I believe in the power of sharing our stories – and I like to share my story around weight and mental health with new and prospective clients so that together we can relate and develop language to talk about the emotional, or mental health, component that often goes unrecognized in peoples struggle around weight. Here is my story.
After my son was born, I fought with 30-40 pounds off and on for a couple of years. When I married at age 25, I weighed 120 and was 5’1/2”. I was married for ten years to a man who was fanatic about controlling my weight. And he wanted me to weigh 100lbs. One year for Mother’s Day, he got me a gift certificate to Diet Center. So, as you can imagine, it caused a huge battle between him and me. I’d lose the weight sometimes, but as soon as I made my goal, the next day I was eating a whole box of Girl Scout cookies and a huge Mexican dinner. I literally gained 5 lbs. in ONE day! Within a month, I would gain it all back, and more. In my 25 year of struggling with my weight, I loss and gained the same 60 to 80 pounds at least 15 times!
So at 41 I went to college, decidedly to get a degree in mental health to understand what was going on to help my family with addiction…and not realizing at the time, myself. In my graduate studies I learned a lot about addiction, but at that time, I was not reading anything about food and addiction. We had a lot of addiction of numerous kinds in my family, on both sides, but I slowly began to read about how food fit as an addiction too.
By now, I was weighing the most I had ever weighed – 300 lbs. So, I went to a doctor and a nutritionist and a mental health practitioner, began to exercise and I worked with all of them. I didn’t like to drink alcohol much at all. I had a low tolerance and didn’t like that feeling of being out of control or dizzy. But boy, I’d reach for food to calm and soothe me if I was sad, lonely, bored, angry, happy, – you name any feeling and I ate to stuff it away so I didn’t have to feel it or deal with it.
In the first year I had lost 100 lbs., and the next year I lost another 80lbs. That got me to my goal weight. I kept it off for seven years without a blink of an eye. Never ever thinking about food like I used to. It nourished my body, and I had found what feelings were, how to feel them appropriately and how to nourish my mind and soul in healthy ways that was fulfilling, but not by abusing food.
In 2011, I was laid off a job I enjoyed very much. I was laid off for two years. My husband had gotten laid off his job a couple of months before I did. I did really well at first, but the more applications I sent out and receiving no calls for interviews, I began to get depressed and began to eat more than usual. Before I knew it, I had gained 60 lbs. By now, I knew the triggers, and symptoms and had chosen to ignore them. But I couldn’t for long. I got back to eating healthy, plus this time, I gave up sugar, white flour and wheat. I dropped 45 lbs. in less than a year. I’ve got 15 more I want to get off to goal, but I also want to increase my exercise, so I know it will be off by the end of the summer. I truly believe I needed to relapse, “fall of the wagon” to experience what that is like, so I’ll know when I work with clients and it happens to them. You go through a lot of emotional backlash, like depression and anxiety, which I would not have thought of or expected. And of course those awful feelings of shame and guilt. The nice thing is you’ve already worked on those feeling to get to your goal, so it doesn’t last nearly as long!
That’s my story so far. Understanding my relationship with food is a lifelong quest, but one that is needed to have a healthy relationship with food. I’m honored when my clients trust me to understand and help them explore their relationship with food and develop new and healthier skills to manage the emotional or mental health component to that relationship. Call today, I’d love to help.
Deb Baldwin, LIMHP, PLADC
1001 South 70th St.
Lincoln, NE 68510
(402) 325-0117 x 7