To Whom It May Concern

February 2nd. 2012

Dear Indulgence Pastry Shop and Café,

I am writing to let you know the effect your bakery has had on me over the past few weeks.  You are very conveniently located right across the street from where I practice yoga, and your bright red sign catches my eye while driving to work as well. I have enjoyed every minute of walking through your front doors while the scent of cinnamon, yeast and chocolate overwhelm my senses.  Exiting your store however, has left me silently comparing myself to a recovering alcoholic walking into a local bar.

I was first introduced to your establishment when my employer was gifted a box of your oatmeal raisin cookies.  She loved them so much, she recently began asking me to drive to your store so that I can pick up some of those ‘wonderfully crunchy on the outside yet chewy on the inside bundles of love’.  Giving her order to one of your staff members is easy.  The girls are always pleasant.  However, I have issues when I am asked the question that always follows:  ‘Will there be anything else?’  That is when the proverbial cookie begins to crumble. 

Lately, I have been unable to say, ‘No thank you, that will be all.’  Instead, my eyes fixate on the soft and buttery sugar cookies that look like they’ve just stepped out of Martha Stewart’s kitchen.  They are always in the window casing, sitting pretty with pale yellow, blue and pink icings just waiting for me to call their name.  My eyes then shift to the large white boxes of Day Old Breakfast Sweets that never taste like their a day old; they simply taste like More.  When I ask to peek inside one of the boxes (which has a sign marked $6.95 per box) I gaze upon a loaf of Monkey Bread drizzled with a cinnamon sugar glaze, 2 blueberry muffins, 2 blackberry Danish, and three chocolate cream cheese croissants. 

I am ashamed to admit it, but the box came home with me.  I knew better.  I know better.  But I talked myself into believing that I had a plan: I would simply divide each pastry in half, then into separate baggies and put them all into the freezer which happens to be inconveniently located in my garage.  I could then indulge myself a bit at a time like a normal person.  That didn’t happen, however.  I found myself walking to and from the freezer so often I think I wore a path in the floor. Before long my stash had vanished, leaving me feeling embarrassed, a bit humiliated, and a lot heavier than I was just 3 weeks ago.  I should have stopped as soon as I began hiding your goods so that my husband couldn’t see what I was doing to myself.  Instead, I went back to your café for more.

Being an emotional eater with stress being my biggest trigger, the past few weeks have brought on a massive nutritional breakdown.  I went completely out- of-control and used your desserts as a form of mind-numbing medication.  Mr. Baker, I love your pastry shop and café.  Too much.  Which is why I can no longer afford to give you my business.  In my years of maintenance I’ve managed to say no to countless desserts and second helpings literally hundreds of times.  I’ve gained the knowledge of what it means to exercise as much as I consume so that I can maintain my weight.  But sadly, I haven’t been doing that lately.  Instead, I’ve been feeding my anxiety with your decadent foods which could quickly ruin all my years of hard work. 

No worries to you Mr. Baker; you’ll never lay eyes upon this letter.  I am instead writing it for myself because I have a certain responsibility to fight for my body and my health, even though I’ve been doing a very good job at ignoring that.  Secrets can be dangerous things, which is why I’m posting this letter on my blog.  Now that my secret is open to all who read it, I can no longer pretend that things are fine when clearly, they are not. 

Keep doing what you do, Mr. Baker. Keep serving to those who can sit back satisfied after one cookie and a cup of coffee. I, on the other hand will be marking a red X on my calendar at day’s end, serving as my visual reminder that I have survived my second day of being back in control. Tomorrow when my head is clearer still, I hope to be the slightest bit stronger than I am today, learn something from my recent bender, and once again, work on finding other ways to calm my nerves. 

Sincerely,

Ellen, a fat girl wearing thin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Three bloggers were at work this past week, helping me in ways they don’t even realize. It was because of these three that I didn’t head back to that damnable bakery for another box of day-olds. 

The first: on January 27th I told someone what I was doing.  Munchberry (for better or for worse) happened to be on the receiving end of my confession.  Her response, being both kind yet firm, was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. 

