Reflections on what I have learnt so far…..

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    • #10413

      When I joined this course in October I was pretty unhappy, the effort to maintain my weight loss seemed to be getter harder and harder with each year, not easier and I was becoming totally obsessed with food. Also, although I didn’t recognise it at the time, I was constantly lurching from compliance to rebellion.

      So the first thing that I learned was that I need to work on my non-weight motivation. Whilst I do have some, like keeping myself healthy by not eating lots of rubbish, at the moment they are not as powerfully as my desire to keep my weight off. I turned 60 this year and I am proud to say that I fitter, healthier and much slimmer than when I was 38. Having been morbidly obese, I know that I will do whatever it takes to hold on to the current version of myself. This provides me with incredibly powerful motivation.

      Secondly, I recognised that I am a super compiler and that by placing too many restrictions on myself I was creating a lot of my problems. I have also found using the red pen & the black pen to remind myself that I can choose to eat what I like and in any quantity incredibly helpful. I feel much more relaxed around food and whilst I have eaten plenty of previously considered forbidden food, over the last six weeks I haven’t lost control. My husband says I have been eating normally .. he even used the M word. 🙂

      Thirdly, I have become much more aware of my addictive desires, for example I am really triggered by my the need not to waste food and to eat just because my husband is eating. I have also developed the way I handle my addictive desires. When I quit drinking, I used a mantra to remind myself that I got little pleasure from drinking alcohol which was very effective. But over the last few weeks I have found myself choosing to really feel my addictive desire. The best way I can describe it, is it is like having an itch that you don’t scratch or get cross with and want to stop, instead you just watch it, see how it changes and eventually observe as it gradually melts away. When I do this the AD does go away quite quickly whereas in the past I have noticed that when I feed it, it can get stronger and takes LONGER to dissipate.

      Looking forward to the Christmas & New Year celebrations, as Gillian asked us to do, I have been considering how I want to feel when it is all over. I have decided that what I want most is not to have too many regrets. When I overeat and I surely will, I want it to be something that is delicious and that I really enjoyed. For it to be really worth it. To achieve this my intention is not to buy lots of bags of crisps (chips), salted nuts and boxes of chocolates – stuff that after I have eaten it I often wonder why. But I am planning on cooking lots of delicious special food. There will Christmas cake, probably several deserts and maybe some very moreish cheeses but there won’t be much junk. And I will use the red pen as judiciously as I can.

      So thank you Gillian, for your hard work, dedication and help, your course is truly life changing. I know that I am slowly changing the conversations in my head and whilst I recognise I still have work to do I, this path I am on is definitely the right one.

    • #10414

      Wow, Judith – your post really chimed with me. Non-weight motivation was a massive factor for me too: I found that when I tried the technique before, I had sort of thought that it wasn’t as important as choice and desire. Putting a big effort into writing down my non-weight motivation made a real difference.

      And your description of the ‘itch’ of desire is perfect! That’s just how I feel about mine sometimes – knowing I will make it worse if I scratch it! And then just sitting with it, and as you say ‘really feeling it’ – and it just dissolves.

      I’ve bought myself a few special things to eat at Christmas too, and I’m really looking forward to them. They are nothing like the junk I used to eat, just really nice cheeses, good-quality pickles and sauerkraut, and some homemade mince pies, which I will really enjoy and then work through my desire when my limbic system says ‘MORE PLEASE!’ It’s so great to feel in control! I’m sending Gillian a big thank you too for all her hard work and dedication.

    • #10415

      Hi Louise,

      Thanks for your feedback and I loved your post on dealing with desire that made so much sense to me. The thing about AD is it isn’t even as uncomfortable as an itch, it is a much less specific and generalised discomfort.

      With regard to motivation, it is not that I don’t think that this is as important as choice and desire, I think it is vital. I also think it is my super power as once I set my mind to something nothing and no one gets in my way. My friends called me Juggernaut Jude! But at the moment I don’t think that I really believe that I need non weight motivation mainly because my motivation to maintain my current size is incredibly powerful. I love the current version of myself, not just because I like fitting into normal sized clothes but because I love being able to run, to be able to walk up my beloved lakeland fells, to feel strong and to have loads of energy. All of these are dependent on me staying slim and nothing is more important to me.

