weight loss

When You Take Away Food From a Food Addict: or I Survived the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse

Just a thought: if you start a green smoothie cleanse/detox and you’re a food addict, when you remove the food, your addict will show up and wonder “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

To get the full picture of my experience, you may want to start at the beginning with my posts about my very imperfect start on Day One and continued adventures on Day Two 

Day One and Two completed, I thought things were going pretty good. I had gotten into a routine of making my smoothies for the day in the morning, planning out my snacks, making sure I had boiled eggs, and measured out my three liters of water.

My husband was out of town on business, and that made it easier to make good food choices – I didn’t have to worry about fixing him dinner, I could put away all the food that was tempting me, he wouldn’t bring home anything that would be tempting, and I wouldn’t have to smell anything that he was cooking. Easy-peasy.

As day three went on, the house was quiet. I ran a couple of errands, and realized how often I grab a snack here and there when I’m out and about. I resisted the urge.

I moved to a new town this past summer, and I had just returned from a trip back ‘home’, so I started thinking about how I missed my friends. I started to feel sad, and it was amplified because I knew my husband wouldn’t be home for a few days. I texted a couple of people, but they didn’t text me back. I felt so lonely. And I really wanted to eat sugar.

I hadn’t realized how much I use food as a distraction or comfort. I know that I do that, but I didn’t KNOW how much until I didn’t have that option. Each time I had a craving or really wanted to eat,  I stopped to ask myself WHY?

I wasn’t hungry – the smoothies on the cleanse were very filling, and I had the allowed snacks if I was hungry.

So for two days, day three and four, I became more and more depressed, lonely, distraught. I had to stop and look at what was going on – and realized . . .

This is what happens when you take food away from a food addict.

When you aren’t distracting yourself or comforting yourself with food, guess what? You actually have to FEEL. I had been avoiding feeling for longer than I realized. 


Photo credit Kirll Yankov – Creative Commons

When I was sharing my experience of the last ten days with someone recently, they asked me if I thought I was really a food addict. I started to back pedal, but then said, “Yes, I really do.” What is a food addict, or what does it mean to have a food addiction? Here are some guidelines found on Web, MD

Researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy have developed a questionnaire to identify people with food addictions.

Here’s a sample of questions that can help determine if you have a food addiction. Do these actions apply to you? Do you:

  • End up eating more than planned when you start eating certain foods
  • Keep eating certain foods even if you’re no longer hungry
  • Eat to the point of feeling ill
  • Worry about not eating certain types of foods or worry about cutting down on certain types of foods
  • When certain foods aren’t available, go out of your way to obtain them

There are schools of thought regarding the emotional and physical signs of food addiction and it’s relation to eating disorders, but this essay is about my personal experience, so I’m not going to delve into the science and psychology of it. You can google it.

For myself, when I am using food for something other than nourishment, compulsively using food as a distraction from physical or emotional pain, out of boredom, or as a replacement for dealing with stress, loneliness, or anger, then I am acting as a food addict. Other definitions include being unable to stop the compulsive behavior, despite negative consequences. Like weight gain, or health issues, or spending money.

So day three and four ended up to be a 48 hour meltdown. I felt bored and lonely and hopeless. I was ready to tell my husband that I can’t stay in this new town. What was I thinking moving here? Do you know how hard it is to meet people when you don’t have school age children and you aren’t working? I have met some people here, but none I know well enough to call in the middle of a meltdown. I was afraid I’d cry on the phone. It was a tough couple of days. My husband came home and I cried on his shoulder, and then I went to church and cried on the pastor’s shoulder. He promised to connect me with the other two women in the church that are my age (its a small church).

But I stuck to the cleanse. Partly because I didn’t want to fail again, partly because I know it was due to my sugar withdrawals, and most of all, because I want to be healthy. The despair waned, and I made some healthy choices in the middle of it. I talked to my husband about how I was feeling. I found a women’s group at a large local church that is specifically for people who have recently moved to town. (The group had already been meeting for a few weeks, but I told them I was desperate so they let me in.)  I connected with someone I would like to be better friends with and made a date to get together.I texted my friends back home and received their love and support. I asked people to pray for me.

