Thursday, 11 October 2007

The psychology of weight

[IMPORTANT NOTE: This post should not be taken as something to get worried about. I'm exploring the topic. Don't take it literally.]

For the first time in my life, people I know are joking about me becoming anorexic. They ARE joking, of course. Anyone who knows me will find the very idea ridiculous. However, for the first time in my life I can sort of understand how it happens.

This year, I've experienced a mindset at times when it feels like there's a wall in my mind stopping me from crossing. Whether it's the block of chocolate-covered turkish delight in the pantry, or the chicken parmigiana on the restaurant menu, I have found the will to refuse. But in many ways it's more than that. To even consider eating these things can feel like an absolute taboo, like something that will ruin your life forever.

Psychology is an interesting thing. I don't know where I suddenly found the strength to change my eating habits. The decision came out of the blue: suddenly it was made and I was counting everything that I ate. For me, the formulaic and ultra-rigid approach worked well. The fact that everything had to add up to a specific number gave me the reason I needed and the framework to pick and choose. I have likened it to playing tetras.

But now, for all intents and purposes, it is time to stop. Or is it? This is where the mind is strange. All along I have said I would be happy to lose 20kg. I have now lost 25kg, which is just 2kg shy of the ultimate goal. On the one hand I have friends and family telling me it's time to stop. On the other, I have myself thinking that it would be good to see whether I could knock off those last 2kg. I now no longer doubt that I can do it. But should I?

In many ways my will is waning. More and more frequently, I'll stop counting half-way through the week, giving it up as a lost cause (although not falling off the wagon completely). Cake is now experienced more frequently (although in limited portions). But ultimately I can still see plenty of room for improvement . . . and so the temptation to keep going sticks around. As the weight keeps coming off each week, it gets rather addictive!

So I see the next challenge as being maintaining a consistent weight. Logic says it can't keep falling, so at some point I have to decide to stop. But to return to former eating habits would be a disaster. What then can I tolerate? How often can I eat cake? Can I ever have chicken parma again? Will I be able to phase in some things and know how much is enough? . . . And this is where I can see how people get anorexic. When you're on a moving train, how do you jump off?

Fortunately, I like food far too much for this to be an issue. Throughout this entire process I have not stopped eating dessert. Crappy low-fat chocolate mousses they may have been, but they have been dessert!

And here's some more psychology for you. Someone commented today that they thought I seemed much happier and content with my life these days, and attributed it to the 'new me'. I was a bit taken aback by this, because I don't really feel much has changed emotionally. (I now realise this is a common assumption from many people.) Anyway, I have been pondering the comment and have come to the conclusion that it is far more likely that my present state of good cheer is due to finishing the first draft of my novel!


  1. Although I am yet to see for myself the new Ellen, I am totally impressed by what you have achieved. But, I must admit what you have written also worries me a bit. However, I do believe that if you have the strength to lose the weight, you will also have the strength to maintain it. And of course, you have my support, even if it is from afar...

  2. No, no, no, you misunderstand!! This is purely hypothetical. I AM NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING ANOREXIC. NEVER EVER WILL BE. But I find my changed thought processes (and attitude to food) fascinating.

  3. i have now added a NOTE at the head of the post.

  4. The bit about being happier interests me. I am on the same journey as you know (albeit lagging behind!) I can't see myself being happier at my goal weight other than in a superficial way ie being able to buy better clothes. I think people assume that if you are overweight you are unhappy. Sometimes I think being bigger makes me invisible (strange I know) and as I get smaller the world see the real me, the one that was there all along. Not sure if this makes any sense or not.

    I know you are not anorexic and I totally get where you are coming from. Do what feels right for you. Either way you're looking damn fine!

  5. Yeah it's interesting isn't it. if I feel happier about anything, it's the achievement, the ability to 'conquer the mountain'. _That_ has me impressed with myself. There may be some social occasions when I'm aware of being slimmer, but most of the time I feel no different.