      I certainly can accept the arguments Gillian has presented that non weight motivation is more powerful but that is not my experience to date. However, I do intend to review the whole of week 1 again as finding more reasons to eat less is not going to be a problem.

    • #10421

      Thank you for these posts, Judith. What you’ve written means a great deal to me and I’m delighted – really thrilled – to hear that this course has such a broad application.

      Two thoughts about motivation:
      1) weight or non-weight doesn’t need to be either/or but both/and
      2) my hope is for people to identify non-weight motivation in the process of eating less or eating differently (cutting down on refined carbs, manufactured food, huge quantities, etc) You didn’t do this course to do that – which is fine but I wouldn’t expect you to experience any of what I think of as non-weight reasons to eat less. You got a different kind of benefit from the course, and nothing wrong with that at all.

      And yes, I do get that walking fells while morbidly obese would be a bit of a challenge 🙂

    • #10423

      Hi Gillian, thank you for your feedback I really appreciate it. I would like to clarify further though as my need to get things right ( aka as perfect 😉) is nagging at me.

      On the motivation front, I definitely have both weight & non-weight motivation dictating what I eat. I tend to avoid sugar, refined wheat products and processed food as much as possible because I recognise that they are not good for me. I put sugar at the top of my list because I don’t want to get diabetes nor put myself a greater risk of getting dementia. I eat a mainly whole plant based diet about 85% with a bit of chicken, oily fish, eggs and some yoghurt, again for health reasons ( I read Michael Greger’s book How not to die.) My husband and I cook all of our food at home from scratch, make our own sourdough bread, yoghurt and grow our own organic vegetables. But maintaining my weight is still the more powerful driver.

      From the course I thought I needed to change this so that the non-weight benefits were more important and powerful. Are you saying that for me you don’t think that this is necessary?

      As an aside now that I have a normal BMI it is STILL challenging to climb my fells. But I love it and it feeds my non religious soul. Wanting to climb them was an important motivator for me lose my weight in the first place.

      Kind regards

    • #10426


      I think I’m more concerned with your “need to get things right, aka perfect”.

      What I understand is that for you holidays are when you do your overeating, and for this holiday period you’d like to do some, but less than you’ve done previously. Maybe a lot less. I hope I’ve got that bit right.

      If so, what I suggest is that as you go through these holidays and you encounter stronger and more frequent feelings and thoughts of desire (coming from your expectations of overeating due to it being a holiday) if you can identify non-weight reasons to eat less, you may well do better with this goal.

    • #10428

      I wonder as well, Judith, if for much of what you describe as being based on weight and size are actually significant non-weight based motivations. Things such as avoiding dementia and diabetes, having a lot of energy to climb those fells (how wonderful!), feeling strong and so on. I would say that those things depend as much on the quality and quantity of what you eat, as much as being slim or achieving a particular number on the scales. Just a thought!

    • #10429

      Hi Gillian,

      Yes you are right most of my overeating occurs during holiday periods and my intention over these next two weeks or so is to overeat less – and I probably am being a little bit over ambitious but if I eat 30-40% less I will see this as a real breakthrough. For at least the last 3 or 4 years. I often make elaborate detailed plans to not overeat at all, defining all sorts of rules and giving myself a good talking etc and then the on the first day of the holidays I would say ‘What the hell’ and eat anything and everything that takes my fancy.

      So the approach this year is already different, and because I have a new strategy at my disposal that I have already found is working really well, I am feeling more confident. This year I have the red pen and the black pen – so my only ‘rule’ is that when I have an AD is choose one or the other. This together with knowing that whatever I choose is in no way fixed – 5 minutes later I can change my mind – is incredibly and unexpectedly liberating.

      Only time will tell but I am hopeful because for the last few weeks I have been doing something I have never done I am eating moderately. I am certainly not being perfect and I don’t catch every AD. I also suspect that sometimes I am being a good little complier but because I see the choice as to either feed or feel the desire rather that to eat or not to eat, it is not about of being good or bad, I think that this is happening less and less. And when I choose to feel the desire, I am enjoying being curious about it. It is a subtle, slippery little beast and hard to identify other than a vague level of discomfort and some salivation in my mouth. Maybe over Christmas it will show itself in all it’s glorious, technicolour and if it does I will certainly use your suggestion of trying to identify some non weight benefits to help me choose to eat less. In writing this I realise that I possibly have found one – by feeling the AD I get the satisfaction of knowing that I am controlling my AD rather my AD controlling me and that is a good thing as I definitely don’t like to be beaten. I am like a dog with a bone and will keep trying, again and again until I succeed.

