That question and quest energized me in ways I’d never before experienced. My motivation was no longer just about me. On behalf of myself and all those who struggled with obesity, I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about the permanent weight loss from the experts at this premiere obesity research program. So I attended their weekly classes religiously. I took every course they offered three times, memorizing and absorbing as much as I could about what they knew.
They primarily used a behavioral-education model and taught us their cutting-edge medical knowledge about weight loss and maintenance. They operated under the belief that if people just knew what foods to eat, what exercises to do, and what happened in their bodies, then they would do it. They taught us to reduce fat, increase complex carbohydrates, and balance calories in and out. This was just before the fat-free movement and their research would soon be used to market low-fat and fat-free versions of everyone’s favorite high fat foods. We learned all about exercise, calorie burning, and how muscle development impacted metabolism.
One of the instructions they gave us was to replace fat with fat free options. It was okay, they said, to have pancakes. But you should put syrup on them instead of butter.
Being diagnosed with hypoglycemia as a teenager made me suspect pancakes with syrup would not be great for my body. However, I ignored my own experience because they were the experts and I deeply wanted to believe they had all the right answers. I wanted to put all my trust in them so I would know exactly what to do to keep the weight off after the fast.
In this mind over body strategy, we were learning to feed ourselves by relying on our new intellectual knowledge. We learned how many calories to eat each day to maintain our new smaller body weight and how many calories we could burn off with exercise. They showed us charts and graphs, explaining that if we overate on Monday, then we needed to under-eat on Tuesday.
I put all my faith in their doctrine. I convinced myself they had all the answers I needed and I would do exactly as they said – eat a low fat, high complex carb diet, track and balance calories in with calories out – when the fast was over. But in the back of my mind were niggling thoughts, ‘Haven’t I always kind of known the math? Isn’t that just common sense? There must have been a reason I wasn’t able to do that before.’
Then came my first meal after the fast. After not eating even a single bite of food for 10 months, after losing 130 pounds, after reaching my goal weight, after being acknowledged as one of the program’s success stories – after all that – I sat down with my carefully chosen, impeccably prepared, first low fat healthy meal. It tasted terrible! And in an instant, cravings from 10 months of deprivation came through me like a tornado. My intellect was no match for the visceral demand for tasty, high fat food, and in just five short minutes it was as though the fast had never happened. I was in chaos again with eating.
Nothing I had learned in the lectures helped me deal with the craziness I felt inside. I was so scared. I had worked so hard at losing the weight and I was desperate to keep it off.
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