Understanding Physiological Effects of Obesity + Cognitive Behaviour Modification = Sustainable Weight Management

cbt food addiction mindset overeating weight loss Nov 16, 2021
Tanya Bender

Tanya Bender's journey

A little bit about my journey, I’m sure it seems very familiar to anyone struggling with the extra weight they are carrying, both physically and mentally.  I have felt overweight, puggy, and chubby since I can remember, even when I wasn’t.  My earliest recollection would probably be as early as 9 or 10 years old.

Looking back on pictures when I was significantly smaller than what I was at my largest (317lb) Sept. 2020.  I remember feeling back then how I felt at 317lb.  I might have been all of 190 LB then, but like I said I felt bigger.  I look back on that girl and it hurts my heart, because if I knew then, what I know now, I never would have ended up at 317.

From my early teens on, food was my comfort, my de-stressor.  I was consumed/overwhelmed with constant thoughts of weight, food and being uncomfortable in clothing outside of wearing pajamas.  I’ve lost weight off and on for over 30 years, only to always put it back on, plus more. I lived by a mentality of “All or Nothing”, I was either ALL IN eating whole healthy foods, or I was “All OUT” not watching what I ate and overindulging.  As I started to accept the fact that I was obese and became more immersed/educated on obesity, it has allowed me to see that I’m not alone in the way I looked at things and dealt with things.  We all share very common pathways on our road within obesity.

The summer of 2020 my stepfather went through a health issue that led to him being referred to Dr. Sasha High’s Metabolic clinic to help him lose significant weight. That day has not only changed his life, but the life of myself and my mother.  All of us were obese.

I remember thinking late summer of 2020, that’s it! I needed to give in to the fact that I had to have gastric by-pass, and that it was the only option I had left.  I’ve always known in myself that surgery wasn’t the complete answer. I just knew (but didn’t know how) that if I didn’t change my mind (mental perspective) that I would eventually gain back the weight after gastric bypass, but I really felt that was my last resort.  I had every reason health wise to lose weight, but those reasons weren’t enough to stop me from continuing to make unhealthy choices.

As I watched the success of my stepfather and mother, I realized I had to reach out to the clinic myself.  Everyone’s weight journey (although similar) is different, and I needed to own my obesity outside of theirs. 

That day has changed my life and 14 months later I’m really such a different person. I’m happy to say I didn’t need to have gastric bypass.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a need for this surgery, and many have been successful with it. I just felt strongly that it wasn’t for me. 

Without a doubt, the cognitive behaviour strategies I have learned have been the “IT” factor for my forever success in weight management.  Along with identifying trigger foods, underlying addiction tendencies, understanding that not all people can manage all kinds of foods in moderation and restraint vs. restriction have been a game changer.  There really is so much more self-discovery that has taken place, but we don’t have enough time to dig into everything. 

In short, weight and food have been an issue in my life for over 30 years.  I have finally found freedom, I have lost 80lbs to date, but thanks to the guidance of the High Metabolic Clinic I have gained so much more than what I have lost. I wish I could have a before and after picture of my brain, because that is the change that needs to be celebrated!

How do these changes help me manage the holidays?

Well, in the last 14 months it has become clear to me that one of the ways I slip into the abyss of overeating is overindulging particularly during holidays.  I would say Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving are the most difficult.  Aside from the typical access to overly processed junk food, the holidays can also bring on outside pressure/stresses you aren’t normally faced with.  Family expectations, people pleasing, financial worries and other  non-food related triggers that drive you to seek out food for comfort and or pleasure.

These three holidays used to be all about the food for me.  It was the time when it was “acceptable” to overeat and overindulge because everyone (well mostly everyone) does it. It was my time to feel normal because I was given permission to overeat and overindulge without any guilt because everyone else was doing the same.

I now realize how derailing this thought process was. But I didn’t know that when I was doing it repeatedly. I chalked it up to lack of willpower, I should have more control, I can’t do this, what is wrong with me, if only I was more determined - does this sound familiar?

There are many people out there who can overindulge and it does not become a slippery slope.  Many of those people are not obese. Since there are many people who can overindulge in moderation it is acceptable to overindulge during the holidays generally. Makes sense, right? I thought that everyone experienced urges and cravings the way I did.  The only difference was I couldn’t control them, whereas they could.  One of my biggest “aha” moments was learning that those people weren’t like me at all and they have no idea what it feels like to have the internal struggle with food or the relentless brain banter.  Learning that was eye opening and freeing as it started to chip away at the guilt and shame I felt about myself.

Food plays a huge importance during holidays. It’s plastered on social media, every family has a signature comfort dish that is anticipated and there is no shortage of sweet treats. 

At this time last year I was about 1 month into working with the High Metabolic Clinic and I was very concerned about my control or lack of control over Christmas.  I thought I would be able to manage one day of overindulgence, but I wasn’t able to control myself.  One day became 11 days. 

What would have been upwards of six months in the past was whittled down to 11 days!  This was such a WIN, at the time I did recognize the Win, but not like I recognize it now, I was still early in my work and behavioral thought changes.

This year my personal goal is ZERO days!  I’ve learned that I don’t like the aftermath of what those choices for processed high sugar foods does to me.  It triggers all of my cravings and urges, and creates a brain banter for the next 24-36 hours that is very uncomfortable…..I’m resisting the cravings….it’s like a withdrawal of sorts, it’s really that intense.  When you take the time to really be conscious of what is happening it’s quite all-consuming.

I control my thoughts and behaviours and I will not allow those food choices to control my thoughts any longer, so I practice restraint.  They have no place in my life anymore, I deserve better and now I’m armed with the right education and the right tools to finally help me forever! 

It doesn’t mean it won’t be somewhat difficult, but with anything the more time passes, and you practice the same thing repeatedly it becomes easier. I know without a doubt this year will be even better than last year. I’m 98% excited and 2% fearful….that old self is still hanging in the wings a bit and I chip away at the fear with every victory that takes place.

Nothing worth achieving EVER comes easy, but the hard is SO worth the effort when you know and you believe it is life changing and sustainable.

I will focus on the people, conversation, games, love, and laughter because that is what Christmas is about, that is what holidays are about and I’m flipping the script for myself one day, one event and one holiday at a time!

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