      Anyway, with regard to my comment about my need to get this right, aka perfect. This was a little tongue in check, I do have some perfectionist tendencies particularly with food and housework(!) but you are helping me change this Gillian. It is definitely not something I want to hang on to and what I have learnt already is I don’t need to be perfect to get the results I want. Since the beginning of November my weight has been incredibly stable without counting a single calorie or a gram of carbs. This is a FIRST for me. In the past as soon as I stopped closely monitoring everything I ate I would gain weight – after six weeks this could easily be 10-14lbs. So to actually weigh a 1lb less is nothing short of a miracle.

      So over the coming weeks I am sure I will get sucked into a chaotic spiral or crash into the rocks of rigidity but for the moment I am enjoying charting this new calmer course. And the more familiar I get with it the easier it will be to find the way back when I lose my way.

      Thanks again Gillian and apologies for this being so long.. but the process of writing this has really clarified my thinking and what I am really feeling.

    • #10430

      Louise, thank you again for your feedback. The way I see it is that the number on the scale in itself it is not important, it is much more about what it means I can do. If all I cared about was the number and fitting in my jeans then I know I would never have maintained my weight loss as well as I have. I definitely fight to be able to run keeping pace with my friends and to walk my fells. To do this I not only maintain my weight but I do strength workouts ( which I don’t particularly enjoy) to build leg and core strength so that I keep injuries to a minimum.

      But I know that when I am in the throws of an AD it the most often the number on the scale that I want next day that influences whether I choose to feed or feel the desire. Not always, but most of the time. I have chosen to have a salad over a sandwich for example because sometimes the bread makes me feel bloated, and after eating a slice of buttercream extravaganza (aka as birthday cake) and suffering a major sugar high I definitely intend to body swerve ‘foods’ like that in the future.

      So I definitely intend to work on my non weight motivation and would be interested in hearing how your thoughts changed in this area as you progressed through the course. Can you remember what made you choose to feel the AD at the beginning versus now.

      Thanks again.

    • #10431

      Interesting question Judith that made me ponder.

      I think a big thing for me was really stopping and paying attention to the AD, because sometimes it would be very subtle – just a fleeting thought – and then I would sort of automatically think, ‘Oh, I can’t have that’; or ‘I shouldn’t eat that’; or even just ‘I won’t eat that’ and then justify that compliance by referring to non-weight motivation, such as sleeping better, or a reduction in arthritic pain and tinnitus (both of which were, and are, real). So I wasn’t really working through the AD, but hoping that non-weight benefits would get me where I wanted to be.

      That only took me so far, and I found that wasn’t quite the right way to go about it: it was only when I really stopped and attended to the AD that it started to mean anything. On the mp3, Gillian talks about how AD feels physically, where it is in the body, and I found that helped me a lot in ‘staying with’ the desire, instead of these fleeting prohibitive thoughts.

      Often, my AD was in my mouth, as you might expect, but sometimes it was definitely my head, my chest or my whole body. That was interesting to notice, and helped me to pause and attend to those physical sensations, and genuinely accept them as an alternative to whatever it was I wanted to eat addictively (in fact, those sensations of yearning weren’t half as bad or scary as I had feared). And it was only after I had experienced the discomfort and longing of the AD, and accepted it as a choice, that I then thought about my non-weight benefits. So once I was clear of the AD, I’d think, ‘Oh, it was so much easier to walk up the hill this morning’; or ‘Oh, it’s so nice to have a clear head when I wake up.’

      I often wrote my non-weight benefits down, in the evenings, whether I’d had a good day or not. And they were benefits, so I tried to express them positively, so ‘I didn’t have a migraine today, so I was able to plant some bulbs’; or ‘I got loads of work done because I didn’t keep stopping to stock up on snacks.’ Or, on a day when I’d made not such good choices ‘Crikey, my tinnitus is bad today, I bet it was that bowl of porridge and syrup I had for breakfast’!

