Except for when my gall bladder was removed, the only weight issues I’ve ever had were in my head, where they remain to this day. It doesn’t help that I have a sweet tooth and have periodic cravings for sweets. When this happens, it’s always a particular sweet. (My therapist and I are currently working on what these cravings are about.)
This past summer, it was Baskin Robbins Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. I had a scoop a day, which for me, is reasonable as far as these cravings go. There were times when I was tempted to have 2 scoops, but I managed to resist. I wouldn’t save any for the next day. I had to eat it all, even if I wasn’t hungry. I tried having ice cream only on the weekends, but that didn’t work. I absolutely had to have it every day. I felt like my world would end if I didn’t have it.
These cravings haven’t overcome me as often in recent years, but I used to have them all the time. The last time I remember having a specific craving was 2 years ago. I just had to have these giant homemade caramel apples from a local candy shop. I’d eat 3 a day for weeks — for basically the entire fall season. Then all of a sudden, the craving would be over, and I’d resume eating sweets like usual — once a week or weekends only, if that.
I never bought the ice cream, the caramel apples, or whatever else I had a craving for. I’d ask my husband to buy them, because in my mind, that made me less culpable. If he refused, I’d beg or get angry until he’d had enough and went out to buy the Craving-of-the-Moment.
I can’t explain these cravings. It starts with a taste, like earlier in the summer my husband and I went out for ice cream on several weekends. Then the craving developed. It’s like a compulsion, and it had to be specifically Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup — no other flavor would do because it wouldn’t satisfy the craving.
I’d validate my eating the Craving-of-the-Moment by telling myself that I deserve it because I’m feeling down; I deserve it because I’m stressed; I deserve it because I accomplished something, like actually leaving the house and walking around the block alone, without the dog. And once I eat it, I feel soothed. Later, I beat myself up for being unable to resist the urges.
Eating the Craving-of-the-Moment includes my regular 3 meals a day. I’d put on weight, but not more than 5-7 lbs., and wouldn’t be considered overweight for my size (I’m 5’1″). Except in my head. In my mind, I may as well have gained 50-70 lbs. Once the cravings stopped, the extra weight would usually go away with my normal activity level. Since this summer’s ice cream, I’ve put on 5 lbs. and am having trouble shedding them because I don’t work out and barely leave the house. I’ve started walking the dog regularly, so that’s something, even though it’s just around the block.
Now that it’s almost autumn, I’m afraid I may start eating those caramel apples again. I can already taste them, even though I know they won’t be available until the last week of September (my husband — not I — called the shop for this information). I’m already obsessed.
About 2 years ago, I needed my gallbladder removed. The doctors didn’t tell me that your gallbladder is what processes the fats you ingest, so I continued to eat like I always did, cravings and all. I put on a lot more than 5-7 lbs. The inset picture, taken 2 years ago, is when I was at my heaviest — a weight I’d never reached before.
My primary care physician said I was overweight and needed to lose 70 lbs. I couldn’t believe it! How the hell was I going to do that? I barely ever got off the couch, so forget about going to the gym, not that I would have because I hate working out, especially among strangers.
Then, just over a year ago, I became a vegetarian, stopped drinking pop (Diet Coke included), walked on a treadmill we bought specifically for this endeavor, and lost 50 lbs. The larger picture was taken 3 weeks ago. I haven’t reached the ideal weight for my size that the doctor suggested, but I also think it’s a ridiculously low number.
I’ve stopped using the treadmill, and my weight has plateaued. Every morning, for years, during a craving period or not, I weigh myself. I have to lose 20 lbs. to reach that “ideal weight,” so in my mind, I’m still overweight, which means I’m not a worthy person. I know this isn’t true, but my head keeps telling me otherwise.
Photo provided by author