As for the rest of the cleanse, I finished all 10 days. I got a horrible headache on day 8, but I wasn’t hungry and the smoothies tasted so good that once I got past the cravings it was actually pretty easy. Although they say most people lose 10-15 lbs, I lost 8 lbs, but I am fine with that. I find now that I am over 50, I can’t just drink extra water and lose 5 lbs overnight like I used to.

I don’t feel tired, I don’t have a headache, I’m not bloated or gassy, my brain isn’t as foggy, and my joints aren’t as stiff. I haven’t had sugar, processed foods, caffeine, or alcohol for 10 days, and my body is loving it. Also, as someone who had diverticulitis so severe I required a bowel resection, my gut is feeling GREAT!

Now the challenge is what to do next. Today is the first day off the cleanse, so the book suggests adding whole foods gradually over the next three days. My meals today were two green smoothies, two hard-boiled eggs, cashews, and a dinner of spaghetti squash and homemade marinara without meat. (Here is the recipe for the marinara sauce.) It tasted absolutely delicious! I started to go for seconds out of habit but I stopped and asked myself and if I was hungry. I wasn’t, so I chose not to eat seconds. spaghetti

I plan limit my caffeine to one cup of coffee a day, and to stay off sugar, soda, and processed foods and continue to lose weight.

I am really glad I did this cleanse. Not just for the physical detox, but for the emotional detox as well. This was a good re-set for my body and my heart.

Click here to buy the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse book  (I do not receive any compensation, this is just a personal recommendation for this book)smoothie 1

Hope For the Hopelessly Undisciplined: We Are Seasonal People

I sat across from my counselor and I took a deep breath. My throat tightened, like a hand was reaching around my windpipe and slowly squeezing.

“I don’t know how to do life.”

“I can see where I am, and in my mind’s eye, I can see where I want to be, but I have no idea who to get there. It seems like I try and I try and nothing ever changes. I never change. I’m so tired of trying. I can’t do it any more.”

He stared at me for a while. (He is one of those people to whom discipline comes more easily. I am pretty sure at this point I am beyond hope, especially from someone who doesn’t seem to struggle with daily disciplines.)

Counselor: Do you really think that you have never changed? Are you the same person you were in your 20’s?

Me: (I turned 50 this year.) Oh, heck, no! Thank God I’m not the person I was in my 20’s! I learn a little with each cycle, but it just seems like I’m struggling with the same things over and over and over again.

Counselor: What is it you think you need to do?

Me: (sigh) Stop eating sugar. Eat healthy. Exercise. Drink water. Be organized. Manage my time.  The list is endless. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. I make lists, I make plans, I start out great – for a while. Then I slowly lose steam, and finally everything comes crashing down around me, only to remind me that I’ve failed at life once again. (and now my throat has a lump the size of a tennis ball and the tears are stinging my eyes).

photo credit: Kristin Meador

photo credit: Kristin Meador

It doesn’t help that I am married to a man who is the perfect example of discipline. He exercises and has his morning quiet time regularly – he rarely misses a day of either. He is the kind of person who exercises when they are sick. What is wrong with this guy? He exercises faithfully every day, while I will make a check list for myself with exercise and weight loss goals, and give myself gold stars when I make the smallest step towards those goals. He picks up his socks and puts his clothes away, while mine find themselves in piles at the end of the bed, and I am smelling them to see if I can wear them for one more day.

What kind of life is this? And why can’t I be more disciplined? I try, I really do. And I do well for days, weeks, sometimes even months. But then I get sidetracked, or bored, or something more shiny comes along . . .

Counselor: No – what is it that you REALLY NEED TO DO? None of the things you mentioned are moral issues.

When it comes down to the very core of your life, what is important? What do you need to do?

Me: Love God, and love people.

Counselor: And are you doing those things?

Me: Yes. I am. (I really am. Not perfectly, but I am loving God and people.)

But I feel like I should be doing all of these other things . . .