      Like you, I wasn’t hugely overweight anyway, because I walk a lot, but I had gained some weight after breaking my leg last year. Normally, I’d have dieted to try and shift that extra weight, but I didn’t diet at all. I knew that my problem was with eating, not with my weight. I wore a series of large tunics and loose trousers every day for months and months. I didn’t weigh myself, look in the full-length mirror or step on the scales. I just kept on writing down those non-weight benefits, and noticing when addictive eating interrupted my enjoyment of those.

      I have certainly lost weight (the tunics and trousers are looser than ever) but I barely think about that at all. Just being able to go through the days without even thinking about stopping to snack, and having more energy, and enjoying my meals and not feeling that any food is off limits is a great non-weight benefit that I really would not want to lose sight of.

      Sorry for the essay! I hope it helps. Sharing on this forum was really brilliant for me when I was getting to grips with it all.

      • #10432

        Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this. I really do appreciate it and has given me much to ponder on. I certainly recognise the almost automatic compliance reaction to fleeting AD. But also like you I am not afraid of my AD I think in part because I confronted it many times when I quit drinking. And I also keep in mind a question that my husband asked me – ‘what would happen if you didn’t drink?’. My response was nothing terrible. And my experience is that AD is definitely bearable, on a scale of 1-10 with gall bladder pain being a 10, I would say it is a 2/3.

        I can’t imagine myself letting go, though, of my attachment to my weight and size to the extent that you have. I can certainly see that I am attributing too much importance to the scales. And I recognise that this behaviour is driven by fear. The scales reassure me that I haven’t lost control in the same way that checking my bank account reassures me that I haven’t overspent. Are there others things I could use, yes of course, like which notch on my belt I am using, what my 5K time is like, but I am not sure why these would be better. Are there better ways to know I am in control?

        Anyway, I will reflect more on your email and on ways to assess whether I am in control of eating or not.

        Many thanks again.

    • #10433

      I can understand why you would feel fear, as you experienced morbid obesity in the past Judith. So it wouldn’t be surprising for you to fear that happening again, and therefore needing to keep very tight control over your eating. Of course, as you know, that leads to a denial of choice, and therefore rebellion, so maybe thinking in terms of smoothing out the highs and lows could be a way forward.

      I know I eat more on some days than others, but not in a binge/diet pattern as I used to sometimes – my binges could actually last for several days or even weeks in the past, followed by dieting, but now I eat a bit more on some days, just through a normal pattern of eating what I want and what’s available. My ‘normal eating’ friends do this, so it was something I really wanted to be able to do, and it has just happened, without me really trying. When I’m deciding whether to eat something, I think about the consequences for my health (migraines, arthritis, general fatigue, tinnitus), – it doesn’t really occur to me to think what it might do to my shape or size anymore.

      Such an interesting discussion! I’m still learning!

    • #10435

      I agree this is a really great discussion – there is something really powerful about writing down your thoughts, it brings real clarity and learning. So thanks Louise I am really enjoying this 😀.

      So before coming on this course, I was hanging on by my fingertips. The dimensions of my self made prison was 1600-1800 calories wide and 120-150g carbs long and I there was a special filter that didn’t allow in any sugar. I believed that if I let myself out even briefly I would gain weight. And yeh this triggered very strong denial of choice and the subsequent huge rebellious reactions.

      But as soon as I started with ELO I stopped monitoring my calories and carbs and decided that controlling my AD was the way forward. This was not a baby step – it was a huge leap of faith as I had been logging my food intake in apps like MyFitnessPal for most of the past eight years.

      As soon as I did this EVERYTHING got easier. My anxiety disappeared, my weight stabilised and this has happened using both pens. My perception is that I have actually chosen the red pen more than the black pen.

      Like you some days I eat more than others and the amount of AD I experience varies too but is it rare I don’t feel any, even it is just the desire to eat another medjool date. (I keep them in a box in my fridge, so whenever I go in my fridge I see them and try to justify eating them because the are full of fibre and good for my digestion😉). Other days I have repeated urges to eat – my husband’s mince pies for example, created some very strong AD which have chosen to feed and feel in varying amounts.

      So currently I feel as if I am successfully charting a course between chaos and rigidity. Yes I am overly attached to my weight and size which as you say is understandable because of my history and maybe over time I will learn to let this go.

