It’s hard for me not to notice the behavior of others when it comes to food. Frankly, it’s hard for me not to observe others intensely in general, in part because I’m an observant person, but also because it’s my field of study and work. But, noticing people’s relationship to food happens so naturally for me because I am constantly trying to observe my own relationship to food.

I try not to be judgmental in my observations  I try to use what I observe in others to help me figure out things about my own dysfunctions with food. Often times those observations lead me to reflect and develop insights about myself I might not have been able to come to otherwise.

Last Thanksgiving we were with my mother-in-law and her husband, and their blended family. I’ve believed for years and years that my husband’s step-father (let’s call him Harry because that’s way shorter to type!) has a binge eating disorder. He’s admitted as much to me in the past, but he doesn’t seem to want to do anything about it. In fact, last summer, he told me that while I’ve always fought my addiction he just gives into it. This makes me sad.

His weight has always been an issue for him. He’s suffered from a heart attack about 10 years ago and he has diabetes. The number of medications he takes daily is startling and he often forgets to take them which makes us all very nervous. The thing that makes us the most nervous is his diet because he’s constantly making excuses as to why he can eat what he wants instead of what’s good for him. But last Thanksgiving he’d seen my weight loss success, and my husband’s, and he decided he wanted to give our diet a chance. But, he didn’t consult his doctor first, which is a must when you have health problems like he does, and he dove in head first. He lost 6 pounds in the first 5 days and was feeling great. Then in the middle of the second week his blood sugar started to plummet because the low-carb diet mixed with the medications he takes to lower his blood sugar combined in a terrible way. (See this is why you MUST see a doctor before starting any new diet plan! Especially when you have health problems!)

He had an appointment to see his doctor but decided to postpone it so he could get some blood work done. It was postponed by more than a month. So, in the intervening time, he went completely off the wagon. Again.

They were visiting us in January and while his wife was out with my kids he went and got himself a cheese-steak for lunch, with french fries on the sandwich, and a bag of chips, and a soda. When he walked in the door to my house with that and started eating it I confess I couldn’t hold my tongue. I asked him why he was eating that when he knows how bad it is for him. His answer was, “I can’t get these where I live.”

Ok, so long long long background to get me to my point. Sorry about that. But that sentence that he uttered there tells me so much. It tells me that he will never succeed in trying to lose weight and keep it off for the simple reason that he sees any attempt to lose weight as a temporary change in his eating habits that he will not sustain if and when he gets to his goal.

When I was thinking about this earlier today I realized that this is exactly how I’ve thought about my food plan my whole life. Even in the years after getting into Overeaters Anonymous part of me still looked at it as a weight loss plan, especially in these years since our son was born. But it can’t be temporary. It can’t be just about losing weight for it to work. It has to be for life.

The post-op plan my WLS surgeon’s office promoted is called “The Program For Life”. There’s a double entendre there: it’s the program that will give you back your life. It’s also the program you have to follow for life.

It took a while for this to get through my head and into my stomach. This is how I have to eat forever.

To keep me at a healthy weight.

To keep me sane.

To keep me loving myself.

To keep me caring for myself.

To keep me capable of being present for my loved ones.

To keep me feeling alive.

At anytime before I think that would have bummed me out. But right now, it’s just a relief to know that I get it.

Finally.

And I’m not giving it up.

At least, not today.

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