Then, on January 30th  I came across Karen’s blog, where the following words hit me square on top of the head. I have since copied them so that I can refer back to them:

  • The words you choose create your reality.
  • You only need enough guilt to prevent you from torturing and killing other people.
  • Dieting is a Band-Aid for a deep wound.
  • Change occurs in the moment.
  • Abusing food cuts our heads off from our bodies.
  • Criticism (from others or from oneself) never motivates.
  • It’s not the food that hurts you, it’s the self-loathing.
  • If you keep saying, “I can’t eat ________” or “If I eat ________, I’ll never stop” or “I can’t have ________ in the house or I’ll eat it all” those things will be true.
  • Once you label yourself, you look for experiences that will prove it.
  • In order to protect ourselves from outside criticism, we start doing it to ourselves.

Finally, on January 31st I read this post, written by Cammy. It served as my reminder that I will never be perfect, and allowed me the freedom to write today’s ‘letter’ without shame.   I will always have failures both big and small, but thanks to Cammy’s post I am learning that I can Fail Better. 

25 thoughts on “To Whom It May Concern

  1. Sable@SquatLikeALady

    Isn’t Munchberry great?? I love her.

    I love that you posted this letter, though. First of all — amongst us younger bloggers, many of whom have never been overweight, much less obese, there is this attitude of, “If you say ‘no’ to dessert, you’re restricting!!” That is simply not true. I say this as someone who has restricted myself down to 80lbs. Because I was obese and overweight for my entire life, I do have to be mindful of what I eat because my body’s set point is higher than that of someone who is naturally my weight. And…there’s quite a bit of research emerging that shows that a previously obese person who has lost a significant amount of weight has a number of biological mechanisms working against them to actually extract more calories from the food they eat, etc.

    Anyway that’s my tirade. I say YAY YOU for posting this, recognizing what you were doing, and, now, holding yourself accountable.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thanks Sable for reading today. I appreciate your point of view on this. Figures that we have biology working against us, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  2. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    {{{Ellen}}} I agree with Roxie…that is huge.

    Something else I learned at Green Mountain is that we often send in the (inner) child to do what is better left to the (inner mother) woman. Kindly parenting ourselves is tricky, but worth it. It’s something I am learning to do for myself.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I need to work on that too, Karen. I do need to learn to let go of this frustration I feel of backsliding. I may just have to accept this as part of who I am, instead of battling to make myself acceptable to others.

      Reply
  3. Caron

    I loved this post! Three words stood out to me immediately and they were “like a normal person”. My first Weight Watcher leader called those “normal” people civilians. I tend to think of them that way too. They just don’t understand.

    Right now I’m doing fairly well with this maintenance thing, except for not getting in enough exercise. Tomorrow I could be chowing down on something I have no business even buying. Day by day we work to keep things in control.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I do like that word, Caron: civilians. That is a perfect description. They do. not. know. They think they do. But they don’t.
      I’m so glad that you are flowing with the maintenance part. You’re right – day by day. It is so nice to know that there are out there that do understand the nature of the beast. Thank you for that.

      Reply
  4. Cindy

    Ellen, excellent and honest post. The world is not perfect and neither are we, but seeing that it is possible to find resolution during those times when we stumble and, more important, be able to identify why its happening is what I would characterize as real success. Like you, Karen’s 1/30 post also resonated with me. I also saved it to contemplate it, along with my affirmations, on a regular basis. Good stuff!

    take care,
    Cindy

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you, Cindy. I just wish I could identify why it’s happening a little bit sooner – say, several pastries sooner? lol I kid you not, my brain has been taught to go into dead-mode. My anxiety takes over and I don’t think logically in that moment. Something I need to work on.

      Reply
  5. Michele @ Within Reach

    The thing that saddens me the most about your post and every similar post out there is that there is a sense of failure and shame over wanting a sweet treat… and having a sweet treat. I know. I know. It’s about control and all of that. I get that, and I still think it’s all so sad.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I don’t really feel shame for wanting or having a sweet treat. The feeling of failure comes when I’ve eaten 3000 calories worth of sweet treats in less than 24 hours. That is where my shame comes from. And you’re right; it is sad, isn’t it? There should be another way.

