Why Such Tough Love on Weight Loss?

I recently wrote a blog post called “Q&A: I don’t have the willpower to eat Paleo,” in which I explained that after a while on the diet your willpower waxes as your addictions wane. I also, perhaps, said a harsh thing or two along the way (who, me?). And I quote (bold text is mine for emphasis)…

Have some self control and try Paleo for a good, solid two weeks where you don’t let yourself cave to your cravings. You can do it. See what happens when you have satisfying foods that keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. See what happens when you have enough respect for yourself and your health to NOT eat shit instead of healthy foods. 

And one reader/blogger, Beth Mazur of www.weightmaven.org had a problem with that, as I can only imagine others did as well. Beth’s article (found here) is actually really good. Here’s what she said, among other things.


Seriously, even if that IS it, I’m not exactly sure how this kind of response is helpful.

One thought I’ve had, having struggled with this for decades, is that learning how to avoid the siren call of crappy food may be like learning to ride a bike. It’s hard. And people who can do it easily may be inspirational, and may show you that it’s doable, but they are NOT really going to be that helpful in helping YOU learn how.

I mean, imagine writing a blog post telling someone how to ride a bike. “Just TRY it. Hop on the seat, push forward, keep your balance and pedal. How hard is that?”

In this blog post, I will beg for all of your forgiveness and vow to never use curt, blanket statements again. No, actually, I won’t. But I will try to explain where I was coming from. I’m going to delve a little into the psychology and emotionality of compulsive overeating and let you know that I have been there myself.

Sometimes I just forget. I forget that it took me 4 years and about 5 attempts to even go gluten free because I loved doughnuts and tortillas so much. I forget that I cried when I found out I couldn’t eat my precious grains anymore. That during frequent fits of frustration and revolt I used to eat astounding quantities of cookies, doughnuts, brownies (and then blondies when I realized I couldn’t eat chocolate) and then want more. I mean like half a large pan of brownies or more in one day. I’d buy a big box of cookies and eat them all in a ravenous, seemingly starved frenzy on the way home, sometimes with tears of frustration for my own behavior streaming down my face. There was a time when I would eat a pint of rainbow sherbet every single day.

It wasn’t just sweets that I overate or ate for emotional reasons: it was everything. Like many of you, I had that “I’m going to starve if I don’t eat all of this and more” complex buried deep in my being and I just couldn’t shake it. I’ve had burrito-eating contests with grown men and WON.

I’m no stranger to emotional overeating.

So when I make seemingly stern or glib remarks, it’s not only you I’m talking to; I’m admonishing my old self, too. And I was speaking from experience when I said that it takes some self respect to exorcize those demons. Here’s what I mean.

I remember working in a café many years ago where we sold cookies. The café wasn’t doing so hot, so I was often alone, left to my own devices with those cookies. I’d stand there, looking at the cookies, mouth watering, saying to myself, “It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. I’ve been working so hard to lose weight and this is just going to ruin it if I do this.” And that intoxicating flavor and texture would win every single time. It would beat out even my own health and well-being and happiness! I would sometimes eat like 10 cookies in a shift and maybe a muffin or two for good measure. That’s what I mean by self respect, of which I had very little at the time.

When your health, happiness, and goals are worth less than a damn cookie (or 10), then you are lacking self respect. I don’t care if you are “addicted” and your brain responds to those foods differently than other people’s. It’s a choice, fueled by a lack of forethought, honesty and self respect that you make when you grab the cookie and eat it. Get professional help if you need it. Or go see a psychic to help you figure out what happened in your past lives that makes you this way. I did both and both helped.

I’m certainly not saying you can just gain a solid base of self respect overnight. But you can start by being honest with yourself and giving yourself an opportunity to make a choice before you put something in your mouth.

It took me a long time before I would admit to myself that ‘If I eat these 8 cookies that equal about 1200 calories, my ass and gut will seriously pay the price and I will NOT reach my weight goals. I will for real feel like crap and have diarrhea. And I will be very angry at myself later, which will make me want to binge even further.’ But those words and thoughts are only powerful if you believe them, and you will only believe them if you truly want the best for yourself. It took me a long time and a lot of reflecting on reality to stand in front of those cookies and win.

And once I did, it got easier and easier. And once I went Paleo, it got even easier. I don’t recall the last time I legitimately binged.

So please believe me when I say that I am not mindlessly or baselessly passing judgment on anyone who just can not imagine life without their junkfood or their binges. I am cheering you on in my own way, which is sometimes a little more to-the-point and blunt than people would like. However, I will try to be kinder in the future and remember how hard it used to be.

Here are a few things you can do to help build your self respect concerning food and gain confidence in your ability to turn those goodies away.

  • Don’t work in a place where you have access to crappy foods all the time. If you can’t change your job, then try to revolutionize the food choices that are available or limit your exposure to them.
  • When you’re about to put something naughty in your mouth, make yourself wait 30 seconds before you do it. In that half of a minute, drink some water and try to have clear thoughts about what the repercussions might be. Then make the choice.
  • Write down your weight and health goals. Get very clear about them. How much weight do you want to lose and by when? Is this a realistic goal? Get help if you need to with making realistic goals, too. Remind yourself of your goals regularly (but not obsessively – it’s a fine line) and figure out how much and what foods you need to eat (or not eat) in order to make that happen. If your goals are clear, your choices will be clear, too.
  • Find out how much you’re eating right now. Go to www.myfitnesspal.com and figure out if you’re overeating. Sometimes the raw reality of how much you’re overeating is enough to make it stop. It was embarrassing for me to find out one time that I’d been eating 1,000 calories worth of cashews every day for 2 months and that’s why I was gaining weight.

