Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Help, I'm A Control Freak!

Along the Riverwalk in downtown Estes Park, Colorado
May, 2009

It seems as if we are all struggling with our relationship with food right now.  We want to eat like "normal" people.  We want to have more than five minutes pass without thinking of food.  We want to wake up in the morning and have our first thoughts be about something other than what we can eat today.  We want to attend social events without fear that we will go off-plan and ruin that week's efforts.  We want to enjoy trips to Sam's or Costco without giving the Demon Sample Pushers a second glance.  Mostly, we just want to scream, "stop, stop, stop" to the continuous video in our head that says, "you'll never be better. I am food and I will always taunt you." 

My MIL cooked my birthday lunch yesterday - food she knows I love. I did o.k., but still ate more than I should have of all the wrong things.  Unfortunately, there were really no good choices - everything was either fried or swimming in grease. I passed up the corn bread (believe me, that didn't go unnoticed), but went back for seconds of most everything making sure there were no leftovers.  I was stuffed and that feeling is no longer acceptable to me.  So please explain to me why, not 30 minutes after we got home, did I have a BAG of almonds in my hands eating mindlessly from it?  Sure, almonds are nutritionally better than potato chips, but my gosh, the calories.  And the whole point is, I was NOT hungry.  An hour later, I was eating a large bowl of yogurt with blueberries and granola mixed in.  Again, it wasn't a bowl of ice cream, but I was NOT hungry.  But the compulsion to eat was there.  It was all I could think about.  Why?  

Fast forward to my birthday breakfast this morning with MY parents.  I did manage to manipulate (whoops, I mean lovingly persuade) them to take me to Mimi's Cafe instead of IHOP.  With my mom, it's always all about the money (don't forget this!!), so when I mentioned I had a coupon for a free entree, Mimi's it was.  Mimi's publishes comprehensive nutrition information on their website, so I was able to plan in advance and choose a yummy breakfast dish that didn't involve sugar.  I stuck with my plan, ordered quiche lorraine with fruit instead of potatoes, ate half of it and brought the rest home.  I've stayed faithful to plan the rest of today with no problems whatsoever.  Why?  What was different between Sunday lunch and Monday breakfast?

For years, I've spent so much time and energy analyzing the "why" of this.  I can say that things have improved, but could go backwards as quickly as they progress slowly!  Sunday afternoon could easily have become a binge fest.  There were Triscuits in the pantry!  It didn't, but neither was my behavior "normal."  Hunger did not play a role - it was something else.

I think, for me, the answer has something to do with control.  I am a self-admitted control freak.  Put me in any situation where I have zero control and watch me self destruct.  I don't have to control all situations, I just have to know I have a choice.  I had NO control over yesterday's lunch.  In addition to the fact that nothing was served that was in my eating plan, I knew I was being watched and inventory taken of how much I ate or didn't eat.  A remark was made that "surely you aren't going to pass up hot, buttered cornbread on your birthday."  And then later, "what in the world am I going to do with all this cornbread?" No control at all!  So when I got home, I ate again just because I could eat whatever I wanted as much as I wanted.  But it was my decision and I was back in control.  At breakfast this morning, the decisions were all mine and I did just fine.

This is rambling and may make no sense at all, but I was just curious if anything resonates with ANYONE who's struggling with the why of what we do what we do.  Sometimes, the way I react or respond to a food situation seems so random.  Like you, I just want to be a "normal" person who eats to live and then doesn't think about food again until her STOMACH tells her it's time.

Part 2 of this ramble is tomorrow.  What does the fact that, for my mother, it's ALWAYS all about the money, have to do with my food issues?  Plenty, I think.................................


  1. I get this! You said it so well. I have noticed something similar about myself. If I have a situation coming up that I can't control food-wise, I often start going off plan days in advance in anticipation and frustration! My other thought when I read about your meals, for myself, if I eat crappy food, I almost always keep eating later. Now some would say there is science behind this and it is the sugar,salt and fat in the food that really does something to our body and triggers the subsequent eating. Maybe. Or maybe it is the emotional component.

    Whatever - I totally see myself in your first paragraph. I want my days to be about more than eating or not eating or planning eating. Sigh.