      Reply
  6. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    Thank you for the mention. I’m so happy the post helped! I’m even happier that you don’t feel shame. All that really happened was that you learned what wasn’t going to work for you and built a way around it.

    Reply
  7. Denise

    ‘wonderfully crunchy on the outside yet chewy on the inside bundles of love’. The conflation of food and love/emotion is a red flag for me, and I see it all the time. Also the use of the language of drug addiction: “I went completely out- of-control and used your desserts as a form of mind-numbing medication.”

    I have discovered, for myself, that the language of drug addiction is entirely appropriate for certain foods, and abstaining from them completely removes the emotional connection. I thought I was an out-of-control emotional eater all my life until my personal trainer convinced me to give up grains for two weeks. It only took about 3 days for me to realize I did indeed have a real addiction to them (the fact that it took him 2 years to talk me into giving it a try should have been a clue, in retrospect). Although it took about a week for the withdrawal symptoms to abate (yes, very similar to those described by drug addicts, although not as severe) after 3 days I felt like a fog had lifted, that I had not known was there. Colors were brighter, I noticed all kinds of beautiful sounds and laughter, I felt I could see more clearly, and I felt happier. Nothing else had changed, I just stopped consuming anything made from any kind of grain (and believe me, giving up beer was not easy).

    Now, almost 2 years after giving up grains and more than 3 years after eliminating sugar (except for an occasional piece of fruit or 90% chocolate), I know I was never an emotional eater, I was an addict. Food is food, and pastries are drugs, and any time I want to get back on that roller coaster all it would take would be a donut. And the really great thing is, it’s not at all difficult to walk away from it. I feel so good now, I never even consider eating that stuff, in fact, I don’t really even consider it “food” anymore. I actively read all labels and go online to find restaurants that offer gluten-free meals.

    I’m not saying that everyone’s experience would be the same as mine, but if you find yourself speaking/thinking about food using the language of addiction (“craving”, “out of control”, “sugar high”, “get my _____ fix”, etc.) you might want to consider a trial elimination of grains and/or sweets. Two weeks is all it takes to discover for yourself whether or not you have a problem, (you can do anything for two weeks, right?) and at the end of two weeks, probably sooner, you will know if it makes a difference.

    For me, it means I can feel “normal” about food. I can eat when I’m hungry (or not, if there’s nothing appropriate; hunger is just hunger, not that “I have to eat something, anything NOW OR I WILL DIE!!!” feeling I used to get, and I can wait until I can get or make something that will nourish me) and stop when I’m satisfied. Although I love to cook, I no longer think constantly about food and what I’m going to eat next. There’s no more constant struggle with “temptation” and the last row of Oreos in the package. It’s just not that big a deal anymore. And it’s incredible.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Denise, it sounds like you have made a major breakthrough regarding your food and what it does (and doesn’t do) for you. I sense the complete freedom in your voice. How wonderful for you. Thank you for sharing the process it took in order to get you here.

      Reply
  8. Traci

    “I could then indulge myself a bit at a time like a normal person”

    Thank you for saying what I think all the time. I wish I had that level of control, maybe, maybe one day, but no time soon.

    Thanks for sharing and making me know I’m not alone out here fighting to just be normal sometimes!

    Hugs!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Definitely not alone, Traci. I still strive to be like those who eat around me, but so far I can’t seem to do it without knowing what will happen if I do. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  9. didi

    I am glad that you posted this letter. As always, your honesty and keen powers of observation inspire me.
    You must be under a lot of emotional strain. You need a hug, and some positive self care. Instead of more boxes of snacks, get a massage or some acupuncture. In the winter time when I am stressed I find that a visit to a greenhouse helps. I know it sounds silly, but there are many garden stores with indoor plant sections, and even hanging out in there for ten minutes helps.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Such completely selfless words coming from someone who had the last couple of weeks you had, didi. You are very kind, and I wish you the same kind of peace in your life right now that I’m trying to regain in mine.

      Reply
    2. Denise

      Ooh, I love the garden store idea–I spent about a half an hour in the garden shop at Wal-Mart the other day and even though I didn’t buy anything it was very pleasant and stress-reducing to stroll slowly through and look at all the pretty flowers. I think I’ll do it more often.

      Reply

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