Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My confession

Since my age was counted in single digits, I've been dieting. If I assembled in one place all the pounds I've lost (and found again), it would sink a whale. I scan food packaging for terms like "low fat," "sugar free," or "no calories." I record how many glasses of water I drink and how many miles I walk. I weigh myself week in and week out in special pre-weighed "weigh in clothes." (I even know my belt weights 3.4 ounces, how's that for detail?) I speak to audiences around the country on the topic and, of course, I write this column, which is printed in several cities.

Everyone who knows me - and I mean EVERYONE - understands I am a professional dieter. There must therefore be at least a glimmer of recognition inherent in that knowledge that I just might have a few "issues" about eating.

So why do I try to keep it secret when I slip up on my program? It's as if by not admitting my error, no one will notice my weight problem. Granted, since I'm currently at my (mostly) correct weight, some might be shocked at what I can pack away in a binge. But - can I be honest? When I sported a 44-inch waist and topped 250 pounds - someone, somewhere, might have had an itsy-bitsy inkling that I could be squirreling away a few tortilla chips now and then.

Yet, I ate in secret. I hid food in my bedroom (and car... and closet... and dresser... and - well, you get the image). If the last slice of cake was missing - and no one else was around - I'd still shake my chocolate smudged face boldface denying 'twas I who finished it.

"Gremlins must have eaten it," my mother would say.

I'd nod my head as if chubby, unworldly beings really did sneak into the kitchen and make off with the baked goods. She said nothing else. I remained silent.

Here's the thing. Even now, admitting I overeat makes me ashamed of my weakness. My critical parent screams at my compliant kid (therapists will love that sentence), "You're a failure! What's wrong with you?"

So I deny the deed. The result? Guilt for being dishonest replaces the shame.

Either option inspires more eating to medicate the pain. If guilt and shame were motivational, I'd be bone skinny.

My way out is to own my problem, boldly and upfront. Therefore, at the risk of bursting your bubble, I stand before you to announce I slip up. I make mistakes. I err. I'll probably do it again. Hard to believe I'm not perfect, huh?

Please understand that. I'll do the same for you.

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