  2. I complete relate, since I'm a control freak/perfectionist. That is truly why I'm doing what I'm doing right now with my eating. Unfortuntately we can't control every food situation that we will be in. That is reality. I'm tired of feeling helpless and defeated and that is one reason why I have made all foods ok in moderation. If I don't I will continue to overeat and feel bad about myself when I eat them. Today is day 9 for me of doing this and I feel a little better about it everyday. I know I have a long long road ahead though.

    It's totally a mind issue for me...

  3. Well, I have no words of wisdom, that's for surer, but I DO relate!

    Like Karen's comment, when I have an event coming up that produces anticapatory anxiety, I start going off plan even BEFORE the event. How silly! I freak over losing control at the event--so lose it in advance.

    For me anxiety always produces that restless need to feed. Always. Even after the event is over--I then eat in relief that it's over. Of course, that is also often fueled by the gluten I had at the event....

    All I can say is, "Hang in there! We shall be FREE!"


  4. I've done that too, Sharon.

    It isn't about perfection (for me) but more about a trigger to old habits.

    You haven't been eating fried and greasy foods - but you used to.

    You simply had some, and the old habits were triggered.

    It takes a while (time) removed from it, to regain composure. Thus, you snacked (though thoughtfully) when you weren't hungry afterwards. An old habit too?

    But, after a night's sleep (time), you were able to snap back.

    I would suggest, therefore, to avoid things that act as triggers for you, or put some distance (time) between you and the unhealthy stuff, and you'll do better.

    One not-so-great afternoon won't derail you. Who knows, the higher calorie day may have confused the body enough to actually give it a fat-burning boost. Only time will tell. I wouldn't beat yourself up over it.

    BUT, sometime in the next few months, tell your MIL about your "new" favorite recipe - share it with her - and talk about it every month between now and next summer. She'll want to make what you love, so you have to give her a new food you love. Lay the groundwork when you get far enough away from last weekend's celebration though, so she doesn't feel you are commenting on her birthday brunch efforts.

    You are NOT alone. I avoid cheese right now - I mean like the plague - because I know that is a trigger for my old habits. What can I say? So, for right now, I treat it like a stalker - keeping it at a great distance from me.

    Stalker Cheese ... hahaha ... there's a picture!

  5. Maybe also your body wanted good, healthy food even though you'd eaten your fill of the other stuff. I, too, though, hate not being in control. That's the hardest thing about big family get-togethers. I'm most comfortable having them at our house because I can exert some control over the menu

    The money thing? If your mom is the age of my parents, she probably grew up through part of the depression. My mom (b. 1920) was a compulsive saver (once my daughter needed 100 popsicle sticks at the last minute for a school project. My mom had them--saved, one by one, from popsicles over the years). Margarine tubs, rubber bands, twisty ties from bread containers--you name it, she saved it. My FIL is the same way. He still almost grimaces if anyone near him has to part with what he thinks is an unnecessary dollar. He buys Costco size containers of cheap food--those orange peanutbutter crackers, poptarts, and strawberry jam. Staples in his kitchen. I didn't notice food issues with my mom, but I can sure see the effect in my FIL.

  6. I am definitely in the same boat, girl! I want to be a 'normal' eater, and I am a huge control freak.Add to that my all or nothing perfectionistic brain, and you get a perfect storm. I'm watching the comments for the words of wisdom I need.

  7. Hey Sharon, I am a control freak also. That is an interesting theory--I'll have to think a little more about it. Also liked Tish's theory that your body wanted healthy food even though you were not hungry. Sometimes I eat healthy food like that as a 'signal' to my body that the time of junk food eating is over.

    But there is another theory floating around out there. And I think it has a lot of merit. It is the addictive qualities of the fat/salt/sugar combo. This is the main book written about it http://www.amazon.com/End-Overeating-Insatiable-American-Appetite/dp/1605297852/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280896232&sr=8-1 But this author is not the only one who subscribes to this theory.

  8. It's habits You have to change your habits by retraining your brain. Stop the old habits and do the new ones. Not easy but nothing else works, sorry.