And therein lies the problem. That pressure of the ‘shoulds’. Those things we feel like we ‘should’ be doing. Who told us we should be doing those things? And why do we feel pressure, guilt, even shame if we don’t?

Counselor: What if you look at it another way? What if you set aside the should’s that are imposed on you, and look at how God made you unique.

You are like Old Faithful – you start with a dream or a goal, and you build up and up and then have this beautiful, creative explosion – for a while. Then the water subsides, and there is a time of quiet until it begins to build up again.

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

Me: Hmmmmm. That’s true. But I like the explosion part. It’s beautiful and wonderous, and people are watching and cheering. I don’t like the part when the water subsides, though. The ground is broken and cracked and the air smells like sulfur. And the people walk away.

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

Counselor: What if you reframe it?

What if you are a seasonal person? You have Spring when the buds begin to blossom, and Summer when you grow and thrive, then Autumn when the growth slows and you prepare for Winter,  your season of rest, so you can grow and blossom again.

Old Faithful would run out of steam (literally!) if it were going 100% of the time.”

I thought about that for a long time. It didn’t set well with me, not at first. I didn’t like it. I would much rather be slow and steady.

Or would I?

Actually, I think that might be rather boring. But then that internal argument started. I am so tired of starting strong and usually not finishing well. I have always been that way, and I have learned my limits. After a big project, I need down time. After a busy week at work, I need at least half a day just lounging around, recharging.

I told my counselor I thought he was right, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.

The next day I had lunch with my friend who is wired very much like me. I told her what my counselor said about being a seasonal person. She said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard! Doesn’t that just give you a release, a sense of freedom, that it’s okay to just be who you are?”

I had to agree, and as I let it sink in that I am who I am, I began to appreciate that I am uniquely made. I am not saying that I should not strive to be more disciplined, more organized, more structured. But I am not going to beat myself up for not meeting a standard of performance that does just not fit me.

When I am focused, I am very focused, and can accomplish more in a week than many people will in one month. And that is why I need to time to rest and recharge, to get ready for the next burst. The next season. The next eruption. And I am learning to appreciate the winters. I am learning that they are not dark and barren, but they are peaceful and regenerating, and that without those times of rest I would not survive. It’s also very freeing to know that those down times are a necessary part of how I’m wired, and I don’t have to feel guilty, as long as I don’t wallow in them. And I’m going to treasure my seasons of focus and not waste a moment.

I am a seasonal person, and that’s not just okay – it’s beautiful.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

Photo credit: Pixabay









photo credit: Sean Drillinger Creative Commons

photo credit: Sean Drillinger Creative Commons

Apparently my search for balance is out of balance. (What a shocker, I know). So much has been processing in the back of my mind, sometimes I feel like I am paralyzed. On the outside, I just keep try to keep on going. I haven’t journaled in so many days that I can’t even find my journal under the pile of clean laundry overflowing at the end of my bed, the laundry that silently mocks as it wonders if it will ever find its way home to the closet again. The other day the mind swirling almost became an anxiety attack. My most effective processing seems to be a stream of consciousness, so here is where I am at, in no particular order.

I could go on and on about my search for balance. For instance, stopping all sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and then stress/comfort eating when I was overwhelmed. (Tip: Weight Watchers desserts do not mean they are sugar-free. But red velvet ice cream sandwiches are damn good.) Deep breathing has been a great tool, and setting an alarm and deep breathing before I ever get out of bed has been helpful. There are good habits I have started, and other habits that I have held onto. But it all comes down to this:

Where am I heading? What is my goal?

In my quest to free myself from the all-or-nothing tendency, I have paved an unmarked path for myself.

I thought that if I only focused on the end goal, I would fall into that black-white thinking and not be able to focus on the baby steps needed to get there. But when  you have no clearly marked path, it is easier to get off track.

Have you ever been so foolish that you have forgotten the very basics? Like if you have no goal, you will certainly reach it. How can you run a race without a finish line in sight? DUH. I was reminded this week that I cannot keep my eye on the prize if I haven’t defined the prize.

