The Obese Can’t Eat Normal Food Without a Sense of Panic Or Guilt

At 256 lbs, I saw my naturopath for the first time. We had a long discussion about food, my weight, my depression, and how I wanted to tackle all of it. The following year after I had lost 136 pounds and visited her again for final blood work, she told me that on the first day we met she made a note in my file. It said: “Patient views food as poison.”

She had hit it right on. I did. And I am not alone. I may have been on the extreme end of the thought process, but the fear of food was real. In my entire life, I had never eaten one ounce of food without guilt. Even as a child, if I wanted a second apple I felt as though I was proving to all that saw what a pig I really was.

That is why a simple low fat raw food diet worked for me. It was minimal and I could enjoy as much as I wanted without a drop of guilt. I thought I could bring that to the obese community as a miraculous cure for obesity. I was wrong.

For each person I helped achieve great weight loss, there were another twenty who came and went. People would sign up, do the all raw diet for their first month or two and have huge weight loss, but then the reality of being on a restrictive diet would hit and they would flee forgetting all about their achievements. Their major complaint: “I just want to eat like a normal person.”

What did they flee to? Not another healthy sound diet. They returned to the diet/binge cycle – the only method they knew for day to day eating.

For those of us who have grown up with obesity or entered the dieting world early, we have no idea what “normal” eating is. All we know is how to diet or not diet, and the not diet has nothing to do with eating right. We have proven to ourselves over and over again, that we have no control over the food we eat except when on a structured diet, and then it is only until we can’t do it anymore.

I have developed a complete new system for my clients who cannot do the all raw program. It is ten times scarier for them than asking them to live on raw fruits and vegetables. Why? Because I make them eat.

One of the first things that becomes very clear and they actually all voice is, “I don’t know how to eat like a regular person.” When I tell them I want them to eat 1800 calories their first two weeks to find out what their true maintenance diet will look like, their eyes pop, their voices quake, and they stammer: “1800 calories, I can’t do that I will gain weight.” It takes me a while to convince them otherwise.

The first week is always full of panic. Their menus are peppered with all sorts of ideas on eating they have picked up from dieting their whole lives. A lot of it is food they don’t even like and would never eat outside a diet. When I tell them to eat more, to try something new they balk. “No, no, I can’t do it. I will lose control.” In truth, that is exactly what I want them to do.

It is only after examining what out of control is, that we can work together to bring things back to the middle and find a satisfying solution that will allow them to take control of their eating.

We are all different. Each of us has different likes and dislikes, our bodies respond to different types of food. Some people can tolerate higher fat, some people can’t. Some people can have salt in their diet without it affecting them, others like me, have to be cautious. Some people need fewer, larger meals to feel sated, others need to graze through the day. Understanding who you are as an eater becomes paramount in defining a diet that will bring weight loss and then let you adjust it for life-time maintenance.

Accepting that there is no one cookie-cutter diet out there that will work for everyone, is vital in developing an eating plan. Throwing out all preconceived ideas of what a diet is, is the only way to move out of the diet/binge cycle.

That fear of eating that has been hammered into us all these years has to be tackled. The only way to do that is to eat. Sounds simple enough, but in my experience I have found it is harder to get people to eat then it is to get them to diet.

Why? Because all we know is deprivation or guilt.

When I start a new client on this program, their first week proves how true the above statement is. They eat tentatively. The foods tend to come from their dieting history, the amounts minimal.

I pick out these dieting foods and ask why they chose to eat them. Their answer is surprising. Not only was the food not satisfying, but oftentimes they ate food they didn’t like because that is what their dieting brain told them was the only acceptable choice. Now, there are diets out there on the market that promote lots of eating choices. They work for some, but the problem is they are small amounts for the calories, and most obese men and women need bigger servings, and when they eat higher fat, sugar, or salted foods, cravings dictate that one serving is never enough. That creates more fear of food, and that fear limits viable choices in their idea of what they can and cannot eat for weight loss.

I make it clear, I do not want to see those diet foods in their menu again. Panic ensues.

It is a process, a hand holding to calm their nerves and gain their trust that it is okay to eat food as long as they understand that each choice they make needs to be seen as a whole, and it needs to work with them as a person. Once they see that they really can eat 1800 calories a day without gaining weight they are amazed. Amazed that they are now eating foods they saw as detrimental to their dieting cause, and eating those foods in amounts they find satisfying.

No, not every food they love can be eaten, but by examining what foods keep them stated, and what foods cause them to want more, their menu of choices grows and the idea that this type of diet can be done not just for short term loss, but for life becomes empowering.

It is this fear of food, this fear of not being able to stick to a diet, this fear that food controls us and not the other way around that keeps the obese obese.

Food is nutrition. Our bodies need it, even our brain needs it to stay balanced and keep us in a good place. What the obese have to come to terms with is that they are a unique individual, and although their obesity issues are common within the obese community, their needs to feel satisfied are quite different.

Food is neither enemy nor lover. It needs to become a partner in the obese person’s quest for health and well-being.

If you want to beat your obesity, then you must be willing to work through your fear of eating outside of a diet. You must be able to look at food realistically and take time to explore what is right for you before embarking on your next diet.