more freaking salad or piece of grilled chicken, and then we crack. In my last post, My Little Bag of Tricks , I talked about some practical things you could do to keep yourself from hitting plateaus and burn out. But this week I wanted to talk more in-depth about the discipline mindset, and how I’ve been able to keep myself moving in the right direction.

Motivation Never Lasts

Over the last year and a half, I have heard two things a lot when someone finds out how much weight I’ve been able to lose. “You’re so disciplined,” and “I wish I had your willpower.” One thing I want you to know, is that while I guess I was very motivated, or “disciplined” in the beginning, I don’t feel like I am now. The first few months into my weight loss, I was determined. I knew my body would lose weight if I learned how to make it, in a way that was sustainable and didn’t make me feel deprived. During those first few months, the biggest thing that could’ve thrown me off was the useless things that I loved to tell myself. “This is going to take forever,” “You don’t have time to deal with this right now,” “This is just the body type that you have so you might as well get used to it.” img_7772 In those moments, I did need the discipline to push those thoughts out of my head so that I could keep going. But willpower can only get us so far.

I heard a great quote on a Podcast one time that summed it up perfectly, it was from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. He said, “Success is actually a short race- a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.” Gary Keller is the founder of Keller Williams Realty, and although he was referring to business when he said this, I feel like this can apply to just about anything you’re trying to succeed in. Weight loss, business, leveling up on Candy Crush, if you can consistently keep your head in the game, just long enough for good habits to form, then your success is inevitable.

How I Knew My Habits Had Changed

I can’t recall exactly when it happened. I was just trucking along, meal prepping, experimenting, trying to find a gym routine that I liked. I was just taking it a week, a few pounds, or sometimes a few hours at a time. Pushing myself forward until my next mental sanity meal, watching my weight consistently follow the same pattern. Up one week, a big drop the next, back and forth. Then one day, something came up. I don’t remember if I got called in to work or what happened. All I know is that it was my meal prep day, and I was ticked off. Like in an actual teenage temper tantrum, “You’re ruining my life” kind of way. I, Melissa, the fast food-loving, excuse-finding, circumstance-blamer, was angry that I wasn’t going to be able to do my meal prep. I was so mad that I was determined to find a way to make it work anyway. Instead of throwing my hands up and calling that week a bust, I just found meals that were similar to what I would’ve meal prepped, and cooked my food the next possible day I could. That’s still what I do to this day if something comes up, because stuff will always randomly come up. That was my first little glimmer of hope that I was actually changing my lifestyle.

The next time I knew was similar, but had to do with the gym. A kid was sick, or my child care fell through. Something out of my control came up, and I wasn’t going to be able to go. Again, I was full-blown angry inside.img_7711 In the past I would’ve been happy to have any excuse to skip the gym, especially a legit good one! I honestly used to think that people who said they enjoyed going to the gym were full of crap or lying to themselves, but here I sat, mad and pouting because my whole routine was going to get thrown out of whack! I was irritated because this had become habitual, my routine, and it was being disrupted.

Find a Way To Keep Pushing

My advice is to just keep moving forward. Successful people aren’t successful because they’re smarter or better than you. They’re successful because they consistently pushed past their excuses when things got uncomfortable, and just did it anyway when other people would have quit.

For the first several months, your brain is going to be going crazy, trying to keep you in your comfort zone. We already know our normal, safe patterns of behavior. We go on a diet, something out of our control happens, we cave, and we go back to what we know. Look at this as an experiment and see what happens if you don’t. See what happens when you think outside of the box and make it work. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 6 months or a year to form new habits, because this is a lifestyle, not a diet. There are no deadlines or “goal dates”. If you can tell your brain to shut up for a while, habit will kick in and make this so much easier. I mean one day you may even wake up, eat your meal prepped breakfast, go to the gym, and realize you actually have some little shoulder muscles peeking through! Once it’s a habit, the time flies by! A year and a half later, I really don’t feel like I’m still “trying to lose weight”, but I am continuing to lose body fat and make progress because of habit, not because of willpower.

Never in my wildest chubby girl dreams, did I ever think that I would be the person I am right now. img_7659Sure, maybe I’ve faked it for short periods of time for the wrong reasons. I even subscribed to Runner’s World for a whole year once, trying to convince myself that I liked running. I thought that’s what you had to do to lose weight, so I better learn to like it! Imagine my relief when a good friend informed me otherwise. Mind-blowing.

I’m sharing my story here, and on my Instagram, not to brag, or get a pat on the back, but because I feel like there’s still so much misinformation out there about weight loss. I swear it’s like they’re trying to keep us fat! I want other women to know that it’s possible to do this. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that someone else couldn’t have done. I hardly ever eat salads and I loathe cardio! That being said, I feel like mindset and discipline are two of the hardest things to teach. Anyone can give you a meal plan and a workout routine, but it’s hard to get in someone’s head and get them to keep pushing. But if you can consistently have the mental strength to get past those thoughts of not caring, or wanting to quit, I promise one day you won’t have to. Keep going, keep planning meals and keep experimenting with exercise, even when you don’t feel like it. One day it won’t take willpower, because it will be just like brushing your teeth!

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