Grace, Shame, and Why Diet Pills Made Me Fatter

In 2011 I lost 35 pounds in 6 months. It was awesome. I was surging with energy and felt great. My friends and family complimented me left and right. I liked how I looked in photos—the true test of self-confidence.

But I have a confession. I didn’t lose it naturally. I lost it with the help of some prescription medicine that someone suggested I ask my doctor for. This medicine kept me from getting really hungry—it removed the feelings of extreme hunger so I rarely ate. I didn’t care that I was a hypocrite and preached about long-term, slow-going diet changes because I was skinnier and that’s what mattered.

Problem is, you can only take these pills for 6 months because your heart rate is elevated almost the entire time and it can damage your heart after a while. So I stopped taking it; doctor’s orders.

That’s when things got really messy.

A year before that, I came back from a glorious year of living overseas where I walked everywhere, to a new city, Charlotte, North Carolina, where I went directly into a cube to sit all day long. I didn’t handle the transition well.

So there I was, stuck in a cube, fatter than ever, sadder than ever, and someone had a solution for me that really worked. Of course I took it.

“It will just be a temporary jumpstart to my real diet!” I said. “This is just to get me going and I’ll feel SO good about myself, I’d be a fool not to keep it off!”

Man, was I wrong.

The Graceless Spiral

As you can imagine, after I stopped taking the pills I started getting hungry again and lost the surging energy I once had. I hated it. But I ate because I was hungry. Needless to say, I started gaining the weight back. 2 or 3 months later, I was up 10 pounds or so. Well, that’s an estimate because I stopped weighing myself – it was too discouraging to look anymore. Gaining weight made me unbelievably sad and embarrassed.

What do you do when you’re sad, angry, or embarrassed? Do you work out? Journal about it? Talk to your friend or spouse?

Not me. My first inclination? Laziness. Numbing. Escaping. And this viscous cycle is what happened next:

 

gain-weight-hopeless-negative-coping

 

I was so mad, embarrassed, and disappointed in myself, I’d come home from work and lie on the couch to watch TV until I fell asleep. For months. Then I gained 10 more pounds, and that made me sad. How did I cope? You guessed it, laziness. And then? Yep, gained the other 10+ pounds back. How did I cope? Laziness.

People stopped complimenting me and instead they looked at me with those, “Oh honey, are you okay?” eyes. Ugh. That made it even worse.

Has this ever happened to you? Looking back on it, it all sounds ridiculously pathetic. And I wonder, “Why did I feel so helpless?” If I had just reminded myself that I was in control and I was not a victim of my own self-destructive thoughts, I COULD have changed. I COULD have bounced back. If I had given myself an ounce of grace, I believe that spiral would have stopped dead in its tracks.

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” ― Brené Brown 

(Watch her amazing TED Talk here)

Shame = I have failed, I am bad and worthless. Guilt = I did something wrong. I acted poorly. There is such a thing as healthy or appropriate guilt. If you’ve slipped, own up to what you’ve done and move on. Shame, on the other hand, is toxic.

You see, feeling shame for gaining a few pounds back was like gasoline on a fire. It was like pouring grease on a downward spiral to depression and more weight gain. I told myself:

  •  “I knew I couldn’t keep this weight off. I knew I didn’t have the willpower anyway.”
  • “I’m a failure. I have failed and will continue to fail.”
  • “I will always be overweight.”
  • “No one will ever love me like this.”
  • “Screw it. I don’t care.” (the most dangerous words you can ever say)

Instead, grace could have stopped it. Grace could have been like a fire blanket on my shame. I could have told myself the truth.

 

gain-weight-hopeful-postitive-changes

 

  • “I’ve gained a few pounds, but it’s okay and I’m in control. This is my body and I control how I treat it.”
  • “I don’t feel shame, rather, I feel powerful and I accept the challenge to feel better about myself.”
  • “I ate a huge fried meal and feel awful, but it’s okay. Tomorrow I promise to myself that I’ll eat a salad for lunch and run an extra 5 minutes.”
  • “Being lazy makes my body feel lousy. I don’t want to feel lousy. I want to feel good. I’ll feel better if I go take a walk.”
  • “When I look good, I feel confident. Laziness is not worth the discomfort of my tight jeans.”
  • “I will allow space to rest and relax, but after I go take a walk.”

Grace.

Grace could have kept me from being so angry with myself. Grace could have covered my shame and given me a clean slate. If I had only remembered grace, I could havepicked myself, dusted myself, and started all over again.”

Be kind to yourself. You’re in process. Don’t unravel.  In that space between messing up and shame, insert an ounce of kindness. 

I pray that you (and I) will give ourselves a little grace the next time we slip. Let the grace you give yourself (and God’s grace) be a fire blanket on your Downward Shame Spiral.

If you need a little help being kind to yourself, check out Brene Brown’s book, or maybe sing this song like I do:

broke and healthy shame

 

About Ande Truman

Ande has made mistakes in the kitchen since she could reach the countertop. From a restaurant head cook, to cooking meals for friends, to her own solo plate, experimenting & learning drives her. She's also a freelance graphic & web designer, photo/videographer, guitar player and wanderlust-er. In her spare time, she works a full-time 8 to 5 cubicle job. She's the creator of Broke & Healthy.

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Categories: Featured, Mind and Body, Mindset, Recipes, Recipes by Ingredient, Weight Loss

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4 Comments

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  1. Wow. That was exactly what happened to me only worse and more stupid. I didn’t talk to a doctor. I knew they wouldn’t listen. I was, afterall, only 120 pounds and five foot six inches. So I took matters in my own hands and bought every diet pill sold at Walmart. I also ignored the directions most times and would wind up taking 20 plus pills some days. I also, as you can guess, was anorexic and bulimic. If it went down, it came back up. That included a can of Coke I was given one time and a even a piece of candy. I hated myself and what I was doing to achieve what I could only view as perfection. I would get starving hungry and eat something tiny but couldn’t stop myself from binging on everything. I one time ate a whole box of taffy and other stuff and felt so sick and guilty I headed to the bathroom to purge it all up. The viscous cycle continued until my doctor told me my liver was messed up. I took it as a nice relief that my menstrual cycle was absent for many months but looking back I should’ve been even a little concerned. By the time it hit me to wonder when was my last cycle many months already passed without it. How can I be so absent minded? I was obsessed with losing weight and nothing else got my attention. If it rained and I ate something 500 calories and I didn’t have access to purge easily (which wasn’t often) I would do several hours of extreme cardio workout to make up for it. I hated myself and I hated this guilt but I was starting to love my reflection. People commented on how good I looked. I wasn’t one that got good attention often so this was kinda huge. I fit into girls size 10 and I was 27.
    Fast forward a few years and I really regret what I’ve done. I wasn’t even fat then!! It caused a lot of health problems from hormonal to gastrointestinal. I would say it’s more a half and half. Half can be blamed on the binge/purge problem and half in taking so many diet pills. I’m 20 pounds more than what I weighed before seeking diet pills and, sadly, gaining rapidly now.
    My weigh in at doctors office was four pounds higher than my last time just a week before. It’s not the scale because winter coats I just wore a few months back cannot zip up. I feel the curse is irreversible though I do go on walks now. During my wonderful dieting I would run all the time. It wasn’t unusual to see run from one side of town to the other. Because I didn’t start off slow or take it easy, and I didnt have enough nutrients to sustain the run, it now hurts everytime I bend my knees and surgery is the best option.
    So yeah, diet pills are not the answer. Loving yourself in front of the mirror and away from it is.

  2. Stunning story there. What occurred after? Take care!

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