Anyone else have anything to add?



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  1. Jan J.

    Don’t apologize for being curt – most Americans do eat CRAP! Every day! And they feed it to their kids. Every day. Products with so many artificial things they shouldn’t even be categorized as food anymore. I was raised on Cap’n Crunch cereal and Pop-Tarts and now at 50 I have diabetes, atrial fibrillation, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity, allergies and more. I used to think I did pretty good – when I adopted my baby from China I always fed her whole grains, no refined sugar until she got old enough to know better, no sodas, lots of veg and fruit. But we were still eating bad. The whole wheat is not good either, at least for me. All the rice we put under our stir-frys, the big bottles of 100% juice I let them drink. I am doing so well now the last few weeks. I don’t even miss the whole wheat toast I used to have most every night. My only problem is my job has not had much work and we have little income for meat and fresh veg, but for now I have been able to stick with it. Sadly poverty-stricken people are driven to ramen and mac and cheese, etc., to just get food in their kids’ bellies. I hope I don’t have to resort to that as I am so pleased with how little I am craving and how weight I used to battle against has already come off so quickly and I FEEL so much better, so energetic. My blood sugar is already better, even though I skipped my meds a few days to make them go further. Thanks for all you have shared as it has really helped me and sorry for my long-winded-ness! Keep it up and be tough! People DO need it, at least some of us. Coddling doesn’t improve health.

  2. Heather

    Thank you for posting this…sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who will devour a pan of browines or 10-12 cookies in a sitting. It’s good to know there is hope. I’m proud to say that I’ve decided to take responsibility for my eating…and you nailed it on the head…get some respect for myself and my body. I push myself hard in workouts almost everyday and have actually gained weight due to my “crap” diet. To reach my goals I’ve signed up for a 10 mile mud/obstical run next July…now my diet HAS to complement my workouts so I can conquour the course!

  3. Andrea

    Great post, some of us need tough love and this is your blog so you can say whatever you want without apologizing. I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this follow-up post, I, too, have battled the sugar demon for most of my adult life…and have learned it’s just not an option for me and that I just have to suck it up.

  4. Nicole

    I don’t think you’re coming from a place of judgement. The reality is — people want it both ways and it’s not possible. Until someone has gotten to the point that reclaiming their health is less painful than continuing to eat food that makes them sick — they will stay in the cycle. I think having people call you out is good — especially in this culture of entitlement and warped thinking. Eliminating gluten, sugar and grains is sacrilege for most people in the US — people don’t get it. So when you DO know that sticking to this diet can help heal chronic problems it’s like swimming upstream. Having blogs like this only reminds people to stick to it. I agree with Andrea — when you know the answer you just have to suck it up — like brushing your teeth everyday. There are much worse things in life to complain about.

  5. ealina

    Great post!
    I totally agree with what you’re saying, been there, done that.. ;D

  6. Beverly Randolph

    I went on the Whole30 a couple of months ago and stayed on it strictly for a good 45 days. And it was much easier than I anticipated–but ONLY because I’ve been working on my diet, bit by bit, for the past three years. There’s no question that paleo is (a) expensive, (b) time-consuming [mostly the planning and cooking], and (c) difficult to follow if you’re not home nearly every day. I enjoy a silent retreat center, but I haven’t figured out how I’m going to return to it and be able to eat, since the working south Texas ranch provides plenty of meat, but the diet generally consists of beans, rice, bread, cold cereal, yogurt, deli lunch meats, and some raw vegetables. I have brought my own hard-cooked eggs in the past, but that’s not enough protein to keep me going for a four-day stay.

    All that said, giving up all grains and all dairy has been life-changing for me. I still give in to a bit of sugar now and then, but rarely; but no-grains/no-dairy/no-legumes means I’m no longer bloated, my knees feel 100% better, and I sleep much better. People think, by looking at me, that I’ve lost far more weight than I actually have, just because I’m “deflated.”

    But as you say–it took years of preparation, years of modifying bit by bit. For instance, I never dreamed four years ago that I could live without ice cream and yogurt; and I certainly never dreamed that I could give up cream and sugar in my coffee. But all those things have happened, by increments. I have nearly conquered that self-defeating “all or nothing” mindset and I have learned to recognize that I can do things a little at a time that I could never tackle in “bulk.”

    So now, if I have a special occasion and I “need” a piece of cake for it, I eat it; but I recognize that there will be consequences, and that in order to feel better, I need to stay on the Whole30 as much of the time as possible.

    And the feeling that I’m doing something REALLY REALLY important for myself is profoundly empowering–even more empowering than ice cream. Who knew!

  7. Katrin

    For goodness sake. Please continue to tell it like it is. I’m so over this politically correct bullshit. Seriously, if someone can’t handle a little straight forward talk or comment then it’s their problem. This is your blog you should be true to yourself and tell it like it is. Folks, if you’re offended by what someone says on their own blog, please just press the exit button and go be offended by something else. Seriously. Get a life!!!

  8. LeAnn

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have been on a paleo journey for the last two and a half years, and had been amazed with how much paleo helped me overall with my sense of worth and how much better I felt. Last year I finalized my divorce, moved out on my own and started a new job, and had a horrible breakup with my first post-divorce relationship. I have been struggling since last summer to regain control over my sense of self, but I’ve been in a huge spiral of binging on cookies, pasta, and pizza. Today after I had another serving of pasta salad and an Italian sub for lunch, when I started to cry in frustration with myself for doing this again, I had enough. So glad I was able to read this post and know I’m not alone. Thanks for reminding me I DO need to respect myself enough to do this and get back to having a healthier relationship with food, the paleo way. :)

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