So I’m processing this through differently. How can I look at things with BOTH important pieces in mind: the final goal, and the baby steps needed to get there?

So here I go (and truly, this is just me processing.You can come along for the ride if you like):

GOAL:  Eat healthy.

WHAT WILL THAT LOOK LIKE: Drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day, no soda or caffeine. Alcohol limited to no more than one drink each day on weekends only. Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (at least two of those vegetables), eating fish or seafood twice a week, vegetarian dishes twice a week, and red meat no more than once a week. Eliminate simple carbs (no white rice, white bread, white flour, etc) and eat complex carbs sparingly, focusing on whole grains. Eating snacks or small meals every 2-3 hours with one main meal each day (lunch or dinner, depending on the day). Do not after 7:30pm (or within three hours of bedtime.

BABY STEPS: Stop all sugar (baked good and sweets), caffeine, and alcohol (except as mentioned above). Increase water intake. Eat more fruits and particularly vegetables. It’s hard for me to think in any other baby steps, but having the goal set clearly above me helps me have a structure for my daily decisions.

GOAL: Get active.

(A couple of years ago, I had started ‘running’ (walk/jogging intervals, actually) and I really loved it. I mean REALLY. Until I injured my knee and was diagnosed with arthritis in that knee and was told I was not allowed to run ever again and would eventually need a knee replacement.)

WHAT THAT WILL LOOK LIKE: At least 30-45 minutes of structured activity at least 5 days each week.This can include fast walking, water running, hiking, yoga, cardio at the gym, walking on the treadmill, etc

BABY STEPS: Structure and reserve time in my day to commit to activity. I am still trying to figure this out. Ideally, I would like to do this in the morning, but I am NOT a morning person. If I wait until after work, I am more tired and less likely to commit. I need to start with 20 minutes each day and work up from there (starting with 15 minutes seems too lame). I have made an appointment to have gel injections in my knee to see if that decreases the pain. (I did have a meniscus repair surgery and some scarring removed, but it did not help as much as I had hoped). I also need to find a routine that works for me.

GOAL: Lose at least 6 pounds a month until I reach my weight loss goal of 80 pounds.

WHAT THIS WILL LOOK LIKE: I will be comfortable in my skin as a result of healthy eating and increased activity. I will have worked through the 12 steps (again) for my food addiction, and will not look to food for comfort in times of stress or pain. I will not be freaked out by not having my comfortable wall of weight around me.

BABY STEPS: To be truthful, losing the weight is not the issue. I have gained and lost this weight more times than I care to count. This issue is how I use food, and the emotional baggage that comes with being thin. This goes back to a history of physical and sexual abuse, and the unhealthy lesson I held onto of protecting myself by being heavy. So along with the eating and activity, I have some emotional work still to do.

GOAL: Daily structure

WHAT THIS WILL LOOK LIKE: Okay, this one is much harder. I am NOT a morning person. I have always been a night person, rarely ever going to bed before midnight. But in my mind’s eye I have a vision of what I want it to look like. I just don’t know if it’s practical, or even possible. It would basically mean changing my circadian rhythms, and is that going against how I was made? I don’t know, but I think I’m going to try. Here is my ideal: Get up at ____ o’clock and do a morning ritual: deep breathing, read my bible or something like Oswald Chambers, then journal my morning prayer. At the most this should take 30 minutes (5-7 deep breathing, 10 minutes reading, the rest journaling my prayers); then 30-45 minutes of physical activity (sometimes I also like to continue my contemplative prayer during this time). Then have breakfast and get ready for work or for the rest of the day, if not a work day.

BABY STEPS: I guess I can just try this schedule. The tough part will be training myself to go to bed early, or earlier. As the time change catches up with me, I’m sure it will be easier. I will just have to put my phone or computer down at night and turn off the television. And develop a more structured bedtime routine that should not include screen time, but reading and journaling. Which brings me to my next goal . . .

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my goals on the path to balance, which may or may not include: decreasing distractions, getting my house in order, finding a spiritual tribe/community, becoming as a minimalist, and progressing as a writer (including monetizing my hospice blog)