My gut feeling
When I was a kid and I was running fever and had a headache, my mom would make me a cold compress, give me some aspirin and let me know it would make me feel better. If I had a belly ache, I'd tell my mom and out would come the Pepto-Bismol that crazy big silver spoon and a reassurance that this would make me feel better. If I came home from school after I had a rough day, my mom would feel bad for me and she would fix me a snack and set it in front of me, turn on Gilligan's Island and I'd feel better. I don't know that she was doing anything but trying to make her little boy happy but the thought was there for me, this made me feel better. So I had it all figured it out, got a headache? Take an aspirin. Got a tummy ache? Take PeptoBismol. Got a heart ache? Eat some Cheetos. She's not a bad mom, it's not her fault, she just didn't know that's what I was thinking, but it was and it got worse.
Eventually food became this thing I used to change how I felt, now. If I was sad, mad, tired, beat, bored, anything I would get something to eat. If I felt really bad, I'd eat more because if a little food made me feel a little better, a lot of food would make me feel a lot better and it did it, right now, or at least I thought it did. Cheetos eventually became anything I could hold still long enough to deep fry and cover with gravy. It was my Xanax.
Eventually, I managed to eat and drink my way into a bunch of XXXL shirts, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and a fatty liver and it started to make me feel like crap. I was ashamed of who I had become. My doctor said to quit drinking, eat raw veggies, exercise and do a bunch of really awful things for a long time and I would "start" to feel better.
I would do that for a week, maybe two and I still was in XXXL shirts and I still felt bad, except now I was always hungry. So I'd get depressed, think I could never do this and head to McDonalds for a Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit with two hash browns and a diet Coke (I know, never could explain it either) and then I would feel even worse, so I'd go get an Angry Dog Cheeseburger with fries for lunch and I'd love the way it tasted but I'd be ashamed of the failure. I was convinced I had to do it so I'd eat a salad in front of a client and a cheeseburger on the way back to the office and the cycle continued.
The problem was my perspective, nobody ever told me after a bad day that if I sat down and ate Cheetos every day after school for 3 years in a row, didn't cheat or anything then I would "start" to feel better, I felt better right then, right now. Then I just did it over and over again until I ballooned up to 350 pounds, in a crazy sort of way, I proved I could follow a strict diet over the long term by focusing on feeling better now, today.
So what's the point?
Before I figured out what to do about food, I started to ride and on an early longer ride I bonked. Bonking is a biking term for running out of energy and it's exactly like running out of gas, one minute you are moving and the next you are spitting and sputtering and you're done. You can't make it up the next hill, you just need to stop and call someone to come get you and to bring some carbs and some water and a long nap with them.
I got home and called my fitness guru, Doug Walker, and he said let's figure out what went wrong, to start with ... and then he said four words I'd heard a million times but this time would completely change how I felt about food ... what did you eat? I told him I got a banana and some peanut butter crackers and he stopped me and said "no, before the ride, what you eat in the 24 hours before you ride will impact your ride more than anything you do."
I really don't remember what I ate but I do remember thinking that I'd have to check that out and I started looking carefully at what I ate and how my body used it. I focused on my proteins and limited my carbs and over the next week my rides got better faster than they had in a long time. I started to realize that veggies and fruits and lean proteins made me ride better and I would feel better right now, today. So I became more focused on it, I learned when to eat fats and how my body was meant to absorb them and I felt better, on that ride, today.
My regimen essentially boiled down to a couple of things, get up early, ask God to help me be safe on my ride and make good choices in what I ate and drank, ride my bike and eat to recover or prep for the next ride. If I ate right, I'd ride better and feel better. I also learned when things I didn't think I'd eat again actually helped my rides, peanut butter delivered the right fat with a protein to really stretch out my ride, a sugar cookie was an easy carb on a long ride, especially if I had been pushing hard. The interesting thing is the food I liked before because it tasted good was reintroduced because of other real benefits. However the things I used to love, cheeseburgers, fried anything, gravy, none of those make me feel better anymore and I really have no real desire for them. I was in Eatzi's tonight and they had fried catfish, I looked for a second, remembered how great I thought it was and remembered I want to ride with the Greater Dallas Bike Club tomorrow and thought that won't do anything for me. I can pass on cheeseburgers at the Angry Dog and pull thru Wendy's and order a dry baked potato. I honestly do not crave or think about ordering the other choices any more, simply because I know they no longer make me feel better.
Therefore I did the exact same thing to lose weight as I did to gain weight, I used food as a tool to change the way I felt with one big difference, I learned what feeling better feels like and I learned what parts of me that food makes feel better. If I'm depressed or sad or whatever, food won't change that emotion, I can pray about it, meditate on it, talk about it or ride it out and be okay but a cheeseburger doesn't offset the hurtful words or actions of others. The right food gives me energy and stamina and normal blood pressure, cholesterol and sugars, those really feel good.
In hindsight, that's a lot about me. People that use foreign substances to change the way they feel, right now, are often described as addicted to their feel good substance of choice and we share a lot of common traits. One is an inability to do things in moderation, we don't have a governor, we are all in or we are all out, there is no middle ground. So when we set a long term goal to never eat Cheetos again, we either succeed or we fail, completely. 364 days without Cheetos is completely lost in one little orange puff, complete failure. As strange as that may sound, it is my reality. I simply cannot balance the 364 good days with the one bad day and after the bad day, I thought well, I blew it and was done and with that kind of all or nothing perspective, I failed hard. History taught me that I could not do that long term thing so weight loss always overwhelmed me. However, if I boil it down to today, I can get my head around that, I am not overwhelmed by the thought of never eating another Cheeto, I just won't have one today and if that works out, I can try it again tomorrow. Adding the ingredient of ringing that feel better bell made it quickly become a habit, a habit my doctor claims I can live with.