Throughout childhood our freezer was stuffed with ice cream, pizza, and assorted frozen, microwavable packages. We never used the bottom oven on our stove because it was stuffed with snacks like Funyuns, Oreos and Chips Ahoy! Other kids would make a beeline for it, just as I did many times a day.
By second grade, I was already a good twenty pounds overweight, a direct result of unhealthy eating habits. We equated food with comfort. Good day? Celebrate with snack. Bad mood? Nothing that a microwave pepperoni pizza couldn't cure.
Throughout childhood and into my teen years, when I wanted to make a "healthy" drink choice, I downed glass after glass of fruit juice, oblivious to calories or carbs. I had come to believe that anything with fruit was healthy: Tropicana orange juice, Ocean Spray cranberry, Welch's grape juice, and all those small Capri Sun packages. Liquid sugar.
This was the late seventies and health clubs were catching on. Home was Miami Beach, where people show off their bodies. Yet in our house, we didn't talk about any connection between regular Coke, calories, and obesity or link food choices to our expanding waistlines.
One day my dentist asked Mom if she was "gaining or expecting," as if inquiring about the weather. My mother was not pregnant; my brother, David, was already three. She and I never acknowledged his comment. Instead, we headed to Carvel for ice cream. Today I think about that incident often when I try on a blouse that makes me look not just fat, but pregnant. "Gaining or expecting?" All these years later, I'm still bothered by his cruel and thoughtless comment.
Whenever I've thought about changing my future, I've let my past weigh me down. If you've always been overweight, or been fat for many years, it's quite a hurdle to envision living any other way. The difficulty of fixing it— fathoming even where to start—seems too high. At times, the weight of the past threatens to derail me.
I've hidden behind the same habits and excuses for years. I blamed my parents for making me fat and allowing me to become addicted to overeating. I blamed McDonald's for serving fattening burgers and fries. I blamed my compulsive eating on the mean kids in school, sadistic gym teachers, and even the former boss who fired me without warning by saying, "Tory, it's a big world out there and I suggest you go explore it."
I'm sick of dodging the blame and pinning excuses for my actions on other people and situations. I can see now how I have let the comfort of complacency carry me from fragile teenager to forty-one-year-old adult, and how easy it would be to stay the course, just as I have my whole life. But I can't. I won't. As I make this simple shift in my thinking, what once seemed daunting becomes much more doable and manageable.
Excerpted from "THE SHIFT: How I Finally Lost Weight & Discovered a Happier Life", which is available everywhere books are sold. Connect directly with Tory Johnson at www.shiftwithtory.com.
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