      I think the next few weeks are going to be a really interesting time though, as I typically overeat lots during the Christmas period, and I am excited to see what my AD has in store for me. Whether I react by throwing out the black pen or I continue in the current vein. I feel quietly confident that I will continue behaving as I have the last few weeks, not least because I am discovering that I get a kick out looking my AD squarely in the eye and telling it to ‘bring it on’.

      But if I am wrong and my AD gets the better of me, I will pick myself up, reflect on my experience, extract as much learning as possible, knowing that there is always another day.

      Take care

    • #10440

      Wow! So much information Judith and Louise. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said Judith, about the scales and the fear of gaining weight. I’m still obese (just) but I was 2 stone heavier than I am now. Gradually over the last 5 years I’ve managed to lose 2 stone through compliance and restrictions and rules of various diets. But in the last 12 months I’ve maintained this weight through abstinence mainly due to sugar addiction and candida issues. Holidays are the worst for me as everything goes out of the window and I overeat even if I make myself ill.

      In May I decided to do this course. I was and still am sick of the self imposed rules I give myself. So I thought this would help me unpack my issues. But the fear of gaining weight was so strong after completing the course the first time that I returned to restrictions and rules, compliance and rebelling as a way to control my weight. I resisted working through my AD. I felt if I worked through it I couldn’t have what I wanted. So didn’t let myself work through it.

      So here I am back again. I know why this hasn’t worked for me so this time I’ll revisit the course and allow myself to work through my AD.
      Like Gillian said today, I will work on acceptance and look at non-weight motivation. I have to work on letting weight and appearance go. I’ve known this for awhile and am taking steps to focus on health issues rather than scales and numbers. I’m determined at 57 years old to start living my life without the scales ruling me.

      I like the fact Judith you are very active in your fell walking and weightlifting. That’s one thing I really want to do…improve my fitness. I am going to really try to do that.

      Great post..Thank you for sharing

      • #10441

        Dear Mo,

        the thing that struck me most about your post was ‘I resisted working through my AD. I felt if I worked through it I couldn’t have what I wanted. So didn’t let myself work through it’. This is not my reaction at at. What I WANT is to maintain my weight and keep myself as fit and as healthy for as long as I can. I see my desire to overeat and particularly eating sugar as an obstacle that is getting in the way of achieving my goals. So working through my AD is my path to REAL freedom.

        I can probably relate though to your thinking when I think about how I used to use to feel about booze. When I first acknowledged that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol the idea that I would have to give it up pushed me into a complete meltdown. But very slowly and gradually (I’m talking 17 years) I realised that the pleasure I got from drinking alcohol was completely illusionary. One very powerful exercise I did was get into a relaxed state and then to imagine watching a video of myself ‘enjoy’ a typical night drinking. I saw myself sitting on the couch watching TV, getting up regularly to get another glass of wine. As the night wore on I gradually got drunk, until I passed out, still on the couch snoring. Nobody watching this would see a woman having a good time the reality was quite the opposite.

        So perhaps you need to observe yourself eating the foods you love and don’t want to give up. Do as Gillian urges and get curious about how it really makes you feel. If you do get pleasure, how strong is it, how long does it last. What are the consequences, how powerful are they, how long do they last. Evaluate whether it was really worth it. Do this a few times and see what you discover.

        Also, try working through your AD a few times, again really paying attention to how you feel. Remember just because you do this once it DOESN’T mean you have to do this all the time. The choice is yours and always will.

        Lastly just be kind to yourself.
        Take care

    • #10442

      Thank you Judith for your response and insight. Yes where you say alcohol I’d put sugar (as in chocolate, biscuits, cake, ice cream). I am addicted to sugar. So the intensity of the feeling makes me resist working through my AD.
      Last night for example I overate on biscuits. Today all my joints hurt and I feel like I’m hungover. So was that few minutes of pleasure worth it. An emphatic NO.

      So yes I do want to experiment with working through my AD. I need to remember your visualisation and picture myself the next day feeling like I am right now. Then I will start to make the necessary changes. Sometimes I take the easiest path at the time which is to allow the overeating, especially during holiday times when you’re trying to join in and be sociable.
      I think I will start experimenting this week. There is so much festive food around me but I can choose when and how much if any to have fully accepting the consequences.

      Thank you again Judith. It’s good to know I’m not on my own.

    • #10443

      Delighted to read this interaction between Mo and Judith today – a rich conversation.

      This morning I started thinking that this problem with weighing yourself, Mo, is more of a problem coming from your reluctance to acknowledge your freedom of choice about what you eat. You say (above) about the desire,

      “I felt if I worked through it I couldn’t have what I wanted. So didn’t let myself work through it.”

      That is a big problem and one that can only be solved by fully grasping free choice. You may remember from Week 5 that a compelling addictive mindset will be in place to provide the freedom to overeat when it is denied. I’m now thinking that you getting on the scales provides you with that mindset, maybe with a few different versions.

      For example, the scales say you lost a bit of weight, so the automatic mindset response is: “I’m ahead of the game so it’s okay to eat a bit more today”. Or, even though you’ve been “very good” recently, the scales say you haven’t lost any, so your mindset response is: “what the heck, this isn’t working so I might as well eat”. Either way, you’ve got a key to get you out of the cell of deprivation.

      These might not be the exact words, but I wanted to put this to you as you’re the one who know if it fits for you. If so, your first move is to face up to choice (webinar replay for week 4 is best, and two pens demo) and to challenge your addictive mindset. Even getting on the scales for a while in order to do that!!!

      • #10483

        Thank you Gillian for your reply.

        I can relate to the mindset response to weighing on the scales. I have experienced both scenarios.
        1) oh I’ve lost weight, I’m doing ok I can have a treat!
        2) I’ve stayed the same and I’ve been ‘good’ and followed my plan – this isnt working, I might as well eat what I want
        3) I’ve put on weight, well that’s because I’ve eaten xyz I can’t do this, I’m a failure I might as well eat!

        These are all real situations that I have been through whenever I’ve restricted my eating. You are absolutely right. I’ve denied my freedom of choice.

        Over this last week my stomach has been a bit off and I found myself really acknowledging my freedom of choice. “I can eat that but if I do I will feel ill”.
        Today has been the first day I’ve felt ok so I have eaten more but I have chosen freely. I decided not to have a sweet treat tonight. My husband was having one and normally I’d say oh yes, go on then I’ll have one. But this time I said no, I’m going to save it for tomorrow when I really want it. I recognised my decision as a huge positive step to freely choosing and working through my AD.
        Another thing I have learnt is that I can eat sugar….I CAN EAT SUGAR. I am not actually intolerant of it like I thought I was. The acknowledgement of saying yes I can eat it has allowed me to choose freely with no restrictions or denial.

        I don’t know if this makes sense but to me it’s a significant change.

    • #10451

      Hi Mo,

      the other thing that struck me about your post is that I do not have a clear idea of what you DO want. Do you want to lose weight, be pain free, get fit, eat less during the holidays or continue to eat biscuits? I would go back and redo the very first exercise of this course where you consider why you want to eat less AND write it down. There is definitely something about committing your thoughts to paper that is so much more powerful than just thinking them. What is it that Mo wants. Not what Mo thinks she should want but what she actually wants with all her heart. I think when you get this clear it will help you so much.

      Also, from my experience with alcohol, I was kept chained to my destructive behaviour for so long not because I really wanted to drink but because I believed I couldn’t cope with not drinking. I didn’t think I could stop. What I found was that when I looked my AD in the eye, it really wasn’t that scary .. and it got easier and easier, so that now I rarely have any AD. I lost absolutely nothing and gained so much.

      Best wishes

    • #10452

      One other thing Mo, I broke free from alcohol when I realised I got very little pleasure WHILST I was actually consuming it. Not next day when I was suffering from a hangover. When I run I love to feel the strength in legs as I kick off for the final sprint and when I finish I feel fab. I have never got that from booze or food.

    • #10484

      Thank you Judith for your replies.
      I intend to work through the course again and journal more in order to actually work out what I want. I know that the actual number on the scale is irrelevant and it is more about how I feel and my health. Also it is about self acceptance. I have a long way to go but for now I am taking my first step…No more ‘need to’ or ‘should do’ attitude or self talk because that isn’t choice, that’s rule based.

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